What’s Wrong With Pig Defense? Why the two point conversion failed and two stories about Auburn fans
Q: Our first question this week comes from HotlantaHog who wants to know: What’s wrong with the Hogs defense? I thought they were meant to be the strength of the team.
A. They’ve had tackling problems and taken bad angles of the ball over the past two weeks, but that is partly down to the opponent. Georgia and Ole Miss have two of the most balanced offenses in the country. When you can run and throw as well as them, the secondary is going to give up some big games. I’m not really worried about it. With the exception of Alabama, there is no other team on their schedule that is creating the game issues we’ve seen in the last two games.
The good news is that the offense is getting better and better, mainly because KJ Jefferson has really developed into a true quarterback run / pass. Forget the Georgia game. Part of what happened there was the intimidation of the crowd. Most of it was Georgia’s defense which is the best in college football. I loved how the offense rebounded in another game on the road.
Now they are coming home. I can’t wait to see what they do against Auburn.
Q. BloodRedHog asks: Do you agree with the decision to go for 2 and the game Kendall called it? I was okay with the call, but felt that a run or a draw for KJ was the better play call than a pass.
A. It was not a straight pass. There was a run option but the defensive tackle on the right side unlocked the game. He forced KJ to throw it early. AJ Green was open on the goal line but Jefferson had to throw it over tackle D which almost crushed the ball anyway. This put the pass over Treylon Burks. It looked like an alignment issue. This D tackle was discovered at the snap and it came full speed into the backfield.
Q. Twinky275 wants to know: With the exception of the Bama game, what does the remaining season look like for the Hogs? Do you think of a particular bowl game?
A. I think they can still finish tied for second or maybe third in the West. Ole Miss has yet to play a much improved A&M team and I wouldn’t rule Mississippi State against them. This game is in Starkville. The Bulldogs have better assists than Ole Miss.
If I had to guess now I would say Cotton Bowl. But they could fall at the Texas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl with one or two more losses.
Q. John Harris says: I have an idea that our TEs are going to play a big role in the future this week. Do you expect Trey Knox to create lags at the post?
A. Sam Pitman said it after the game. Knox alternated with Blake Kern and had five catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. Pittman says the plan for the future is to continue using Knox at close range and to make him fat during the offseason. He could potentially have two more seasons after that to develop as a tight end if he uses his COVID exemption.
Q. PorkSoda has a question: How do you feel about recruiting for men’s basketball? is this just the result of an exceptionally talented class in the state of Arkansas, or do you think Musselman will continue to recruit at this level?
A. It is a bit of both. Yes, Muss uses the talent of the state that exists. But it looks like he’s going to be able to go to other states like Texas and land four or even five star guys. I also think the portal will also continue to be a big part of his recruiting.
Q. Lanny wants to know: What did you think of the decision to bring Hornsby in at the end of the second quarter when the game was tied? He put the offense in a 2nd and 16th hole.
A. I didn’t like it, but it didn’t end up hurting them. Jefferson came back and took the offense on the 1st and 10th for the Ole Miss 33. An incomplete pass and a three-yard loss forced a failed field goal attempt. Not good but not Hornsby’s fault. Briles thinks a lot about the kid’s track speed which so far has rarely translated into anything on the pitch. As a true run / pass QB he will need to gain weight and become a better passer. Raw speed only works if there is no one on the edge or if there is a hole in the D line.
Q. Dr. Strangepork says: Opposing teams now have almost 2 seasons of defensive play movie on the Hogs, they have surely been planning and following trends and narratives – what are the chances that they will change it with different fronts and blitz in the future ?
A. I hope they will. Personally, I think a lot of the run / stop issues we’ve seen lately have to do with the Arkansas three-way front. Speaking of Arkansas’ success against Ole Miss, KJ Jefferson said Arkansas took advantage of what he called “a light box” from Ole Miss. He was referring to their three-way front. When you need to use your secondary and linebackers first in passing coverage, which has happened in the last two games, it makes sense that a four front is better at stopping the run than a front end. three.
Also, I couldn’t help but notice the success A&M had against the Alabama offense by bombing several players. You have to be careful with that and not overdo it, but for me Arkansas relies too much on a three-way run from their down lineman.
Q. Razorback Redneck says Georgia kicked us out. Auburn scored 10 points on them and gave up only 34 to our 37. What does that say about Auburn’s game this week?
A. For me, the difference was obvious. Auburn played against Georgia at home. The Hogs took them in front of 93,000 crazy Georgia fans. As I said last week, the Georgian players were excited because of all of the Arkansas hype in the national media. No team will be able to maintain this kind of intensity in consecutive matches. Auburn was a game of business management for Georgia. This is what they did. Comparing the scores of these two games is misleading.
Q. Oklahawg asks: After seeing the Hogs for six games, rate the new Pittman staff coaches. What’s the nicest surprise? Who has had to endure the most to get a quality product in the field?
A. I would go with Michael Scherer, the linebacker coach. I thought the linebackers did a good job last year. I was told that a change of coach had been made there because Sam Pittman wanted better recruiting. I wondered if the coaching was going to drop. This is not the case. It got better. Scherer did a great job developing Hayden Henry who returned for an additional year. Henry is one of the biggest surprises for me.
The coach who won the most? I would say Dowell Loggains, the tight ends coach. Hudson Henry has been injured for most of the season. For some reason Blake Kern didn’t step up like he did last year and Loggains searched for answers. Like I said earlier, he moved Tre Knox to the tight end last week and Knox was very effective against Ole Miss. It could end up paying big dividends in the future.
Q. @mousetown on Twitter says: My Hogs suffered another round of false injuries in the Ole Miss game. Looks like some teams are doing it a lot, but you sure don’t see Arkansas doing it. Can’t they make a rule against this garbage?
A. Let’s say the opposing coach can request a video review of the game while the team coaches deal with the so-called injured player. A dead don should be when a player is standing with no obvious issues. He looks around then falls on the ground. Still, there would be no way to 100% prove this to be wrong. The only answer is to require injured players to remain on the bench for the duration of the possession in which they were allegedly injured or had cramping issues. This would reduce the rigged stuff.
Q. Eddy Lynn says: I read on Twitter where you made fun of an Aggie fan who claimed that A&M was going to beat Alabama because Tide was too confident and would then win SEC West after Alabama collapses for the rest of the season. It seems to me that he has been right so far.
A. That was not why I was making fun of him, as you say. A key part of what he posted on social media was that Jimbo Fisher was a genius trainer and intentionally allowed Arkansas and the State of Mississippi to beat A&M in order to make Alabama too confident. Now Alabama was overconfident and A&M losing those games was probably the reason. But Fisher didn’t lose those matches on purpose. The premise is silly.
We’ll see if Alabama crumbles and the rest of the SEC West fights each other to clear the way for the Aggies to win the West. First of all, Alabama is going to have to lose again and while it’s possible I don’t think that will happen. Plus, the Aggies will still have to beat Ole Miss and that game is at Oxford. It is not impossible for A&M to win, but for me it is not likely.
Q. Alex4Hogs88 wants to know: What are your top 2 favorite memories against Auburn?
A. It has nothing to do with the games, but in 2012, the year John L. Smith, Arkansas went to Auburn and won their only SEC game. Auburn ended up failing to win in conference that year, which was shocking and humiliating to his fans. The game was practically over with a few minutes left in the 4th quarter. One of our trip members was supposed to get on the photo platform and help me take a camera and tripod to the locker room in Arkansas, but the guy didn’t show up. So I did it myself.
Most stadiums have an elevator from the photo deck to pitch level, but the Jordan Hare Stadium elevator only goes to the lobby at the top of the lower section. The game was still going on and I figured that as I walked down the aisle to the field, Auburn fans would start pestering me because I was wearing a red and white Razorback Nation shirt. To my surprise, a few young Auburn fans stood up and carried the equipment to the pitch for me. They were very polite. It was obvious that they had been brought up correctly.
Two years later, which was Bret Bielema’s second season in Arkansas, Arkansas and Auburn met in the season opener. Our team was out to eat on Friday night, but the place recommended to us did not have a table available, so we sat at the bar and ate. There were several Auburn fans sitting around us and we had a really good chat with them about the upcoming game. There were no arguments. No bursting. We had a great time chatting with these guys and I got to learn a lot about the traditions of Auburn, some of which are very weird.
I would say Auburn is the best place in the SEC to visit the media. These people may not treat their head coaches very well, but they are great hosts for visitors.