Arkansas still plays the type of football your dad reminisces about right before his post-Thanksgiving recliner nap.
The Razorbacks employ plenty of inside runs, two tight end sets and downhill attacks on teams in an attempt to control the clock and drain opposing defenses' energy. Bret Bielema’s team has only punted seven times this season and currently averages 186 yards a game on the ground behind All-SEC candidate Alex Collins.
On defense, the Hogs stuff the run and consolidate the passing game. Arkansas’ run defense currently ranks No. 2 in the SEC, allowing only 93 yards per game on the ground.
"I think, first of all, that it is an overall program philosophy,” Butch Jones said. “They live the run each and every day. Their inside drills probably go about 20 minutes long. They want to run the football on offense, and, obviously, you stop the run on defense just like our philosophy. They are big up front on both sides of the football. They are very physical.”
Arkansas doesn’t live or die by the run like it has in the past, however, and Bielema’s philosophy has been molded to accept the forward pass as an acceptable way to move the ball downfield. The Razorbacks are No. 31 in the country in passing offense, averaging 285 yards a game behind Brandon Allen while utilizing weapons like Drew Morgan at wide receiver and Hunter Henry at tight end.
“I think Brandon Allen has developed in to one of the best quarterbacks in the country, so I think they've done some good jobs schematically. They challenge you with base defense and some different things in terms of formations and personnel groupings,” Jones said.
“It's going to be very physical, but they do a great job with throwing the football with bubbles, quick screens, screens, cross-country routes downfield, four verticals; — they have everything in their system and they have players that execute it.”
Like Tennessee, Arkansas is also coming off of a heartbreaking loss and attempting to rebound. The Razorbacks matched the Vols’ 28-27 defeat at Florida by falling to Texas A&M in overtime Saturday in Dallas. As both teams look to pick up the pieces and regroup, the third-year Tennessee head coach believes his team is beginning to move past its heart-wrenching 2-2 start and is ready to rebound against Arkansas.
“Obviously it was a gut-wrenching loss. Any time you invest as much as everyone does in our football family, it hurts,” Jones said. “But everything in life is how you respond, how you get back up. They can see the improvements they're making week in and week out. They can see the progress.”
No nickel for Sutton
Cam Sutton is undoubtedly a versatile, but you won’t see him switching over from corner to nickel any time soon.
“I haven’t worked out much at nickel,” Sutton said. “That’s a scheme thing. I just do whatever the coaches say.”
Jones described the position as a “work in progress” as the coaching staff continues searching for a formidable option to replace starter RaShaan Gaulden, who went down with a season-ending foot injury.
“We've moved some players around there,” Jones said. “Malik [Foreman] has done some good things for us, but just like anything in our football program, we will continue to compete at that spot just like all of the other positions as well. I think with Justin Martin being able to do some good things, it allows us some flexibility to move some other individuals.”
The nickel position is a unique one on defense, and Jones has called the nickelback one of the most utilized and underrated positions in the game.
“I think it's one of the most difficult positions in all of football because of what it requires from a skill set, from a mental standpoint as well and the different nuances that go in to that position,” he said. “Malik has done some good things for us, but again, we're going to always work to always compete and improve in everything that we do."
Jones noted after the Oklahoma loss that he and his staff make every decision by analytics. After kicking a field goal from fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line against the Sooners, Jones defended his decision by using analytics.
"We do everything based on analytics, so nothing is taken by chance,” he said after the loss. “Probably about four or five hours went into that single decision."
On Wednesday, Jones clarified that the analytical data he says the coaching staff uses is only in preparation for the game, not during it.
"We don't use analytics during a game. That is all leading up to the game,” Jones said. “All that is is a support system for us. Obviously, you have to make great decisions and educated decisions, and I would say 99 percent of most decisions that are made on game day are done in a controlled environment in a staff meeting room.”