Hogs Prepare To Face WildHog — Err Wild Rebel

FAYETTEVILLE--Bobby Allen has a better understanding of Ole Miss' Wild Rebel formation than most opposing defensive coaches.

Of course, when he was on Houston Nutt's coaching staff at Arkansas, the formation was known first as the Wildcat and then later as the WildHog.

For two years, Allen watched in practice as former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden would line up at quarterback, take the snap and run or throw the football.

Since then, the name of the formation has changed and Nutt has left to coach Ole Miss. But Allen still remembers how to defend against the play.

"It gets down like any other offensive play. You've got to be able to look at it, you've got to be able to try to come up with a plan (on) how to defend it," said Allen, who's now Arkansas' defensive tackles coach after spending three years as Nutt's cornerbacks coach. "That's what it boils down to."

Arkansas' players are well aware that the point of the Wild Rebel formation is to confuse defenses by letting a running back or wide receiver take the direct snap, giving him the option to either run or throw it.

But they're now on the opposite side of it.

Instead of using the formation to their advantage, the Razorbacks must try to slow it down when they host Nutt and Ole Miss at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Much of the surprise factor is gone, but Arkansas' players say seeing the WildHog — or Wild Rebel — over the past few years doesn't give them much of an advantage.

"You know what the package is all about, but it really doesn't matter because we've seen it here in practice. We're watching film," Arkansas middle linebacker Wendel Davis said. "So it doesn't matter if we've seen it last year or when they were here. It's the same thing."

Ole Miss has run the Wild Rebel 38 times for 250 yards, according to statistics provided by the school. The Rebels have averaged 6.6 yards per attempt from the formation, but lately it has been a case of high risk, high reward.

Ole Miss wide receiver Dexter McCluster scored a 40-yard touchdown in a 31-30 upset of fifth-ranked Florida when he darted up the middle and broke three tackles on the way to the end zone.

But the junior hasn't developed into the type of double threat that helped McFadden finish as the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race in 2006 and 2007.

McCluster threw his second interception of the season in Saturday's 24-20 loss at second-ranked Alabama. He hasn't completed any of his four passes, and he's also prone to fumbling.

While Nutt acknowledged that the Wild Rebel must be tweaked some, he was reluctant to give any specifics when asked if anyone other than McCluster could throw out of the formation.

"You're trying to give away the plan. We've got some people down here (in Arkansas) listening," Nutt said earlier this week. "There's some options there, just bear with us."

Nutt admitted that the Wild Rebel doesn't included anything that Arkansas' players haven't already seen in practice. That could make stopping it a bit easier.

When former Springdale High coach Gus Malzahn was hired in 2006 as Arkansas' offensive coordinator, he brought with him a formation known as the Wildcat.

Malzahn and Nutt helped make the formation popular again, and it received more national attention earlier this year when the Miami Dolphins broke it out in a lopsided win against the New England Patriots, led by former Auburn star Ronnie Brown. It's now Arkansas' turn to face what they've been seeing for the past few years.

"I think it should help us some," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "I don't think there's any doubt that experience helps and the fact that coach Allen was here for so many years and (has) the understanding of what they're trying to get done."

Of course, there's one aspect of the WildHog — or rather Wild Rebel — that Petrino wasn't aware of earlier this week.

"I didn't know they changed the name, though. You shouldn't be allowed to change," Petrino said. "They didn't patent it? They should've patented it."

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