Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: Week 2 - Reviewing ULL, Previewing Razorback Future

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

The site's contributors gather to discuss the issues of the day.

1. Overall, how did the Razorbacks perform relative to your expectations? Were they what you they would be? Better than you thought? Worse?

Graham: I was impressed with the collective cohesiveness the offense came out with. Jonathan Williams looks ready to carry (pun always intended) this team, and the offensive line created enormous holes for both he and Alex Collins. I wrote that I thought they would cover the 10.5-point spread. They looked better doing it than I thought they would.

Drew: I've been trying to avoid using words like "impressed" to describe the Hogs' performance, because that's what we're supposed to do to Sun Belt teams. I was definitely encouraged by what I saw, though, especially considering all the sophomores, redshirt freshmen, and true freshmen that played.

Robert: Above and beyond my expectations. I should've known that they would take care of business, but I wasn't going to be surprised if Louisiana came in and really made a game of it. I remember watching a special on the Hogs from 2011 and they always had "Perfect Thursday", and this team didn't have "Perfect" Saturday, but they had exactly what they needed.

Randy: Louisiana's defense was a patch job at best; the Oinkers didn't have to be very good to score in the 30s. I still was impressed with how good the offense looked in every quality. The story of this game was how well Arkansas assembled a sound defense. No athletic QB running all over. No bombs to wide receivers (we'll worry about TEs and RBs later). No quick scores. And a +1 on turnovers, glory be. Coaching seemed to make a huge difference in a relatively short time.

Scottie: The offense exceeded my expectations. I loved the mixed play calling from Chaney. To see the O-line dominate the game like they should have was nice. The defense was where I thought it would be. D-line played great, secondary was improved and got beat deep only once I believe. I liked what I saw.

Kevin: First game of the year, new coaching staff, loss of a lot of talent, new guys on the field, injuries and transfers in the off-season, a credible opponent, these were reasons why I thought the Hogs might struggle in this one. Very happy to be wrong about that. Very happy, indeed.

Brent: I'd hoped for absolute domination, but feared a nail-biter. What we got was somewhere in between; a B-plus performance. I'll take it, happily.

Adam: I was very impressed with the performance against the Ragin' Cajuns. Most who needed, or were expected to shine, did. However, I was far more impressed with Louisiana's head coach. While watching the game in one of the Vegas Sportsbooks, I made a remark how I will always take a fat coach over a ripped one. The fat coach obviously spends more time watching game films while drinking six packs and less time spent focusing on creating his own six-pack.

Doc: Interesting theory. I just don't want a pretty boy coach.

Zack: What's awesome is the fact that we can expect our team to beat lesser teams now! I've seen a lot of "well, ULL is a Sun Belt team, we're 'supposed' to beat them." Yeah, well this time last year, we were playing a Sun Belt game that we were "supposed" to beat and we didn't. As a fan of an SEC team, 34-14 with 500 plus yards of offense is the expectation. They kind of blew me away and gave me a boost of confidence going forward.

Trent: I expected a similar score, but I did not expect to come away as impressed with how prepared the Hogs looked. I feel MUCH better about the 4-0 start I have been predicting than I did prior to Saturday.

2. There has been a lot of mixed reaction to the defense even though only allowing 14 points is about as good as most thought they would do. What's your take?

Trent: I think people paid most attention to the first two Louisiana drives where they moved the ball with ease. The first quarter did not give us a defense to feel good about, and after the past five seasons, Razorback fans are quick to recognize the symptoms of a sieve. The Hogs looked much better in the second half, but the opportunity to redefine expectations (like the offense did) had expired.

Adam: At times, the defense had me a little worried. That's just the nature of the beast when you have an inexperienced secondary playing against the passing offense of a team like Louisiana. However, the stats proved the defense was very effective at stifling Louisiana's biggest weapons.

Drew: Defense is still a little shaky, but I saw what I wanted to see out of the first game: no more arm tackles, DBs who would at least try to play the ball, and good pressure and containment on a supposedly mobile QB. I'm hoping to see the defense continue to gel over the next couple of weeks.

Randy: Not sure what people can gripe about. Are you just now noticing some limitations at LB and DB? This new coaching staff maximized the team's chances of success in game one. Nothing complex, a lot of straightforward nickel and base defense, nobody green put at risk. I'm guessing the D will get even better.

Robert: They did a great job holding back Terrance Broadway, and when they needed to, they were able to stuff Alonzo Harris. I think the Louisiana offense abandoned the run a little too soon, which made it a little bit easier for the Hogs to scheme against the passing game. Another team may execute better and expose the Razorback linebackers.

Zack: Defense looked good, front 4 looked as advertised, and they look fundamentally sound. I thought I saw an arm tackle by Darius Philon in the 2nd quarter that he wound up finishing the tackle and dragged the ball carrier to the ground by the ankle. They're finishing, and we've got a few more games to really improve before the tough part of the schedule begins.

Graham: There is no doubt where the strength of the defense is, up front. The unit as a whole kept the supposed mobile quarterback to (-1) rushing yards on 13 attempts. That number is really impressive, no matter the competition. If you gave me, with a speedy 5.5 40-yard-dash, 13 carries I'd get at least zero yards rushing. The pass coverage has plenty to learn this week in film study about finding the ball in the air, and I still want to see more from Tevin Mitchel in coverage, who at 6-foot-0 should have better coverage skills.

Brent: I think the worries about the defense are somewhat overblown. I was pleased/relieved at the adjustments made by the staff after the first two drives. Once we turned the defensive linemen loose in the pass rush, we looked like a different team. Early on, we played passively -- which I understand -- just hoping to contain the QB and force them to dink and dunk their way down the field. Once ULL proved they were happy to do just that, we got aggressive and the Cajuns had no answer. I especially like our four defensive end sets on third and long. (stat break: ULL finished with 274 yards of total offense. On their first two drives they totaled 21 plays for 134 yards. After that? Nine drives, five of 3 plays or fewer, 44 plays, 140 yards, two turnovers). This isn't going to be an elite defense. But I was encouraged enough by what I saw (Jarrett Lake looks like a player to me) that I think we can be solid on that side of the ball.

Doc: Funny you bring that up. Nobody noticed it for obvious reasons, but Arkansas' run defense was actually pretty solid last year. It shouldn't be a shock that they did well holding down ULL's rushing attack. Good thing they never got their passing game going though.

Kevin: We did see enough to give us some flashbacks to the horrors of last year. But at the same time, we didn't see a keystone cop display on defense either. Mixed is the best way to describe my reaction right now.

Scottie: I predicted the score to be 31-14, so it was right where I thought it would be. Forcing a couple of turnovers was something we didn't see last year, so I was pleased.

3. We expected these Hogs to be a solid running team, but they were also successful through the air. Do you think any differently about Brandon Allen and the receivers than you did before the game?

Graham: Brandon Allen looked like the Elite 11 quarterback he was recruited to be. If performances like the one on Saturday continue, he will quickly be named a "game manager." Something tells me that if that results in winning football games, he -- and we -- will be OK with that.

Robert: Not really. I still think there is a lack of depth. Only 6 different Razorbacks had receptions, but Arkansas didn't really need to throw it a lot. The passing game did what it had to, and we will know more about it when SEC defenses are loading the box with 7 or 8 players to stop the run.

Drew: With the caveat that ULL's pass defense has never been stellar, I was thrilled that Allen definitively proved that he's capable of slinging the ball with accuracy. That bomb to Herndon was a thing of beauty, and Hunter Henry is going to be a monster by the end of the season. Other teams can think our offense is one-dimensional at their own risk.

Randy: Allen did everything I would have dreamed of (had I dreamed about football instead of someone handing me a fish) except mystically heal the three injured receivers who missed this game. The effectiveness of Kiero Small and the young tight ends as receivers was astonishing. WR Javontee Herndon so schooled one Cajun corner, the poor guy lost his starting job. Didn't see any other wideouts do anything; didn't need to.

Scottie: I thought the receivers did great. The routes they ran weren't complex, but they were effective. I think the key for the receivers is to take what's given them, and they did a great job of that Saturday. There weren't many forced passes from BA in the game. Credit that to receivers finding holes in the zone and making themselves open.

Trent: I was counting on Herndon to be the best receiver in more of a possession type role, but it appears he has some big-play capability as well. Jeremy Sprinkle and Hunter Henry are big, mobile targets who'll often draw mismatches in coverage that Brandon Allen can exploit. I am still a wait-and-see on Allen, but it appears he may be that game manager who will take a chance when appropriate, and, further, execute. These quarterbacks are often referred to as champions.

Zack: Above and beyond my expectations. The stats were beautiful but so was his pocket presence. Although the o-line looked good, there were some plays where guys whiffed on pass protection, letting defenders run wildly at Allen. He was able to get keep his eyes down field and get rid of the ball before he was sacked. I think we have another good one here.

Kevin: I think something that I've not considered enough is that both Herndon and Horton spent time in Bobby Petrino's practices and were around some darn good receivers. And now they are finally getting on center stage and serve as leaders to the younger guys. They won't make us forget their predecessors, but they are going to show us that they can be much more than backups. As for Brandon Allen, I think he looked just like the type of quarterback that people say Bielema likes to have, that game manager that doesn't get the team beat. I'll be very happy if Allen continues in the mode we saw on Saturday, steady and true, which is no small thing for a guy getting his first full year at the starting position. Yeah, Brandon's stock is rising with me.

Adam: Brandon Allen made some extremely nice passes that gave me a lot of hope. He wasn't scared to throw it through two or three of the guys on defense to find his receiver. This could spell disaster against better competition. However, I'm glad he chose to be decisive with his passing and not hesitant. We're going to need that to get some key yards against the upcoming SEC schedule.

Brent: Other than one big whiff on an early third-down out route intended for Julian Horton, Allen looked sharp and in control of the offense. I felt good about his arm strength coming in; I was less sure about his accuracy and decision-making, but he took big steps toward answering those questions against ULL. I was also pleased with our personnel groupings and the use of the TEs. Sprinkle and Henry saw plenty of time split wide and we made good use of them -- Henry, by the way, seems to be everything he was billed to be. More important than all of that, though, is the fact that our receivers showed ability to make a play. As I've said before, Horton and Herndon have caught the balls thrown to them in the past, we've just never seen them make the kind of standout play that Herndon made on the deep ball for a TD in the second quarter. If one or both of them can show the ability to win consistently in one-on-one coverage, the implications for the rest of the offense are immense.

4. Knowing Southern Miss lost to Texas State, the road to 3-0 seems pretty smooth. What are the things you'll be looking for over the next two weeks before the trip to New Jersey? (By the way, Rutgers scored 45 points in regulation but lost in overtime to Fresno)

Zack: I'm looking for turnovers, mostly. No more dropped interceptions, give me some more fumbles. We had a terrible turnover margin last season and it's one of many things that need to improve. I also want to see more receiver action, 6 players caught passes but only Javontee Herndon and Kiero Small scored. I want to see Julian Hortan get more involved, as well as a little more from Keon Hatcher. I also want to see Alex Collins break a big one. And give me more Kiero, I love seeing him get touches.

Graham: I want to see more of the long, time-consuming drives. Those are something that I haven't seen an Arkansas team consistently put together in recent memory, and those are the sorts of things that can win close games. The Hogs were able to do that in the fourth quarter this week with an almost nine minute drive. After that drive, a rested Chris Smith tipped a ball to JaMichael Winston, putting the Cajuns out of their misery.

Drew: The defense, especially pass coverage, just needs to continue to develop and clean up their technique. It might be wishful thinking, but I'd like to see the defense try to get a shutout in one of the next two games - it's been a while since we've had one of those. I'd also like to see Will Hines turn some of those defended passes into INTs.

Brent: The secondary making plays on the ball, the linebackers making an impact (i.e. plays in the backfield, big hits, forcing turnovers, etc. -- more than just being active), Allen completing passes down the field and taking care of the ball, and most importantly, I want to see us push teams off the line of scrimmage and get a couple of yards when we have to have them. I thought we could've been better in that aspect against ULL.

Scottie: I look for continued dominance from the offensive and defensive lines. I think we'll also be looking for that go-to guy in the receiving corps, too. Herndon did a great job last week, but it could be Horton or Hatcher next game, who knows. I kind of like the uncertainty. It makes the defense play more honest instead of zeroing in on one guy.

Robert: I think seeing Alex Collins find that 2nd cut that can really get him open for a big run, seeing Brandon Allen continue to be smart with the ball, and seeing the defense continue to take advantage of opportunities and avoiding giving up big plays.

Trent: Call me greedy, but this is my wishlist. I want no injuries. A turnover ratio of four or better. A special teams touchdown. At least six yards per carry for each running back. I want to see Brandon Allen run at least once. I want to see someone in the secondary jump a route. I want to see more touchdowns than penalties. Most of all, I want to see a good, old-fashioned Bert Beatdown. Like he used to put on Indiana. It would be so cathartic.

Randy: Arkansas needs to show fundamental improvement and not get dragged down by a lack of emotion. Many more players will be asked to show how much they can help the team, as help will be needed once SEC play begins. Practically all of the Hogs need a lot more reps in the new offensive and defensive schemes. Nobody should be feeling like they know it all yet.

Adam: Keep the confidence building. It will be an absolute MUST to walk into SEC play with a great season in our grasp. If we have some hiccups that result in a loss to any of the three upcoming non-conference games, we walk into SEC play with our heads down and a possible bowl-berth that seems too far away to achieve. Grow together as a team and walk-in knowing who we are, what our weapons are, and how to be a collective unit.

Kevin: Staying as injury free as possible. Looking for our young pup linebackers to grow in their positions. A game with no false starts! And I'll be keeping a close eye on our turnover ratio. Just about anything would be an improvement from last year in that category.

5. All of the teams in the "Gauntlet" part of Arkansas' schedule displayed weaknesses this week (A&M allowed 31 points to Rice, Florida only scored 24 against Toledo, Carolina was widely mocked as "gassed", and Bama was "dominant but sloppy"). Is it now more realistic to think Arkansas could pull an upset during that stretch?

Robert: I would love to see an upset during that stretch. This team could really catch a team having a bad week and make them look bad. If Arkansas can manage to control the clock and have another 35+ minutes of total possesion time they will probably have a W at the end of the day.

Adam: Upsets are inevitable. We just don't know if we can be the one who delivers one of those upsets. I'm not one who is drunk on the red stuff, but it doesn't seem too far-fetched to surprise one team that doesn't see us coming. I'll take Texas A&M, Alabama, or LSU. Any will be just fine.

Drew: 'Bama is 'Bama until someone proves otherwise, so I'm not even thinking about them, and I still think Florida will be too much to handle in the Swamp. I do think our chances at an upset of SC have improved, and I'm getting the feeling that A&M's season is going to crumble under the weight of Johnny Autograph's continuing nonsense.

Zack: I really like our chances in the Swamp, still. I'd like to see Kiero busy Clowney's face mask up, too.

Brent: Arkansas will likely be at a talent disadvantage in each game, but if the tackling is sure, the mistakes are minimized, and a couple of balls bounce our way, an upset wouldn't shock me. Florida, with its mediocre offense, might be the best candidate, even on the road.

Scottie: I like our chances with South Carolina. North Carolina ran the ball pretty effectively last week against the Gamecocks at times, which was something that wasn't supposed to happen. The Florida-Toledo result surprised me and gave me a bit more hope of hanging in at Florida. A&M's offense is just too potent, IMO, but Alabama looked a little suspect, too. I'd be fine with a 1-3 stretch there, but Arkansas could surprise us and take a pair.

Kevin: First games, well, they are first games. And everybody has game tape now. You know Saban, for example, is going to be chewing out his offensive line all week. These teams are going to most likely get better. But, yeah, I at least like it that they all do have weaknesses that they have to work on. And just maybe they won't be able to get things corrected enough, and the Hogs will pull that upset.

Randy: A handful of young studs made a big difference in Arkansas's game one. If I could predict how they will hold up, it would be easier to see what the Hogs will bring in October. Even if individual opponents look less imposing, the five games from Sept. 21 to Oct. 19 will max-test the Porkers' talent and depth. I'm pretty sure those opponents have easier schedules

Doc: If the Hogs beat Rutgers and are 4-0, I think they pick off one of those four. It will be interesting to see how A&M deals with losing to Alabama if in fact they do lose.

Trent: It is certainly more realistic that the Hogs could pull an upset, although I'm not yet sure who the most likely victim would be. A&M and South Carolina are the teams of that group that Arkansas has historically had the most success against, and could provide the more favorable matchup again this season. I'll hold judgement until the next three weeks play out before making any wacky predictions, though.

Graham: It comes down to averages. A high school coach once told me, "You're not as good as your best day or as bad as your worst day." There is still plenty of time for all of those teams to get better and learn from their mistakes in these de facto preseason games. Although if every team, including Arkansas, play the same way they did on Saturday, there's no reason the Razorbacks can't steal one of those four.

6. According to the TV broadcast, the field temperature at kickoff was about 120 degrees, yet Bielema stuck to his superstition and wore a long-sleeved windbreaker/jacket thing. How many pounds to you think he lost just from coaching that game?

Kevin: The question the whole state is pondering, haha. I am all for a healthier / lighter Bielema, but I don't want him to have a heat stroke at the same time. Four or five pounds?

Adam: He might be taking this #NeverYield thing a little too far, don't you think? I think he just wanted a head start on cutting weight for the fight of his life coming up in around one-month's time when SEC play starts.

Drew: Zero. I have it on good authority that Ben Herbert held Bielema down at half and forced him to drink an entire cooler of Gatorade before he would let him up.

Graham: Sources tell me it was no superstition, but that Jen wants him to loose a few of those pounds he gained by devastating the cheese curd supply in Wisconsin. And can't we all agree it looks better than the tucked-in rain jacket look John L. had going on?

Robert: Probably about 30 lbs to match Kiero Small's offseason transformation. Bielema will definitely be more agile for the next game and should have even better speed getting through the Big A.

Randy: I suspect Bielema had a NASA coolant system hidden beneath that jacket. He certainly looked cool.

Scottie: The home sideline was in the shade the whole game, but khakis and a windbreaker was too much. I bet he dropped a few, but he probably had a cooling pack in his jacket like South Carolina had in their pads last week. He's a man, he was a nose guard in college, so it probably didn't bother him too much.

Brent: I got nothing witty here. I bet he smelled awesome after the game, though.

Zack: If he’s anything like me, I’d set the over/under at 10 pounds. I sweat getting out of bed. With the fan on.

Doc: He had that thing zipped up to the collar too. That's hard core. I was wearing a cotton shirt and seersucker and it was enough for me.

Trent: Zero. He went beast mode on the orange slices and juice boxes at halftime. This ain't Bert's first rodeo.


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