Offensive line issues, running game issues, quarterback issues, communication issues.
That’s pretty much what we’ve got from Saturday’s 34-3 win over Arkansas. I bet Gus Malzahn had something to say about that when he met with the media yesterday afternoon.
LET’S DO A LITTLE READIN’ BETWEEN THE LINES, SHALL WE?
Homecoming, fourth straight home game, Southern Miss, etc., etc., etc. off the top, but we don’t want to know about the Golden Eagles. We want to know about the Tigers and what we’re going to do to fix some things.
Let’s talk offensive line — WAIT, Nick Brahms is going to start again at center for the second straight game, and we turn it over to questions.
Hey don’t forget that Marquel Harrell wasn’t at 100%, so that obviously hurt the line play on Saturday against Arkansas, but at center, Brahms did well. His protection calls were on target, and his snaps were good to Jarrett Stidham. One thing that we do like to hear is that Brahms brought more of a physical presence to the position, which was a concern with Kaleb Kim in the middle.
Overall, we’re still working with a brand new offensive line and new running backs. There’s a ton of youth in the group, but we need to wait until that click happens, which is something that Prince Tega Wanogho hinted at today.
Hey, what about the communication issues from the sidelines? And the frustration on the field? Yeah, it was there. Gus readily admits that. With the way that the offense wasn’t moving the ball and the way that we were struggling, it’s not odd to see some anger from the offense. Those big plays and seamless offense will come, and they may come soon. It gives Gus and the offensive coaches a sense of what they need to do and what they need to stay away from.
John Chavis had himself some success with getting his guys to jump the snap count and getting out wide to put pressure on the tackles, which is something that we saw from him when he was at Texas A&M, but that’s another area for improvement, according to Gus. The coaches need to mix up the snap counts to keep defenses off balance.
As far as offensive weapons go, Anthony Schwartz is improving (even though he’s had a great start already), Shaun Shivers needs to keep learning, but he can be special, and Will Hastings/Eli Stove need to get back to 100% mentally as well as physically before they see more extended time.
Gus glosses over the new redshirt rule as “part of the job description” and a “new day in college football” that you’ll see more and more of around the country. It does suck, but we can definitely expect to see more guys make moves.
Special teams was an emphasis in the spring and fall camp more than it’s been in the past, and we always knew that we had some good guys in both return positions, but they really jumped off the page thanks to that extra live ammo experience.
The last two weeks, our play counts have been much lower than expected, and that’s not allowed for as many opportunities for the running backs and receivers. In addition, Gus mentions that the offensive line was a little banged up in practice over the past couple of weeks, so they were trying to get some guys to gameday healthy and not give them as many reps in practice. That hurts a young line, but isn’t as big a deal for a veteran line. Thus, there are the roots of some of the struggles up front.
Do you want the Posi-Barner take or the Nega-Barner take? Here are both:
If I’m wearing my doom-and-gloom shades, then it shouldn’t have taken this long for an offensive line to bloom, whether we had some injuries or not. It’s an indicator that things are going to be a struggle all season long, and with the young faces on the rest of the offense, it’s going to be tough for Stidham to get into the efficient rhythm he was in last year. We have so much talent, and we’re not utilizing it the way that it needs to be utilized. If we can’t protect, then where are the quick slants and hitches? Why do we call the delayed draw play so much, and especially on fourth and one? Where are the jet sweeps? And why couldn’t Stidham seem to hit anyone on Saturday night. He doesn’t miss those deep balls like that, but he was just so off. I’m afraid that it’s going to be this way all year.
Of course, remember the three points we scored against Clemson in the first half in 2010 with all of that talent? What about falling behind by two scores to South Carolina the next week? Remember the scoreless second half against Mississippi State in week two? How about 2013 when we limped away from Washington State and Mississippi State with completely different offenses than we’d see the rest of the year? And when LSU blasted us in Baton Rouge? Let’s go back to last year. Do you remember the Chicken Littles after the Clemson and Mercer games? Gus will figure this out, right about now. This is the time when his offenses have come together, and come together in a big way. When he’s had a good team, we start to see things click about a month in. it sucks that it takes this long, but it’s worth it in the end when we see what we’re capable of doing. Consider that our lone blemish is against the current #5 team in the country by a single point. If LSU had missed that field goal, would you still be worried? We’re still a top ten team, and we’ve got as easy a four-game stretch coming up as you’ll see in the SEC. It’s going to be alright.