Commentary: State of the Hogs

After one week of the football season, Arkansas has already surpassed some notable stats that took five games to amass last season. The Hogs are on track for a great 2002.

Seven sacks, seven turnovers, three touchdown passes.

Think about those three numbers, and then think back to last season's first five games. You may not remember, but it took five games for the Hogs to get to those numbers in sacks, turnovers and TD passes. Actually, Arkansas didn't have a touchdown pass until the fifth game. That was zero TD passes in the first four games of the season. In other words, they were blanked in TD passes until the Weber State game.

Arkansas' 41-14 victory over Boise State was as fine an opener in many respects as has been played under Houston Nutt. It was as it should have been, according to Nutt. He did everything in the spring, summer and during fall camp to put the Hogs in position to do well in their opener. There was mucho scrimmages, including middle drills almost every day of fall camp.

And, there was plenty of offense and defense inserted into the first week game plan, something most have noted in their post-game reports. The Hogs were geared up to look sharp in the opener, and they accomplished that goal in many respects.

They'll improve. I will guarantee that. They'll get the kinks out of the blocking assignments in the punt team. They'll find a way to get the ball to the tight end and they'll become better in the passing game. One of the areas that slipped a little in the first half was the check system as administered by Matt Jones. With the crowd noise, his checks didn't always make it to the wide receivers. He'll use hand signals a little more next time, and not rely on his voice to compete with those of  70,000 Hog fans.

Jones said after the game that he botched two checks that should have been TD passes. That's a good news, bad news deal. The bad news is obvious. He didn't get it done. The good news is that he recognized the coverage and went to plan B. He didn't get the right message to the wideouts. He'll get it done next time.

I think you'll see Tarvaris Jackson and Ryan Sorahan improve, too. They were nervous, as their coaches noted afterwards. They hadn't played in a game since the Alabama trip of last season. They'll only get better.

Defensively, Dave Wommack has done well with the ammunition available. The defensive line was solid, and the linebackers exceptional. There were a couple of missed coverages in the secondary, but that will get better as more games are played. And, it appears that the Hogs can effectively execute the blitzes that Wommack dialed up. And, it seemed he kept a busy finger dialing those blitzes for the first two quarters.

This will be an interesting week to watch how the blitzes fall and their effectiveness. South Florida quarterback Marquel Blackwell is both a solid passers and a fast and mobile runner. Will Wommacck turn it loose on Blackwell with the threat of the quarterback run in draws and counters? That will be a development that will be a big key in this Saturday's game in War Memorial Stadium.

We have a lot to look forward to this season. There are signs that Cedric Cobbs is back to his freshman mindset, or better. Fred Talley's shoulder held up. De'Arrius Howard, Mark Pierce, Brandon Holmes and Brandon Kennedy provide solid threats out of the backfield, too. And, Matt Jones is still the man when he decides to become a ball carrier. The good news is that he doesn't have to do that on every play for the offense to score points.

Sit back and enjoy the ride. The Hogs are going to be fun.




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