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Film Room: Short Yardage Run Game

So far in 2017 success in the crucial short yardage run game has been limited. What exactly is the problem in an area that should be a strength?


We heard so much talk all during the off season and again during the bye week of a return to a physical, crushing run game

So what really is preventing the Arkansas offense from being able to rely on that 3-4 yard run no matter what the defense sends at them? Is it personnel, play calling, mental toughness or a combination of all three?

Arkansas is at a 60% power success rate which puts them at 84th in the nation on those short yardage plays.

First lets look at what has worked.

Here early in the game against Florida A&M, Arkansas shows a two TE, two back set (22 personnel) with Devwah Whaley at the tailback spot. His depth is at 8 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Against a less talented team and with an overload to the strong side they are able to create a gap behind the pulling guard #66 Ty Clary and the FB to pick up 3 yards and a first down. Clary stumbles but still gets to his target of the filling safety. Not exactly an impressive gain considering the numbers advantage on the strong side but it does get the first down.

Lets not pretend this offensive line is All-SEC caliber from top to bottom. Ragnow in the middle is as good as any, and Froholdt would play at several schools at the level he has risen this season.

Its just not honest to gloss over the fact that at the three other spots it will be a season of gradual improvement.

On film after the FAMU game you have to think the oline coaches were not endeared with confidence going into the TCU. Yes they racked up over 200 yards rushing in the opener, but a base play like this on a 3rd and 1 should pick up more yards.

So here is where the game plan took a change against TCU.

We saw more 1 back sets with the back lined up at the same depth of 8 yards.

The game was to create extra gaps at the line of scrimmage create advantages that the TCU 4-2-5 could not fill. Additionally this would create match ups of safety on TE at the point of attack where Arkansas felt the were more physical.

On this key drive at the end of the first quarter Arkansas looks to run a variation of inside zone with a built in cut back. After a pick by the Arkansas defense a 2nd and 4 situation from the 5 yard line came up that should have been money for a physical run/play action team.

I really can not see what the thinking was on this play where the TCU defense did not seem to be confused by the multiple shifts and motions. (And this was a theme throughout the game)

All that movement is pointless when the opponent has you out numbered.

The Middle LB #32 aligns in the playside B gap right where Arkansas wants to run the ball and creates havoc in the backfield from the start.

The RT is unable to reach the blitzing backer but can wash him into the A gap causing a cutback. The numbers advantage by the defense is amplified by the fact that Arkansas is using a WR #7 Jonathan Nance as an edge blocker in the run game, pretty much set up for failure from the start.

Why use a wr there when you have multiple TEs and FBs that are better? Do that out in the middle if the field to break tendencies not inside the red zone.

That failure in the red zone led to the first missed FG and lost opportunity for points.

Later in the 3rd quarter driving in TCU territory and Arkansas runs.... yes Power O, and it looks amazing. Except for the fact that the back is too deep at 8 yards and the offensive line can not hold blocks long enough against an odd front slanting defense (Texas A&M will be same).

TCU has time to shed blocks due to RB depth, Whaley just doesnt have the same explosiveness of Raleigh Williams III of a year ago. The result is no gain

Which leads to a crucial 3rd down and 1 with the opportunity to tie the game up going into the 4th quarter.

So at this point they finally figured it out, the play call is just a basic iso but the back shortens his depth and is able to attack the hole quicker and Whaley picks up 13. Well blocked, quick attacking run play that puts the offense inside scoring position.

Yes 1st and Goal inside the 5 yard line.

But for some reason from there they return to a one back set and a deep start depth for the back and get stuffed on first down.

During this TCU is playing the same look up front, DEs on the edge crashing contain, under look from the backers and SS.

On second down the thought is to go back to what worked and run the iso play from a shorter depth.

Block the damn DE on the goal line! I have no clue what Austin Cantrell was thinking on this play or what alignment rules gave him the block down call. On the same play from this look two plays before that Whaley broke the 13 yd gain on he blocked out and held the edge long enough to create space. If he makes anything close to that same block on this play Whaley scores.

Nada, and 3rd down resulted in a catch out of the back of the endzone followed by the worst clank off the goalposts you could imagine.

My wish list for the run game against Texas A&M.

  1. More two back I with a fullback, or hback. (Cantrell, Patton, Kraus)
  2. Shorter depth by the RB on goalline and short yardage situations. In these must run situations put the back at 5-6 yards, specifically Whaley and shorten the amount of time defenders have to react and the amount of time the young offensive line must hold blocks.
  3. Less eye candy, shifting, motions etc. Save that for some passing situations to identify coverages in the secondary.

Take a peek at the depth of the back on those short yardage plays and see what the front on the A&M dline is playing. Bielema and Enos can not afford an ineffective performance in these situations again, and Offensive line coach Kurt Anderson may be the one with the most to lose immediately.