Whether out of necessity or by design the Arkansas passing game put up impressive numbers early in the season. Not only was it highly efficient, but as the season progressed big plays off of play action developed after the ground game increased production.
Whichever quarterback emerges as the starter, Austin Allen, Rafe Peavey, Ty Storey, or Ricky Town will have these same tools and base concepts in the gameplan.
Play Action Passing:
Last season Brandon Allen was much better in the play action game. As a team, Arkansas was 75 for 105 on those PA passes for a 71% completion rate. Those passes alone accounted for over 30% of the total passing yards. That is an important stat and shows why this team was the #1 ranked S&P+ passing offense. In the play action passing game Enos orchestrated an offense that was both efficient and explosive, which is an arduous task at times.
The next quarterback will need to rely on these quick 1- or 2-read play action passes to keep moving the chains. If the OC asks him to drop back and read the full field with very little experience, it could be ugly early. I think Enos will put a few of these in the script to get Austin, or whoever turns out to be the starter, some easy throws.
Removing Hunter Henry from the passing targets will make an impact, but Jeremy Sprinkle has shown the ability to fill that role. Cornelius and Reed will get more of those targets.
Routes, how did they get open?
The wide receivers as a group looked pretty thin due to injury early in the season with Keon Hatcher, Cody Hollister, and Jared Cornelius all missing time. Drew Morgan and Dominique Reed emerged as go-to receivers as the season progressed.
Here is a look at the route concepts that Brandon Allen and Dan Enos had the most success with last season.
The variations off the Y flat to Sprinkle and Henry were unlimited. They would motion him into the backfield and fake the lead draw, iso, or a wham play and pop the TE/Hback out into the flat. The QB could run a bootleg and have an easier throw with a DE or OLB unable to run with the TE or attack the QB.
Pulling the linebackers and safety one way and sneaking out into the flat created some open space and yards after catch on a regular basis.
This conflict in coverage assignments was also used with Henry on the deeper corner route.
Against teams that attempted to play man coverage, the shallow cross was used.
Another added tool that was given to Brandon Allen as a way of keeping teams honest was the quick bubble screen.
In situations where a deeper route was needed, Dominique Reed, Cornelius and Henry had success getting open on comeback routes and digs in the middle of the field. The occasional wheel or post were called and thrown, but for the most part these were the primary routes. Dan Enos came in with the idea of simplifying the passing game, and he did just that. This is nothing too complicated. Spring practice should show us who can fill into that passing game and what we can expect.
What will the passing game look like in 2016?
It's hard to look ahead without knowing who will be under center. Regardless, the play caller and QB will have multiple targets with a large amount of in-game experience. Keon Hatcher paired with Drew Morgan will give some defenses trouble.
A consistent dose of the short to intermediate passing game while mixing in a few deep shots down field to Cornelius and Reed will be the formula that we can probably expect. How will that new starter at QB get the ball to those proven play makers? I think the Razorback Nation will be impatiently waiting to see what happens.