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Andy Hodges

Hogs’ offense just might have different spark than you think

Hogs’ offense may be more run-oriented than a lot of people have been thinking with more speed in the backfield than seen in a long time, but the line has to fill some holes.

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Since Chad Morris was hired in December, many fans have thought this was going to be a Petrino-style passing attack.

That got some folks excited. They remember the offense under Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson that lit up the scoreboard.

Some remember an offense that got stymied at times by athletic and aggressive defenses.

Morris said back on December 7 when he was introduced he wanted a two-back rushing offense. His offense has been termed the Smashmouth Spread.

Looking at it in the brief part of early practices we’ve been allowed to attend, you start to see why it’s called that and how Morris could have more success doing what his predecessor WANTED to do, but never could quite get right.

This offense looks similar in some respects to Ken Hatfield’s Wishbone that opened inside running lanes simply by the alignment. There are times looking at the line splits you wonder if you could parallel park a small car there. Okay, they’re not that big, but you still wonder.

That creates some awfully big running lanes that can be made wider with simple zone blocking.

And that is why Morris has said at times the offense has an answer for whatever a defense does. It’s almost like some of the old Wishbone teams where big, physical defenses were at a huge disadvantage playing them because they were always wrong.

Arkansas fans should know that because the Razorbacks beat Oklahoma in the 1978 Orange Bowl with speed and quickness more than physicality.

Roland Sales set an Orange Bowl rushing record by running behind a scheme Lou Holtz concocted that created gigantic holes with ONE block that was simply the case of taking a defender where he was going, then Sales read it and hit the hole.

It appears there’s some of that in Morris’ offense.

With a group of running backs that are much quicker and faster than anything the Hogs have shown the last few years, it could get very interesting.

Even Devwah Whaley.

“He looks more explosive,” Morris said Thursday after practice about Whaley, who lowered his body fat in the offseason and even talked at Media Day about being quicker now and it’s showing on the practice field.

“He looks light on his feet,” Morris said. “He plants now and has vision. He sees it and makes the cut.”

There are others that are looking good, too. It won’t be a one-back offensive attack and there will be fullbacks used on occasion.

“I think we’ve got a great running back room,” Morris said. “There’s competition and a challenge.”

Maleek Williams looked good in the spring and is still having good showings in fall camp.

“Maleek has looked good,” Morris said. “He’s 225 (pounds) and runs hard. He had a good run today in short yardage.”

It’s a group that is faster than in recent years. That much is plainly obvious. The right side of the offensive line with Brian Wallace at tackle, Johnny Gibson at guard and Hjalte Froholdt at center actually looks pretty good.

But you can’t run to the right all the time. Most teams will figure that out pretty quick.

“Now we have to get the left side like that,” Morris said.

If Dylan Hays can get out of the green shirt he was in Thursday and can play center, that will let Froholdt go back to left guard.

Silas Robinson and Noah Gatlin, a pair of freshmen with size and surprisingly quick feet, are showing promise at left tackle.

“Gatlin and Robinson are getting a ton of reps in the offensive line,” Morris said. “With the guys we have out, that’s forcing two freshmen to get some game speed reps. They’ve done a really good job. I’m proud of them and I’m proud of the older guys for pulling them along.”

Hays is expected back for a scrimmage Saturday, which will help.

In Thursday’s 11-on-11 work, Connor Noland started with the first team, then John Stephen Jones came on.

But it was Daulton Hyatt, again, who had some of the best plays, including a run on the option and a perfectly-time pitch to Rakeem Boyd, who has outside speed better than anyone the Hogs have had for a while.

Morris isn’t giving preference to any of the five quarterbacks, who have appeared to be rotating equally.

At least for now.

Saturday’s scrimmage may provide some separation, but the media won’t be allowed to attend.

“I’ll tell you what all went on,” Morris told the media with a smile Thursday as he left the podium.

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