Not many people are giving Arkansas much of a shot to upset Auburn on the road this week, with good reason.
Those two monumental losses in previous weeks have not promoted much confidence so far that this team can win against a more talented team. It has been more the way those losses played out and how familiar the tune sounds. A sputtering offense paired with a hit or miss defense and second half collapse are kind of a trademark the last few seasons.
Chad Morris was brought in to fix that, but it is going to take time in order to repair. The style of play that he prefers has been historically slow starting until everyone gets on the same page, and the optimist in me hopes by week 6 or 7 they start to roll.
Here are a few points that this team may focus on to at least stay competitive for a while.
Protect the QB on inevitable 3rd and long situations:
They have been trying to max protect the QB on these passing downs in order to buy a little more time to throw but this also limits options downfield. By holding a TE/H-back in and a RB to help it limits routes to no more than 3 giving teams a much easier task in coverage.
Here is an example from last week.
Give a Secondary only 3 recievers to cover and they will take that all day.
How can they fix this? Well a big part will be in the protection up front by the 5 lineman. There will probably be some shuffling around on Saturday moving Froholdt back to LG. That spot has been a bulls-eye for opposing defenses. I would almost guarantee that Auburn will throw a twist or stunt in that direction on the first obvious passing down.
Involving the TEs in the passing game on early downs will also help where LBs and Safeties have to think a little more on play-action.
Find a way to scheme themselves into yards in the run game.
This team just isnt going to line up and run over anyone, and does not have the quickness up front to run many pull schemes with anyone other than Froholdt.
North Texas designed this run blitz to take advantage of this exact split zone play resulting in a 2 yard loss on first down. The second level defender, in this case a LB reads the LG taking a zone blocking step and presses the A gap. The center is occupied with a nose so he cant pick up #22, the LG has the responsibility of protecting his inside gap on a run like this away. # 54 Capps just does not have the experience there to recognize a well timed run through.
Something different like trips to one side and an inside zone cut back to the weakside, or some form of QB run is probably the only way they will be able to get anything going against this Auburn defense. Im not sure how this weeks starter Ty Storey can hold up in those situations, and maybe Kelley is the answer on short yardage.
What can the defense do well?
North Texas had a solid gameplan of how to get rid of the ball when the Arkansas defense sent pressure. DC John Chavis used a lot of man coverage/ Cover 1 with a single safety which left the corners and SS isolated. Mason Fine is as good at getting rid of the ball in a hurry as any QB Arkansas will see this season.
Auburn will likely look to hold on to the ball longer to get those deep chunk plays of 25-30+ yds that HC Gus Malzahn emphasized during the week, which may provide an opportunity to get to the QB.
They have been relying on the short passing game with screens and slants up until now, and that is an area that the Arkansas secondary has struggled.
In the run game I think Auburn can chew up as many yards as they want with JaTarvious Whitlow.
This game will likely get ugly at some point and with as many plays that went the opponents way of the last couple weeks Arkansas is bound to get a few the other way. It will still not be enough, but getting some high quality experience will help this team out later in the season.