We’ve hit the halfway point of the season and things have definitely not gone as expected. So the Arkansas Fight group got together and shared their thoughts on the first half of the season and looking ahead for the next six games.
1. 1-5 is definitely not the record fans have wanted or expected, but the past couple games have brought improvement. What are your thoughts on the first half of the year?
Adam P: A lot of this season could have been predicted, but the losses to Colorado State and North Texas are hard to stomach, still. Four or Five wins seemed logical at the beginning of the year, and now if we get 3, most would be happy. However, the team that played Alabama is not the same team that played North Texas. That gives me hope that even though the W’s aren’t coming just yet, we’re heading in the right direction.
Cody: It is hard to tell if the team just plays to the level of the opponent or if it was just a matter of needing to get some game experience with the new offensive system. Either way, the losses to Colorado State and North Texas were inexcusable, but the life shown in the early portions of the A&M and Alabama games are promising. By no means do I expect them to put 4 quarters together this season, but if they can keep getting deeper into games that will be a plus.
Adam F: I maintain that the blown lead against CSU and the North Texas loss are inexcusable no matter what year the coach is in, but I think overall, fans want to see a clear direction for the program in a Year Zero situation. We’ve got that now. It’s now time to break through and win a couple games down the stretch.
Derek: My thoughts are the first three games were dreadful (other than beating a hapless EIU team), and then they finally started to show some fight and resolve when SEC play started. This is just a roster not built to win many football games. The offensive line is a complete mess, they lack depth at almost every position and have very little speed to speak of. It’s nice to see them competing and not giving up, but it’s hard to watch Razorback football be this bad.
Eric: If anything these past three games make the Colorado State and North Texas games more frustrating for me. We thought that even if it wasn’t the most talented roster they could be put in a position to succeed and showing good signs against SEC opponents makes me wonder what the hell went wrong leading up to those games?
2. What grade would you give the coaching staff six games in?
Adam P: C-. If you take away the talent of this team, there are still a lot of “coachable” things this team is not doing. If you simply forget about special teams, there seems to be a lack of fundamentals on both sides of the ball that seems to be easily fixed, but is still not there. We’re slowly getting better on playing smarter and receiving less dumb penalties, so that’s improving.
Cody: Overall C-. Offense C. Defense B-. Special Teams F.
Adam F: Overall I’ll go with a C. Game management gets a D, but recruiting and player development get B’s. It’s easy to see how things get better from here.
Derek: D+. The handling of the quarterback situation and special teams really should warrant this staff a F, but Chavis and the defensive staff have done enough to raise the bar a little.
Eric: Recruiting bumps it to a C- for me as well. The quarterback situation was a huge blunder and I think the staff started a little over their heads before starting to show adjustments.
3. The offense started to show some real signs of life in the Alabama game, what do you want to see them do more of in the second half?
Adam P: Continue with the tight end packages. Continue getting Rakeem Boyd some space. Continue getting the ball into the QB’s hands from the snap.
Cody: Feature Rakeem Boyd in the running and passing game. He is the best player on the offensive side of the ball.
Adam F: Play to their strengths. Against Alabama, I saw a quarterback running a game plan built around his skills, and the best offensive players getting the most touches. Bobby Petrino’s old mantra was “feed the studs.” Don’t overcomplicate that.
Derek: Continue to throw to the tight ends, especially Cheyenne O’Grady. Run the ball more effectively. They’ve played some of the best front sevens in the league (Auburn, A&M and Alabama), so they shouldn’t face anything else outside of LSU that’s remotely close to that the rest of the way.
Eric: Keep things simple. Don’t make players do things they aren’t equipped to do and add more to the offense in the spring.
4. What is the most important thing that needs to be fixed to finish this season well and have momentum leading into 2019?
Adam P: Keep the passion. If the recruiting class we currently have going into next year sees this team quit, I’m scared most will move on. The fight this team has showed the past couple of weeks really impresses me. That’s what Bielema’s first year team did, as well. They weren’t winning, but they were fighting tooth and nail every damn game. I want to see that fight and grit continue each and every game, win or lose.
Cody: Finish games strong. Leaving Bielema’s calling card of playing three quarter games far in the distance will be a good next step toward winning some games next year. The fan base seems to be content with good showings that don’t necessarily result in wins. That and keeping the recruiting performance going.
Adam F: The dumb mistakes have to go away. No more special teams disasters, reduced turnovers, reduced penalties. Those kinds of mishaps kill momentum and are hallmarks of a poorly coached team.
Derek: Special teams. You can’t have the kinds of mistakes they’ve had in that phase and expect to compete at a high level. They need to shore that up and it should yield dividends in terms of field position and not putting defense in a bind.
Eric: I want to see the coaching staff continue to make successful adjustments. I really didn’t expect game management and game planning to be as poor as it was in the first three games. It has improved and I want to see that continuous growth.
5. What is your prediction for the last six games? Any SEC wins on the horizon?
Adam P: There’s still several upcoming games that are winnable, with the first being this Saturday in Little Rock against Ole Miss. Vanderbilt is a possibility and if our offense keeps improving, who knows, maybe we can win a shootout with Vanderbilt and Mizzou. It sucks that we’re already halfway through the season, but many opportunities still exist with this team. Let’s hope they take advantage of them.
Cody: There has to be one in there, right? I honestly don’t know. If we had two weeks to prepare for anyone other than the best team left on the schedule (LSU) then we would have a much better chance.
Adam F: I think the Tulsa game is a win. I think the Vanderbilt game is a win. If the Hogs can win those two and go 1-3 in the other four (Ole Miss, LSU, Miss State, Mizzou) I think that would be a successful finish.
Derek: I think they can beat Tulsa and Vanderbilt. Don’t see them winning Saturday night or any of the last three. Maybe they have a shot against Missouri if the Tigers’ season goes south and they aren’t motivated to make a bowl game.
Eric: S&P+ gives the Hogs a greater than 50 percent chance to beat Tulsa and Vandy. So I’ll say they take care of business in those games. If they somehow make it to four wins that will be a huge success after the disastrous first half.