The 2015 schedule for Arkansas will include several coordinators in their first year at that particular school. The more notable additions of Will Muschamp at Auburn, and John Chavis at Texas A&M have overshadowed some of the others. Kevin Steele taking over at LSU and Manny Diaz returning to Mississippi State could end up being even bigger from an Arkansas Football perspective.
Many of those in the coordinator carousel have faced Arkansas in recent seasons at previous stops, but what outcome will this change in OC or DC have on the match up with Hogs?
Texas Tech: David Gibbs
After the complete wrecking of Tech last season and the mauling of their undersized defensive line, Matt Wallerstadt was fired. Apparently giving up 438 yards rushing was not what the DC had in mind, and Kingsbury elevated Mike Smith to defensive play caller. After the season the Red Raiders hired David Gibbs from Houston to lead the defense and maintained Smith with a Co-coordinator title. Gibbs will be the main play caller and has experience handling the challenges of a fast paced style of play. His style overall has been creating turnovers in a 3-4 hybrid type of scheme.
Impact on the Arkansas Matchup- Recruiting added 6'3 290 lb DT Breiden Fehoko from Hawaii to an undersized front last season. He was rated as a 4 star and had offers from several SEC schools but it is hard to believe one Freshmen can make that much of an impact. Gibbs may take more chances in run situations and try to create turnovers, so we will prob not see another 400 yard rushing game.
Better or Worse for Arkansas- Same, with the undersized front of Texas Tech im not sure any D coordinator could fix that matchup. Gibbs is a very experienced coach and may have some tricks for the Arkansas offense but I am just unable to believe it will be much different this time around.
Texas A&M: John Chavis
The Aggies were ranked 102 in total defense in 2014 and LSU was 9th. Even the slightest improvement under Chavis will be noticeable, and he has the track record to overhaul that defense. Obviously the styles of play are different and that can lead to more yards and points given up, but a minimal improvement would make A&M much better. Arkansas scored 28 on the Aggies last season in a losing effort, and with the addition of Chavis will Arkansas be able to match that number or will they need to? The Arkansas defense took huge steps after that A&M loss and I think will be in much better shape.
Impact on the Arkansas Matchup- The Aggies have a talented, young defensive line with Myles Garrett (11.5 sacks, 14 TFL) and Daeshon Hall. Chavis has the tools to put together a middle of the pack defense and thats all it will take.
Better or Worse for Arkansas- Worse, Chavis has shown what he can do with top talent.
Tennessee: Mike Debord
Debord will be in the OC position under Butch Jones, and odds are the offense will not change much. Jones worked for Debord at Central Michigan along with several other current UT coaches. Debord also worked at Michigan in 2007 as OC. So for Bret Bielema and Dan Enos the meeting with Tennessee will include several familiar faces in Butch Jones, Mike Debord and John Jancek. Debord has said that he wants to use his NFL experience to add a few wrinkles to the run game out of one back, and "take everything we have done here that they have had success with and continue to move on with that."
Impact on the Arkansas Matchup- Its always interesting when a head coach brings in a guy who they either coached under or played for previously.(Petrino and John L. Smith?) Will Mike Debord be willing to follow Jones' game plan without stirring up any dissent? I dont know, but on the other hand adding more experience is never a bad thing.
Better or Worse for Arkansas- Same, Jones is the play caller period. The Tennessee offense was second to last in rushing in the SEC last year, so any improvement in that area would make the game on Oct. 3rd tougher, but Im not seeing his addition being a big change.
Auburn: Will Muschamp
Muschamp joining Malzahn and returning to Auburn after flopping at Florida is on paper a nightmare combination for SEC opponents. Overly high expectations for a group that was not very good in 2014 could be a bit much for Muschamp to overcome right away. He has installed his version of the 4-3 hybrid that contrasts with the previous 4-2-5 that Ellis Johnson used during his time there. Using a stand up end/LB hybrid majority of the time could improve a pass rush that was non existent last season. A more aggressive and energetic defense was on the field during A Day for Auburn.
Impact on the Arkansas Matchup- Up until the lightning delay in the game last season Arkansas was able to move the ball pretty well against the Auburn defense. The match up in late October this year sets up to be a pivotal game in the SEC West. Like Chavis at A&M are there going to be any stumbles for the Muschamp defense due to a faster paced offense putting them on the field longer? By the time Arkansas and Auburn meet that question will be answered, and this game may well be more like the Arkansas/ Alabama game from 2014.
Better or Worse for Arkansas- Worse, getting a former HC, highly successful DC, will be tougher for everybody.
LSU: Kevin Steele
The former Alabama linebackers coach will be taking over a defense at LSU that was at the top of the SEC. Most of his concepts are the same as Chavis, and the talk is that his version will be a little more attacking in nature. LSU is always talented on the defensive line and Steele will have a solid group returning.
Impact on the Arkansas Matchup- Arkansas relied on its own defense to win in 2014 with a big shutout. LSU held Alex Collins to 46 yards on 16 carries and Williams to 55 on 18. The Alabama game plan was pretty successful in slowing the Arkansas rushing attack also when Steele was there last season. Any time a new DC comes in there has to be some set backs in terminology.
Better or Worse for Arkansas-Better for Arkansas, but it will still be a slug fest.
Mississippi St: Manny Diaz
Diaz has been up and down as a defensive coordinator and returns to Mississippi State to a team loaded with talent. But Texas also had tons of talent when he was there and ranked 69th in Total Defense giving up over 25 points per game his last season.
"It’s always easy this time of year to write the article, Hey, here’s this coach who has this great scheme. There’s no great scheme. If there was a great scheme, we’d all do it. What it was [at Louisiana Tech] was we were all bought in and all committed. We all pointed the same direction." Manny Diaz on his rise, fall and return to SEC.
Diaz's foundation is an aggressive blitzing defense that is unpredictable, and prefers a 3 deep 3 under concept. Mississippi St struggled with coverage in the secondary and some big plays destroyed any hopes of playing in the Playoff. Diaz has the experience to solidify that secondary, but there are a few losses in the linebackers that need to be filled.
Impact on the Arkansas Matchup- In 2014 Arkansas moved the ball against the Bulldogs but could not convert in red zone situations. The run game was tough going for the Hogs and I think this time around it may be easier. Diaz is a gambler in the run game sending blitzes off the edge which should give some chances for a big game breaking run.
Better or Worse for Arkansas- Better, Diaz has some high expectations to live up to after the 2014 season.
Missouri: Barry Odom
A lot of Arkansas people thought Odom would be hired before Robb Smith. His return to Missouri makes sense now after building a solid defense at Memphis. His preference in scheme has been to use some 3-4 concepts with mostly 4-3 one gap stuff. Those quick 1 gap stunts that Missouri used to tear up the SEC the last few years should remain intact with possibly the best dline coach out there in Craig Kuligowski staying.
Impact on the Arkansas Matchup- Odom is taking a step up from the job at Memphis into the grinder of the SEC. Out of all the new OC and DCs on Arkansas's schedule he has the least experience. By the time Arkansas takes on Missouri the question of whether or not Odom can keep Missouri's defense at the same level should be answered. His Memphis defense in 2014 was in the top 15 in creating turnovers with 14 fumble recoverys and 17 interceptions.
Better or Worse for Arkansas- Better, Dave Steckel had that Defense on a roll, but a common theme among all the new hires is creating turnovers. Odom has proven he can teach, and put players in position to create several each game. The fumble by Arkansas (Alex Collins) in the game at Missouri in 2014 was big and if Odom brings more of that along with a solid base defense the Tigers may be hard to beat. Odom's lack of SEC experience does give Arkansas an advantage, but that front four will be just as stout no matter who wears the DC headset.