Hawgs Illustrated In-Depth Look at Arkansas

Clay Henry has been publisher at Hawgs Illustrated for the last 22 years and has covered Arkansas football for parts of 35 seasons. Here's his look at the Arkansas football team through five games ahead of this week's game with Florida scheduled for 6 p.m. (central) Saturday night.

Arkansas spent the first three weeks establishing the downhill mentality installed by Bret Bielema's staff, then quickly moving to something with a more aggressive mentality against Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

The key to the result in all five Arkansas games has come down to the fourth quarter. The Hogs dominated with the run in the first three weeks to close out victories in the fourth, but had no answers in the fourth quarter in losses to Rutgers and Texas A&M.

Arkansas blew a 24-7 lead in losing at Rutgers, going scoreless in the fourth quarter when the running game produced 3 net yards in six rushes. Against the Aggies, the Hogs closed to within 38-33 with 1:09 left in the third quarter, then failed on a two-point pass. They reached the A&M 16 with six minutes left, but their last threat fizzled on four straight incomplete passes.

Much like Florida, injuries have played a role at quarterback for Arkansas. Brandon Allen (Soph., 6-3, 210) sprained his shoulder early in the third game and was unable to play against Rutgers. The offense changed dramatically as far as the threat of pass for that game with A.J. Derby (Jr., 6-5, 240) at quarterback. The Hogs did manage some points with a halfback pass for a touchdown and a field goal after a fake punt. There was also a pick six that helped the Hogs to their lead.

Allen was 15 of 26 for 250 yards in the first three quarters against A&M, but just 2 of 10 for 32 yards in the scoreless final quarter. His shoulder is still tender, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Tuesday. The sophomore appeared to have good velocity after coming back from the injury.

Allen has good mobility and did not appear to be shy about running. Much of the passing game is bootlegs or play-action rollouts. There is very little dropback action in the Arkansas offense, but there will be some shotgun plays.

Running Back
Alex Collins (Fr, 5-11, 205) has been the big story for the offense. He was considered by some as the top running back in the country last year at South Plantation in Ft. Lauderdale. He is listed as the co-starter with Jonathan Williams (So., 6-0, 222), but Williams has started all five games.

Collins leads with 597 on 100 carries, with four games of over 100 yards. He was the first SEC freshman runner to top the century mark in his first three games. Williams has gone over 100 three times and had 53 rushing and 67 receiving against A&M. Collins is the shiftier of the two, Williams more the downhill runner.

Fullback Kiero Small (Sr., 5-10, 242) is considered one of the team's best players. He's broken over 20 facemasks blocking. He'll get the ball running and receiving and sometimes out of the wildcat formation in short yardage.

Korliss Marshall (Fr., 6-0, 196) surprised with one carry against A&M, a 16-yard sweep. He's a burner with legit 4.3 speed. He also was used in kickoff return, with a 38-yard effort to his credit. He was considered a redshirt prospect and most likely headed for duty as a safety until he appeared against A&M. Bielema has promised an expanded role for Marshall this week.

The passing game had been under wraps until the A&M game, partly because it wasn't needed in the first three weeks and Derby wasn't as much a threat in week four against Rutgers. When the Hogs needed a third-down conversion, they went to wideout Javontee Herndon (Sr., 6-1, 194) early. With 14 catches and four touchdowns, he's still considered the major threat. The Jacksonville, Fla., product had been a backup the last three years.

Keon Hatcher (So., 6-2, 215) battled a hamstring injury through the first three games, but has been a factor the last two weeks. He carried the ball on jet sweeps quite effectively against Rutgers. He's a powerful runner after the catch. Speedy and long D'Arthur Cowan (So., 6-3, 185) has been out since camp with a broken foot, but may play this week. He's practiced the last two weeks. He was considered the top big-play threat in August practices.

Bielema loves the tight end position. Hunter Henry (Fr., 6-6, 245) is second on the team with 12 receptions. He was considered the nation's No. 1 tight end last year, although he played in a flexed position will catching 107 passes as a prep senior. Mitch Loewen (So, 6-4, 271) and Austin Tate (Sr., 6-6, 261) also play a lot as the Hogs will go with formations that include two and three tight ends. Tate missed the first three games with August shoulder surgery.

Offensive Line
Center Travis Swanson (Sr., 6-5, 318) is starting for the fourth season and is considered among the country's centers. His ability to pull has been highlighted in the new Arkansas offense. Collins has made lots of his yardage on the toss sweep with Swanson and Small leading the way. Left tackle David Hurd (Sr., 6-6, 318) is the only other returning starter at this point. Grady Ollison (So., 6-5, 305) has been solid at right tackle. The guards changed last week with a pair of true freshmen, Denver Kirkland (6-5, 348) and Dan Skipper (6-10, 305) making their first starts, both with impressive results. Brey Cook (Jr., 6-7, 327) moved from guard to tackle, his position last year as a part-time starter, giving Ollison rests on about 20 snaps. The offensive line was considered a major question mark in the move to a running style. The results this year have been solid, except for the fourth quarters the last two weeks.

New coordinator Chris Ash got good results against weaker opposition until giving up big plays in the pass in the fourth quarter against Rutgers. The Aggies turned to the ground game for 16 straight runs over the course of two second-half touchdown marches last week.

Defensive line
Considered the strength of the team, the Hogs return everyone up front. Ends Chris Smith (Sr., 6-3, 268) and Trey Flowers (Jr., 6-4, 262) and tackles Robert Thomas (Sr., 6-3, 325) and Bryran Jones (Sr., 6-2, 315) are the anchors of the team. Smith has six sacks for 51 yards, Flowers three for 23. Backup tackle Darius Philon (R-Fr., 6-3, 290) has shown flashes of brilliance. There is depth at end, too, with Deatrich Wise (R-Fr., 6-6, 275), Brandon Lewis (R-Fr., 6-5, 260) and Jamichael Winston (R-Fr., 6-5, 265). Ash likes to flood the field with defensive ends in pass rush situations.

The area of concern the last several years for the Hogs, it's still the area that holds back the defense. Former Miami head coach Randy Shannon was brought in to retool this position last winter. Injuries to the top two returnees have thwarted that bid. A. J. Turner (So., 6-2, 224) will sit out with a redshirt after wrist surgery. Otha Peters (So., 6-2, 231) went down in camp with a broken arm. He has played with a soft cast the last two weeks and has won the middle linebaker position from former walk-on Austin Jones (Sr., 6-2, 233).

Jones didn't play last week, partly because of a hip flexor and partly because his lack of speed would be a problem against Manziel's scrambling. He may be back in the picture this week. Jarrett Lake (Sr., 6-3, 225) leads the team with 38 tackles, despite sitting out week two with a suspension. He's played all three linebaker spots, including middle linebacker some last week in a nickel package. He's the fastest and best tackler among the linebakers. Braylon Mitchell (Jr., 6-3, 227). Mitchell and Lake were offensive players in high school and played mostly in special teams until the spring when Shannon liked their effort.

Eric Bennett (Sr., 6-0, 200), Alan Turner (Jr., 6-0, 205) and Rohan Gaines (So., 5-11, 195) will rotate at safety. Gaines was expected to be among the top playmakers on the defense, but a knee injury in camp was a setback to the secondary. He's the nickel back and top strong safety. Turner has played in his place and mostly in solid fashion. He is second on the team with 36 tackles, speaking mainly to the lack of production at linebaker.

Cornerbacks Tevin Mitchel (Jr., 6-0, 185) and Will Hines (So., 6-1, 190) were solid early, but that was against lackluster offenses. Mitchel gave up two fade routes down the stretch against Rutgers and was outmatched by A&M's Mike Evans last week. Mitchel went out against A&M with a head injury, but is expected to play. Juco transfer Carroll Washington (Jr., 6-0, 182) is third corner.

Special Teams
Zach Hocker (Sr., 6-0, 184) is a triple threat. He's seven of seven on field goals with a long of 53. He has the leg for more. He's 19 of 27 for touchbacks on kickoffs. He's also punted seven times for a 45.7 average. Juco transfer Sam Irwin-Hill (6-3, 215) is a rugby-styled punter with versatility. He's punted straight on and hit rugby punts with either foot. He's also completed a 24-yard pass to his holder against Rutgers. Alan D'Appollonio (Jr., 6-0, 212) switched to No. 82 for the Rutgers game to make that play legal.

The Hogs have not had much of a return game until Marshall took over kickoff duties last week. His speed changed that into a bit of a threat. Herndon has returned only five punts, the long for 16 yards in week two. He fumbled at the end of that one, perhaps the reason he's been fair catching them since.

Kickoff coverage has been good, but the punt team gave up two big ones against Rutgers, a big part of the comeback win for the Scarlet Knights. Irwin-Hill missed to the middle of the field when he was trying to ruby kick for the right sideline, messing up the coverage. Hocker outkicked his coverage on the second.

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