Null



JMR

Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Arkansas….

Recommended Posts

Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC) hosts the Arkansas Razorbacks (5-2, 1-2 SEC) this week in a key SEC West matchup. Game time is 5 PM Central. The game will be telecast by ESPN, with Joe Tessitore doing play-by-play, Todd Blackledge as analyst, and Holly Rowe on the sidelines.

A game that was never considered much of a rivalry in the past, the Auburn-Arkansas game has taken on significantly more meaning since Bret Bielema’s arrival in Hawgland 4 seasons ago. With Auburn coach Gus Malzahn being somewhat popular in his home state of Arkansas, and Bielema being “from up North”, there’s never been a lot of love between the two, and the annual game has seemingly become much more important to each school’s fan base.

For what it’s worth, Bielema, in his 4th season as the Head Hawg, has a record at Arkansas of 23-22. Malzahn is in his 4th season as the head man at Auburn, and has compiled a record of 31-15 over that period. Arkansas is an impressive 11-3 over their last 14 games, going back to last year’s 4-overtime win over AU in Fayetteville.

Arkansas Offense:

As one would expect of a former Big 10 coach, Arkansas is, at least philosophically, more about running the ball than about throwing it. Reality in 2016, however, is that the Hawgs have basically achieved their 5-2 record on the passing arm of quarterback Austin Allen (6-1, 209, Jr.). Allen is the younger brother of former Arkansas starter Brandon Allen. Both are local boys from Fayetteville High School, and their father Bobby is the Razorbacks’ Director of High School and NFL Relations. Bobby is in his 19th year on the Arkansas coaching staff. Austin Allen led Fayetteville HS to back-to-back 7A State Championships, and was MVP of both championship games.

Allen has completed 138 of 219 pass attempts this season (63.0%) for 1861 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 6 interceptions. He leads the SEC in TD passes and in passing yards.

Allen has a number of very capable targets to throw to. Wide receiver Jared Cornelius (5-11, 212, Jr.) leads the SEC with an average per catch of 20.36 yards. Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (6-6, 256, Sr.) has 8 touchdown receptions in his last 10 games. WR Drew Morgan returns, having caught two critical TD passes in overtime vs Auburn last year, as does 6-4 WR Cody Hollister. Senior Keon Hatcher (6-2, 207) is a deep threat, and also gets a few carries on end-arounds.

Although the Hawgs are throwing the ball more this season than in the past, Bielema still believes in power football, and 57% of the plays called by Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos are runs. The Arkansas running game has come alive recently behind the running of sophomore Rawleigh Williams (5-10, 226). Williams leads the SEC in rushing yards, and has gone over 100 yards rushing in 4 of Arkansas’ 7 games this season.

While Bielema puts a premium on recruiting offensive linemen, the Hawgs lost some really good ones last year. Recruiting emphasis or not, top-quality offensive linemen are tough to find and recruit. This year’s Arkansas group has some talent, but lacks the experience UA leaned on heavily the past two seasons. Left tackle Dan Skipper (6-10, 319, Sr.) has started 41 straight games, and center Frank Ragnow (6-5, 320, Jr.) has 20 consecutive starts. But after those two veterans, there’s a drop off in experience, despite impressive size. 

One of the things Bielema has always done, even going back to his days at Wisconsin, is use multiple tight ends to create defensive alignment issues. Arkansas will present an offensive formation with two or three tight ends, and attack that point with plays dependent on how the defense aligns, They’ll run a simple off-tackle power, or pull one or more of those big, athletic tight ends and go outside. If the defense somehow misaligns, they will take full advantage, including creating a situation where one of the multiple tight ends is uncovered and left open for a big pass completion. With Auburn having had an open date to prepare, I’m optimistic that they can avoid that critical misalignment.

For those who like to play with statistics, Arkansas is averaging 34.9 points per game. They average 4.3 yards per rushing attempt, and a very impressive 8.5 yards per pass attempt. They average 6.1 yards per offensive play.

Arkansas Defense:

Arkansas has given up huge chunks of points and yardage this season, despite a number of returning starters on defense. Against teams in Power Five conferences, the Hawgs are giving up an average of 40 points per game. Even including their games against non-Power Five teams, they yield an average of 5.6 yards per rushing attempt, and 7.4 yards per pass attempt. Looking at those numbers, it’s tough to figure out how Arkansas stands at 5-2 on the season.

Defensive Coordinator Robb Smith uses a 4-3 under and over. In the simplest terms, Arkansas is usually six-in-the-box, with a 4-2 up front and 5 defensive backs. Perhaps their most talented linebacker was injured against Alabama (foot) and is not expected back this week. In his place will be junior Dwayne Eugene (6-1, 235), who started last week vs Ole Miss. The most experienced LB, Brooks Ellis (6-2, 245, Sr.) anchors the middle, and is very good against the run. Although Eugene recorded his first INT last week, neither he nor Ellis is particularly impressive in pass coverage.

Both defensive ends are strong pass rushers. Senior Deatrich Wise (6-5, 271) has 16 career sacks, and at least a half-sack in 8 of his last 10 games. Nose tackleTaiwan Johnson (6-2, 280, Sr.) has started 33 straight games.

Smith likes to rush 5 in passing situations, sometimes 6. He’ll send one or both linebackers, and will sprinkle in a corner or safety blitz. The Hawgs play a mixture of man and zone in the secondary, and seem to particularly like “quarters” coverage on third and long. Of the four starters in the secondary, three are 6-1 or taller. One corner is 5-10.

Special Teams:

Punter Toby Baker (6-3, 215, Sr.) has punted 24 times this season for a 47.3 yard average. Four of his last six punts have been for over 50 yards. Baker’s net punting average is 42.

Kicker Adam McFain (6-0, 187, Sr.) is 10-of-13 on career field goal attempts, with a long of 49. Wide receivers Jared Cornelius and Drew Morgan both return punts. Cornelius averages 6.5 yards, Morgan 11.3. The Hawgs use three kickoff returners, and average 17.8 yards as a group. 

How Will They Play It?

Based on the numbers through their 7 games so far, it makes sense to expect Arkansas to lean heavily on Austin Allen’s passing. He has played exceptionally well so far this season, and the Hawgs have very capable receivers. Of course, one can’t forget the fact that Bielema is a B1G guy at heart, and if he can run the ball successfully, he most certainly will.

Running back Rawleigh Williams has been a spark for the Arky offense recently, and I think his running was a key factor in them beating Ole Miss. I do think Auburn’s defensive front is too much for the Arkansas OL, but if the Hawgs can get their passing game going, that will stress the AU linebackers and affect Auburn’s run defense. Even so, I believe Auburn’s front six will hold up well vs the Hawg running game.


I would expect Auburn’s front four to be able to generate good pressure on Allen. The Arkansas OL is big, but pass protection is not their thing. They usually use a man-blocking scheme, and stunts and twists cause them problems. As for the secondary, there’s not much doubt in my mind that Arkansas is going to make some plays in the passing game. Allen is accurate and a great competitor, and they have lots of good receivers. But I think in an overall sense, the AU secondary is capable of playing with those receivers. Allen is only 6-1, and sometimes throws the ball without being able to see clearly whether the target is open. If AU can force him to throw into tight windows with poor visibility, good things can happen.

Bielema loves trick plays, and with his disdain for Auburn and Gus Malzahn, I’d expect to see one or two of those, particularly on special teams. Arkansas is sound in the kicking game, but I believe Auburn has the overall edge in that phase of the game, especially in the return game.

I expect Rhett Lashlee to bring a very balanced plan, mixing the run and the pass to prevent Arkansas from loading the box. If Auburn can force Arkansas to play consistently with six in the box, I think AU can run the ball successfully, and set up the play-action passing game with the run. The Hawg linebackers are physical against the run, but pass coverage is not one of their strengths. Play action makes that job exponentially more difficult.

I don’t know if Kerryon Johnson will play or not. I was told he had a high ankle sprain, and if that’s accurate, I wouldn’t expect to see him. On the other hand, who knows what the exact parameters of “a high ankle sprain” are? I think at the bottom line, Auburn has enough running backs to win the game even without KJ. I’m actually anxious to see Stanton Truitt and Kam Martin get some more opportunities to run the ball. I love Bubba Pettway pounding the ball, but I’d love to see Truitt or Martin flying in the open field.

After a rough start, Auburn has *potentially* turned the season around. Beating what I still think is a good LSU, and a Mississippi State that I think is at least “average”, has people inside and outside the program feeling like maybe the year is getting better. These next two games will determine whether it’s going to be a good season or a disappointing one. The loss in 4 overtimes last year to Arkansas was kind of a turning point for Auburn, and in a bad way. If AU can get this one, I believe we can take on Ole Miss with confidence that we can win. It’s one step at a time, and this next step is huge. It’s one we need, and it’s one we can get.

War Eagle!!

Edited by JMR
  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites




Austin Allen's emergence this season has to have put a big smile on Bielema's face. In his backup duties, I never saw anything that impressed me and I wasn't particularly worried about this matchup prior to the season with the departure of Brandon Allen. But now I have cause for concern again. lol

I do think we pressure him enough to make mistakes - and that means we limit their ability to make the big throws on us. But if they let him scramble/roll out like A&M does with Knight (though Allen is no where near the runner Knight is), we might have problems with allowing the short passes to eat up yardage on us. Hopefully that won't be the case.

Our secondary has done well this season but aside from Clemson and A&M (who is more balanced this year), we really haven't face a true passing attack like we'll see this week and especially next week against Ole Miss. Time to see if our boys can enforce that "no fly zone" against the better QBs in the league!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I saw Austin fill in for his brother a time or two last year, I wasn't impressed at all. But he has definitely proven me wrong. If not for him throwing so well this season, they might be 2-5. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, AU04ever said:

My concern with their passing attack is our safeties.

Trigga Tray scares me at times. I do look forward to the rematch between Carlton Davis and Drew Morgan. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, JMR said:

When I saw Austin fill in for his brother a time or two last year, I wasn't impressed at all. But he has definitely proven me wrong. If not for him throwing so well this season, they might be 2-5. 

Well he only threw 3 passes last year, but yeah I don't think even Arkansas fans saw this coming. I really thought we'd lean on the defense this year but it's been the opposite. Some fans cringed when he was named the starter in the spring without a competition in the fall but those who follow high school always said Austin was the better QB than Brandon.

Sucks that Bobby Allen's third child is a female...

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, gohogs14 said:

Well he only threw 3 passes last year, but yeah I don't think even Arkansas fans saw this coming. I really thought we'd lean on the defense this year but it's been the opposite. Some fans cringed when he was named the starter in the spring without a competition in the fall but those who follow high school always said Austin was the better QB than Brandon.

Sucks that Bobby Allen's third child is a female...

The Hawgs have already gotten plenty from that family, and there's still more to come from Austin. They are definitely big time competitors. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
41 minutes ago, AU04ever said:

My concern with their passing attack is our safeties.

I'm only concerned with one safety.  Rudy is a ball hawk when he wants to be.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen Allen play Bama, A&M and Ole Miss. He was knocked down constantly against the first two teams and never stopped getting up and throwing lasers when he had time.  Biggest advantage I see for him over White is completing passes down the field.

Still not sure what to make of AU and bye week makes me nervous with Gus. Did he leave well enough alone with Lashlee or did the extra time prove too tempting for him to tinker with the offense? You just never know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, CR said:

I've seen Allen play Bama, A&M and Ole Miss. He was knocked down constantly against the first two teams and never stopped getting up and throwing lasers when he had time.  Biggest advantage I see for him over White is completing passes down the field.

Still not sure what to make of AU and bye week makes me nervous with Gus. Did he leave well enough alone with Lashlee or did the extra time prove too tempting for him to tinker with the offense? You just never know.

If you are nervous here is a stat for you. Gus is 5-0 after bye weeks during his tenure at Auburn. 3 of those victories came against ranked teams.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, thaitopher said:

If you are nervous here is a stat for you. Gus is 5-0 after bye weeks during his tenure at Auburn. 3 of those victories came against ranked teams.

Did not realize that......hummm

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, Tiger said:

How did he have 5 bye weeks in 3.5 seasons? Isn't there just 1 bye each season?

Most people tend to count his time as OC.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, lionheartkc said:

Most people tend to count his time as OC.

I don't know if I feel like that's fair to count that. That's kind of misleading IMO

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Tiger said:

I don't know if I feel like that's fair to count that. That's kind of misleading IMO

I don't disagree.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Tiger said:

I don't know if I feel like that's fair to count that. That's kind of misleading IMO

I don't disagree. Still... assuming thaitopher's stat is correct, Gus is 3-0 at Auburn, after buys, which is impossible to beat for a coach in his 3rd year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, lionheartkc said:

I don't disagree. Still... assuming thaitopher's stat is correct, Gus is 3-0 at Auburn, after buys, which is impossible to beat for a coach in his 3rd year.

Good point. 3-0 is a great sign heading into tomorrow's game

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, lionheartkc said:

I don't disagree.

That stat came from Cole Cubelic. JGT Sure How He Got His Numbers

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, thaitopher said:

That stat came from Cole Cubelic. JGT Sure How He Got His Numbers

Thanks for clarification :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well maybe the guys at SEC Network read this forum because they just said at half of USCe that AU is 5-0 under CGM after bye

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, lkeel75 said:

Well maybe the guys at SEC Network read this forum because they just said at half of USCe that AU is 5-0 under CGM after bye

But he's coached at Auburn for 6 years. Is there a bye missing?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Auburn lost in 09 and 11 with gm as the oc. However in 13 & 14 auburn had 2 open dates and won after both (ole miss, bama in 13... ksu & usce in 14) which makes him 5-0 as a head coach

Edited by auburntiger1987

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now