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Do the Hogs have a chance against Mike Leach’s Aerial Attack?

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leach started his college coaching journey under the tutelage of Hal Mumme, who is widely regarded as the father of the Air Raid offense. He was Mumme’s offensive coordinator at Iowa Wesleyan University, Valdosta State University, and finally at Kentucky. He helped former Wildcat Tim Couch become the number one overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. This led to a spot on Bob Stoops’ staff at Oklahoma for a year before taking over the head coaching helm at Texas Tech. His former assistants include Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, and many more head coaches that are thriving at their current programs.

At first glance, Mike Leach’s offense are completely one-dimensional, and to an extent that’s true. However, the playbook consists of several reads that requires the quarterback to discern a defense and audible when necessary. Lining up with five wide receivers virtually every play, the quarterback must quickly dump it off on a slant or chuck it deep when possible. This enables Leach’s teams to put up many points in a hurry and come back from big leads. Additionally, the incorporation of a hurry-up no-huddle fatigues defenses quickly.

This offense requires a quarterback that is composed and intelligent enough to recognize defenses quickly at the line of scrimmage; the success of quarterbacks like Gardner Minshew and Graham Harrell’s are a testament to this.

So it begs the question, can the Arkansas Razorbacks go into Starkville and beat Mike Leach’s Mississippi State Bulldogs? A team that upset the reigning national champion LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge?

Mike Leach’s teams have never been hugely successful and mostly consist of 8-9 win seasons. In fact, he won a measly six games in the Pac-12.

“But Ryan, that’s two more wins than Arkansas has had in two seasons combined!”

My point is this: there’s inconsistencies in Mike Leach’s Air Rad and the Hogs must exploit them.

On the defensive side of the ball, State allowed an average quarterback in Myles Brennan to put up 345 touchdowns and 3 touchdowns, and he did not have weapons like Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Clyde Edwards-Helaire around him.

The Razorbacks must utilize Treylon Burks in this game. He’s proved to be a deep threat as well as a guy that can win one-on-one matchups. I’d argue that he may need 10+ catches to win the game. They may even think about doing some wildcat with him as well. Additionally, Trey Knox needs to do a better job finding ways to get open. We’ve seen flashes of his potential, but he’s often weighed down by nagging injuries and atrocious quarterback play. If Trey Knox continues to struggle with a guy like Feleipe Franks at quarterback, I fear we’ll never fully see how great he is or could be. I expect Rakeem Boyd to top 100 yards for the first time this season. Although LSU gave up seven sacks against the Bulldogs, Mike Leach ultimately inherited a bad defense from Joe Moorhead and co. and it’s probable that they don’t emphasize defense as much as, say, the Georgia freaking Bulldogs.

It would also be great if we could chill on the reverses-that didn’t work with Chadwick and it won’t work now.

Offensively, the Barry Odom knows that Mississippi State will put up points; it’s unfortunately inevitable. The question of Dorian Gerald’s availability cannot be overstated as he has a talent for getting to the quarterback. I think Hog fans will see how good Xavier Kelly really is. Sam Carter’s secondary group really struggled last week against Georgia and they must bounce back strong this game. The loss of Jarques McLellion does sting, but getting Devin Bush back from injury definitely helps. We saw Jalen Catalon make plays all over the field last week, but he will be tested in coverage this week, especially on the deep ball. Will he hold his own or will he ultimately get exposed?

Honestly, I’m not too worried about special teams. The unit only needs to improve a little bit after an atrocious showing last week, and I trust Scott Fountain can make adjustments even in a short time frame.

So yes, the Hogs have a chance. They are very capable of beating the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Sadly, I just don’t think they’re established enough to do so. I think we’ll see how good Kendal Briles’ offense can be in this game and I think also Barry Odom will put out a solid defense once again, just like he’s been doing for years. The Arkansas defense will have fatigue set in more quickly due to the Air Raid, and I just don’t know if they have enough talent on the depth chart to overcome that.

But I’m just an offensive coordinator for the UNLV Rebels on NCAA Football 14, so what do I know?

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