Arkansas Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Arkansas Razorbacks
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Arkansas Razorbacks Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Who has a duo like this? – As a running back with a myriad of explosive running skills, wearing number five, the comparison of Darren McFadden to Mr. Reggie Bush was almost automatic.  Although McFadden had a few inches on the former Heisman winner, the ‘juice’ in the boosters, i.e ability to embarrass a defensive player, was evident from the first time the Hog rookie touched the ball.  So, the Hogs hand it to their #5 and he blows past the defense for a big play.  He’s tired, so it’s time to throw the ball, right?  Uh, no, put stud #2 in the backfield, a fellow classmate, who might’ve been the best return man in the country as a freshman – Felix Jones.  At the beginning of the season, if Houston Nutt knew that he was going to have to rely upon two freshmen to carry the load of the offense, he might’ve not wanted to show up each and every Saturday.  Tell Nutt that his offense will have to rely on two sophomores this fall and a confident smile will form on the head man’s grill for the world to see, as long as you promise him the sophomores are McFadden and Jones.  McFadden ran for over 1,100 yards with a style that was very similar to Bush’s – a back with electric speed who isn’t afraid to run over a defender for a first down.  McFadden, who is 210 pounds and speedy, can put a hurtin’ on defenses, in more ways than one.  Jones might be a tad smaller than McFadden, but this guy is a flyer.  Kick him the ball on kickoffs and KO teams better hope they don’t give #25 a seam, because he’ll be gone.  In the offensive scheme, when he gets the corner, it’s hard to catch up to Jones.  With Peyton Hillis’s versatility, either one of them can team with Hillis to create mismatch problems for defenses, but it’ll be exciting to see the Hogs’ offensive staff find a way to get Jones and McFadden on the field at the same time.  If the ultimate plan is to put maximum pressure on defenses, then getting Jones and McFadden on the field together will do just that.  No matter who plays QB – Casey Dick, Robert Johnson or golden boy Mitch Mustain – they’ll make a living handing (or throwing) the ball to one of these guys all season long.

2nd and Seven – “Give me a vowel, Pat” – What stands out more about Arkansas’s dynamic linebacker Sam Olajubutu – his Lilliputian height (for a SEC linebacker, 5’9” is downright miniscule) or his wonderful last name?  O-la-ja-boo-too.  It rolls off the tongue, you’ve got to love it.  Okay, back to the question, what is it?  How about neither?  Although he’s a wee bit and his name is magical, it’s his ability to blow up ball carriers that gets most people’s attention.  Last year, the soon-to-be senior racked up 118 tackles and 14.5 tackles for a loss.  It’s really a simple game for Sam O, and he’s back for another year just like the other - find ball, run to ball, tackle the guy with the ball.  With his quickness and small size, Olajubutu is difficult to block, that’s if an offensive lineman or a fullback can even get to him to put a helmet on him.  With an experienced and athletic defensive line in front of him, he may not have the 118 tackles that he had last year, but actually may have a more productive season.  This front seven has the potential to shut teams down and limit an offense’s time on the field in a major way.  Unfortunately, that’ll mean hearing O-la-ja-boo-too fewer times than last year.  Darn. 

3rd and Three – The Hogs’ hogs – Four returning offensive line starters.  Oh, that’s music to an offensive line coach’s ears.  Add to that the return of a tackle that many thought could be an All-SEC guy last year before an injury, and, well, that screaming and hollering you hear is Arkansas OL coach Mike Markuson (and some happy running backs).  This line got better and better each week and created some substantial running room for the Hogs’ youthful running back duo.  As a result, the Hogs’ finished the year 12th in the nation in rushing yardage (217 yards per game) and with everyone coming back, getting into the top five is reasonable (and in some circles expected).  Zac Tubbs returns from an injury that knocked him out for almost all of 2005 and he should return to his starting spot if he’s fully healthy.  Tony Ugoh on the other side, at tackle, is a two year starter and should push for first team All-SEC honors.  This group should make calling plays a little easier for Gus Malzahn, the Hogs’ new offensive coordinator.

4th and One – Everyone talks about the new guy, how about the established one? –  During the off-season, all the rage in Fayetteville was the hiring of a high school head coach as the team’s offensive coordinator.  The name Gus Malzahn became the hot button name for the Arkansas program and the spotlight is shining brightly on the former Springdale High School head man.  But, the arrival of Malzahn overshadowed last year’s arrival and proven commodity, defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.  Although they were torched by USC, Herring’s defense settled in nicely for the remainder of the season and showed tremendous improvement over the 2004 season.  As such, ‘improvement’ has become Herring’s calling card.  Before coming to Arkansas, Herring turned around an NC State defense that was 89th in total defense BRH (that would be Before Reggie Herring), 1st in the nation ARH (you get to figure that one out).  Last year, the Hogs were 34th in the nation in total defense after finishing 76th in the nation in 2004.  The Razorbacks gave up 56 less yards per game after Herring’s arrival.  Now, in his second year, Herring has most of his productive defensive players back on campus, which doesn’t bode well for SEC offenses.  Herring doesn’t back off and will let his guys go; he’ll let them be aggressive and demands that they be so.  No one really knows what will happen with the rookie calling the offensive plays (although “hand the ball to McFadden or Jones” seems pretty easy), but at least they can take solace in the fact that Herring’s defense will answer the call every down.

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