Right as the fun was getting started, the 2014 season is over. The Hogs met all of their season goals and ended the year with a resounding 31-7 victory over Texas. High expectations will dominate the preseason talk next August, but for now we'll close the door on 2014 (on the field; recruiting season is heating up, of course) with a final look at the stats.
Much of Arkansas' improvement from 2013 to 2014 was due to the defense, but in 2015 it's the offense that will return nine starters and have high expectations. This article will focus on the offense.
Big-picture look at the offense
Arkansas' offense was, by nature, conservative, generally unable to overwhelm a good defense, but good enough to hang tight in any game.
Arkansas' offensive efficiency output matched the opponent season average fairly closely. The Hogs broke through late, exceeding the opponent average in three of the last four games - all wins. Continued improvement in 2015 is necessary. This, of course, starts with the running game.
For all stats, I used ONLY games against Power 5 opponents (conference games plus Texas and Texas Tech).
Collins upped his explosiveness in 2014, giving him a higher YPP and overall S&P. Remember, S&P is 80% success rate and 20% isoYPP. Collins' large advantage in isoYPP (yards per rush of successful run plays) made him the better overall option. Better, check out his improvement from 2013:
The 2013 figures include only conference games, so the 2014 numbers have two more games. Still, Collins improved tremendously despite an increased workload.
Curiously, Williams regressed slightly, although his increased carries per game may have had something to do with that.
|Plays||Yards/Play||Completion %||Success Rate||isoYPP||S&P|
All of these numbers are still too low, but Allen finished the 2014 season on a very high note. It was a major upgrade from the 2013 version of the Hog quarterback:
|Plays||Yards/Play||Completion %||Success Rate||isoYPP||S&P|
Note that "plays" refers to all called passes, not necessarily attempts. Sacks and scrambles are included as well, which of course drives down the overall YPP. Allen was sacked twice as much (6 to 12) in 2014, a function of breaking in a new left tackle and a bigger but slower line that struggled with speed rushers.
What's worth pointing out in the comparison is the drop in isoYPP, the yards per play of successful plays only. My best guess is that this a result of losing Javontee Herndon in 2014. Herndon, who was certainly not a great SEC receiver, was athletic enough to get downfield and stretch the defense a little bit. He was jammed at the line too often and wasn't great at getting open, but he provided a decent boost to isoYPP. As we'll see in a second, the Hogs were unable to totally replace him 2014.
The trendline is provided for context. Allen's injury clearly affected him against Missouri, but otherwise he was impressive to end the year. Here's how the SEC's quarterbacks ended 2014 in total adjusted QBR:
|Dak Prescott||Mississippi State||75.7|
|Kyle Allen||Texas A&M||75.1|
|Dylan Thompson||South Carolina||74.9|
|Bo Wallace||Ole Miss||61.2|
Not bad. Hitting at least 70 is a must, and 75 is a worthy goal.
Receivers & Tight Ends
|Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Yards/Catch||Yards/Target||Success Rate|
The key stats are the two on the far right: yards per target and success rate. Players with asterisks are seniors and will not be back in 2015. Here are four observations:
- Keon Hatcher needs help on the outside. Hatcher is a good player but was burdened with a pretty heavy load. He was more explosive in 2013 because he lined up opposite of Herndon. Without Herndon, it was all Hatcher. The Hogs tried to replace Herndon but...
- Demetrius Wilson was slightly underrated, but Cody Hollister had a bad season. These were the two guys that tried to replace Herndon. The "Moneyball" approach to efficiency is to not replace individuals but to replace production. The problem was that the combined production of these two was insufficient, and thus Hatcher took on an increased workload. Wilson had a better season than most thought because he didn't pad his stats against cupcakes: in fact, he failed to record a catch in Arkansas' games against Nicholls State, NIU, and UAB. He only showed up in big games, and his 7.33 yards per target and 46.67 percent success rate is pretty good. Hollister, who will enter the spring leading the competition to replace Wilson, was bad, finishing as the most inefficient target among regular receivers.
- Drew Morgan is poised for a breakout. Morgan closed out 2014 with a flurry, combining for five receptions for 84 yards against Ole Miss and Texas. Not included in the above stats is his 55-yard catch against UAB. He typically lines up as an H-WR, a slot position that the Hogs generally use on passing downs. He overtook Jared Cornelius for snaps at H (Cornelius was still used at Z and other spots) and became a nice go-to target.
- Unsurprisingly, the tight ends were very good. A.J. Derby's numbers are pretty ridiculous. If he hadn't gotten hurt, they could have been better. Henry was still very efficient despite a high volume of targets. Arkansas will continue to use two tight ends, so expect Jeremy Sprinkle and Jack Kraus to battle incoming freshmen Will Gragg, C.J. O'Grady, and Austin Cantrell for the second tight end spot. At least one of those three will avoid a redshirt and play immediately. My money's on Gragg.
Finding an X-WR remains top priority. Wilson was the best option, but even he failed to draw much attention from defenses. Kendrick Edwards has the size and Hollister can count on jucos typically doing better in year two. Incoming freshmen Deon Stewart and La'Michael Pettway will likely redshirt, but if either of them show out in fall camp they could warrant a look. Otherwise, the Hogs will have to adjust the offense. Continuing to flex out Henry and bring in extra flankers and slot receivers was part of the gameplan in 2014. Expect Jared Cornelius to battle incoming freshman K.J. Hill for time on the field alongside Hatcher.
The line was big, so there's that. It didn't wear down as much as the year wore on. These guys still struggle to handle speed rushers, but with four starters coming back, expectations will be high. Questions abound regarding players moving positions: Kirkland is a natural tackle, but redshirt freshman Brian Wallace is starter-quality and will expect to replace Cook. Two options emerge: one, promote Wallace to starter at right tackle and have Kirkland battle incumbent Skipper for the starting left tackle gig (Skipper struggled with speed rushers). Winner takes it, loser moves over to right guard. Two, Wallace remains a backup/sixth lineman for jumbo packages, Kirkland slides over to right tackle to replace Cook, and Frank Ragnow, who played extensively at center this season, takes over at right tackle.
Either way, this a good line that will be much deeper in 2015.
Check back soon for Part II, a look at the 2014 defense.