Things haven’t gone the way the Razorbacks might like this year, but that won’t stop them from regaling us with the tidings from Fayetteville! Eric Harris of Arkansas Fight stops by for a bit to give us the scoop on what we’ll see from Bret Bielema’s bunch tomorrow night.
Obviously this season's not going the way everyone would like with Arkansas at 2-4 right now. The schedule's been pretty tough with TCU in the non-conference and A&M and Alabama already on the SEC slate through the first half of the year. Why has Arkansas struggled early on?
Biggest issue has been the disaster at offensive line. It’s very off brand for what people think a Bret Bielema coached team should be, but he made a bad hire for o-line coach and missed on some guys in recruiting. That combo has led to our offense being unable to get any push, especially on short yardage situations, or form any kind of pocket. Austin Allen has been getting destroyed for the better part of a year now and he’s tough as hell but we’re finally seeing all those hits weigh on him.
With Austin Allen likely out for Saturday, what can you tell us about his backup and how he played against Alabama?
Cole "Steamboat" Kelley is as cajun as they come. He's listed at 6'7" 275 lbs. but that would surprise me if they were selling him a little short with that. Starting with the Texas A&M game they started using a short yardage package where he just put his head down and got a couple yards. He had an average statistical game against Alabama, throwing for 200 yards and a TD. Considering it was a freshman starting his first game in Tuscaloosa people were pretty optimistic about his performance. He didn't show his deep ball much against Alabama but when he did it was pretty. Despite his inexperience he's pretty fearless, he stood in the pocket well and because of his size he took hits better than Allen does.
Who should we be looking out for from the skill positions for the Razorbacks?
Jonathan Nance has emerged as the team's best receiver so far. He was developing into Allen's go to guy before his injury and still is doing well. He leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. He's not a guy that blows by corner backs but has done an excellent job making tough catches in the middle of the field and getting yards after the catch.
The defense has given up some points this year (over 40 to A&M, South Carolina, and Alabama)... what's been the biggest weakness on that side of the ball?
The defense hasn't been as awful as a quick glance at the numbers suggest. The South Carolina score got ugly because of three defensive touchdowns (yes, three.). Special teams mishaps also played a major role in Texas A&M and TCU getting points as well. The thing where things haven't been good is the defensive line getting a push in the run game. Teams have been able to pretty consistently get 4-5 yard gains on simple running plays and just wearing them down for the explosive play.
What's the outlook for the rest of the year? Will Arkansas go bowling, and if they don't, what's the lifespan for Bret Bielema looking like?
To go bowling, Arkansas will likely need to beat Ole Miss, Coastal Carolina, Mississippi State, and Missouri. I don't feel confident in this offensive line holding up nearly long enough to go 3-0 in those three SEC games. That means a 5-7 year is likely and a major step back for Bielema. Fans are screaming from the rooftops for Bret Bielema's job and its getting more and more justified with each game. Very few of the things he's promised to bring to Fayetteville are here in year five are here and fans are tired of it. The issue is if the University is able or willing to pay his ridiculous buyout. A couple weeks ago I would have been very surprised the buyout happens, but after the South Carolina game especially, it feels like the administration will find a way to get that money.
What's your prediction for Saturday's game? Any chance the Hogs can make it happen under the lights at home?
This just is a rough matchup for the Hogs. I expect Auburn to run for 250 yards and wear down the Razorback defense. Arkansas keeps it close for a half but the usual second half letdown occurs. 41-21 Auburn.
I like the way he thinks, let’s get a solid win tomorrow. War Eagle!