Alabama will blitz Arkansas. Razorback offensive line coach Mike Summers knows that. Pick them up, hit big plays and the blitzes will go away. That's this week, next week and for the rest of the season.
"If you defeat pressure, you can win," Summers said after practice Tuesday. "If you handle it and defeat it, you will get big plays."
That sounds easy. Doing it against a talented Alabama team will require superior execution.
"That's our challenge each week, to execute and get better," Summers said. "We've gotten better each day, each week. We are better now than we were at the start of the season. We communicate and execute better, but we still have a long ways to go. We are headed the right direction."
One of the key matchups will happen squarely in the middle of the field. Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs will be opposite Alabama's 6-5, 365-pound Terrence Cody, the nose guard labeled Mount Cody in the heart of the defense. Both Summers and Luigs said it will be a challenge.
"Certainly, Jonathan is matched up against a good player," Summers said. "But we expect him to perform at a high level like he has every week. I know that's a matchup that a lot of people will be watching."
However, Luigs noted he seldom will see Cody all by himself.
"In their front, they are multiple and they sometimes are in a four-front and that means Cody is opposite a guard," Luigs said. "But there will be times he is in front of me. Either way, there aren't a lot of situations where you are by yourself. You get help from a guard and I will be helping a guard at times, too."
What Alabama does with its defense is often based on a blitz from either safety.
"I think that's the rub of defensive football, what you see from the safeties from week to week," Summers said. "They have good safeties and they do bring them both at times. They change their looks and change what they are showing you in those blitzes and the way they insert the safeties in their run defense."
That means there will be times the Tide defense puts its corners in man situations. The Hogs hope to find and expose those situations.
"We have to attack the corners down the field," said offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. "That's going to be a part of this game. The key is to recognize what the safeties are doing. But they do a good job of disguising what the safeties are doing and that will be the tough part, adjusting to the looks."
Petrino said the Hogs had a solid practice Tuesday, following up a good workout Sunday and an off day for meetings on Tuesday. He cited split end London Crawford for two solid workouts Sunday and Tuesday.
The good news is the Hogs have been practicing against this defensive scheme for over one week now. Alabama's defensive scheme is similar to what the Hogs expected and practiced for last week before the Texas game was postponed.
"We did get in two days last week against a lot of the same stuff," Summers said. "There is always some carryover from week to week. Almost every one is multiple in their fronts anymore so you see the same things all season. But we had two days where we did work against the same things last week we are seeing this week."
Summers is pleased with the way the offensive line has developed, especially with a lack of experience both in game time and in a new scheme.
"I think when you talk about experience with this line it starts and stops with Jonathan," Summers said. "The rest really didn't play much last year. But they are willing to work and learn. They have tried to learn to play with the proper technique and pad level. They have all gotten better."
The only experienced back is junior Michael Smith. The Hogs know they'll need help from some freshmen to make it through an SEC game.
"I think we know that Mike is not a big back and we can't ask him to take 30 carries in an SEC game," Luigs said. "We've got to have a couple of others provide some help."
One of those helping will be true freshman De'Anthony Curtis. The Camden product said he's now at 100 percent after fighting through a preseason knee sprain over the last month.
"I am moving around full speed now and have felt good to get rid of the brace," he said. "It felt really good the last couple of days. I'm all the way back."
Curtis has been told about the different tempo to expect this week.
"It's going to get faster, that's what the older guys are telling me," Curtis said. "That's what I expected. I've been wanting to play in an SEC game for a long time. I grew up wanting this and it's exciting to see it coming."
Even the most experienced Razorback is excited.
"You come to Arkansas and to play at a caliber school like Arkansas to get a chance to go against the best," Luigs said. "This is what you want, this is the kind of competition you want to see."
That means playing against a linemen like Cody.
"Absolutely, what you want and now you have to do all the things Coach Summers has shown us, all the technique he's taught us," Luigs said. "You play with the proper technique and the proper pad level, you'll be just fine.
"I know what it's going to be like. This is a good team. They have that big body up front and he occupies a lot of space and keeps things off their good middle linebacker, Rolando McLain. He gets freed up in the scheme because of Cody.
"So we have to win the battle up front. It's simple football. The team which wins the battle up front has a tremendous edge in the game."
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