In the type of offensive identity that this Arkansas team prides itself on, a Wide Receiver will be asked to play a different role than a lot of other teams. Under other systems wide outs can be more specialized into speedy Xs or a slot that has exceptional quickness who can be a possession type receiver. At Arkansas versatile WRs that can block, and be a threat down field are a big part of the role. For the younger guys at the position reps are hard to come by if they are limited in any one area. Over the last few seasons we have witnessed several highly talented players not be able to get on the field due to a deficiency either in blocking, or strength at the line of scrimmage. Both Bielema and Enos hold that physical play in high regard and it matches the mentality of the entire team.
Dropped passes or a wrong route can be a drive killer for any offense. In the playaction game that Enos and Bielema favor, execution by a wide out can blow a game wide open or put an offense out of its comfort zone if a mistake happens.
The trade off for an X, Y or slot in the Arkansas offense is that a dominant rushing attack leads to some easier opportunities in mismatches and single coverage. Big plays off a second and short surprise play action pass against a single high safety, or picking up that much needed first down to keep a drive alive is where this group will contribute. How that happens depends on precise route running, selling a stalk block on PA and catching a lot of balls in traffic over zone drop defenders.
There have been a few more hints during the open scrimmages of what kind of pieces Dan Enos will add. He has used the same two and three wide sets that look like his Central Michigan passing game, along with the single WR sets out of play action.
Consistency in phase II by this group will be an important aspect of the Offensive success rate in 2015.
Who will have a breakthrough season this fall?
Add Junior college transfer Dominique Reed in the fall.
Here are a few players and situations that I think will give this group the ability to be more consistent in 2015.
Dig or square in Cody Hollister/Damon Mitchell
Hollister showed a few times last season he could use his size to get open over the middle, and has been able to do so this spring. Duwop Mitchell has that same ability and showed in the open scrimmages he was willing to go up in traffic to make the catch in treacherous territory also.
Out/option route Hatcher/Morgan/Cornelius
On this play Hatcher does a great job of selling the inside release while the playaction fake is being carried out. The Alabama secondary plays it solid, but the Safety is in a conflict because of the Deep post by the outside reciever. This causes him to play deeper and removes the corner who is locked up in man.
In the next example Drew Morgan runs this same route and shows his quickness out of the break that I hope to see more of this season.
Hope to see more of that under Enos's offense this fall. Morgan has been a guy everyone watched for a breakout game last year. His 3 catches for 51 yards against Ole Miss was close but still waiting for the consistency in his production that would give opposing defenses major headaches. Also Hollister here against Auburn.
15 yd comeback-
Brandon Allen has shown that he can make the throw to the sideline off of designed movement or when he has to scramble.
Stretching the field horizontally will open up more options in the middle of the field for the TEs to work.
Shallow crossing routes Hatcher/ Jojo Robinson, Morgan
This was a key pick up last season against LSU where Hatcher ran the shallow and made the first down YAC. Jojo Robinson has ran several of these in the scrimmages. The vast amount of talent at the TE position have been used in the same shallow cross during the spring also and looks very much like this play. From what Enos did at CMU he likes to use the shallow routes as checkdowns and quick hitters.
Really think this will be a foundation of the passing game next season. YAC for all these WRS should increase as well as the QBs completion %.
Finally its impossible to leave out the most important aspect of an Arkansas WR, and that is blocking.
Keon Hatcher was the most used WR last season because of his versatility. He showed the strength, and toughness in blocking a lb, safety or in this case cracking a DE. How much improvement the other guys in the rotation have made in the offseason will determine the number of snaps they will be on the field. Third down situations call for mult WR sets and Enos likes to line up in those on 1st and second down to break tendencies, but Cornelius, Morgan, Hollister and Robinson will be asked to block in this offense. They will not be asked to demolish every defender they block, but not being a liabilty is the key.
The WR group as a whole has more talent now than in recent seasons. Developing that consistency in running the right route, making the catch, and blocking are going to lead to some pretty great things for the 2015 Razorbacks.