With just two games left on the schedule, Chad Morris has an opportunity to start getting some answers about players without worrying about burning a redshirt year for some freshmen.
Particularly at quarterback.
Maybe the plan all along was to put a redshirt on Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones. Unlike many, I don’t think the offensive problems on this team are around the quarterback position.
Let’s face it, for the first few games of this season, the offensive line was a game of musical chairs. If there was a position on this team the former coaching staff let go down the drain, that was it … which is surprising because that was what Bret Bielema came in bragging about being his strong point.
Strange how that always works out, huh?
Bielema was surprised to find an Arkansas team in 2013 that was seriously lacking in numbers of quality at wide receiver, especially considering that was the strength of Bobby Petrino’s successes in 2010-11.
This Razorback team has problems in other areas, too, but the complete chaos in the offensive line is what happens when you hire the NFL equivalent of a grad assistant to be the offensive line coach in the SEC.
In my opinion, the two most critical areas on any team are the cornerbacks and offensive tackles. My ranking on those two varies from game to game and it’s something I got from former Raiders owner Al Davis, who first told me that in 1982.
“If you’re great at those spots — and I don’t mean just good — you can fill in everywhere else a lot easier,” he said.
When he got talked into changing his philosophy later, the Raiders dropped off and have never recovered.
For this Razorback team, the offensive tackles and cornerbacks haven’t even been what I would call good the last couple of years. Bielema talked a lot of about being better closer to the ball, meaning center and guards before tackles.
As for the cornerbacks, well, let’s just say the Hogs have made a lot of average quarterbacks look like All-American candidates this season. Kamren Curl got turned every which way but loose by LSU’s Justin Jefferson on Saturday night.
Jefferson finished with 117 yards on six catches and a touchdown where Curl was the closest defender and was barely in the picture when Jefferson scored.
It’s an area Morris and his staff are recruiting hard to fix. Out of the 23 commitments they have lined up for what could be a banner 2019 class, right now they have three offensive tackles and three defensive backs (if you put Rison’s Malik Chavis in that category … he’s being recruited as an athlete).
They also want pass rushers. The Tigers’ Burrow — who finished the night 15-of-21 for 195 yards, a touchdown, but no interceptions and no mistakes — didn’t get a lot of pressure.
It was Curl, of all things, who had the only quarterback hurry all night for the Hogs. Curl also had the only pass break-up of the night for the secondary.
In the recruiting class, the Hogs are also loading up on defensive ends. That is an indicator they need more pressure on the quarterbacks.
But, back to my original point of finding out about some players. At this point, nobody is going to lose a redshirt by putting them on the field. That includes Noland, Jones and some other players across the entire team.
Storey has proven he can handle the pressure of being a quarterback in the SEC. His numbers haven’t been particularly impressive with the exception of the number of times he’s gotten back up after being decked.
Has the time come Morris is going to put some players out there in SEC games to see what he’s got?
Morris was asked last week what Noland has to show to get on the field more and he said it was a consistency issue.
You wonder if that’s something that could be gained by getting some experience in games. Yes, Morris feels like he still has to shoot for wins and that’s something Razorback fans would like to see in these last couple of games against Mississippi State and Missouri.
They won’t be favored in either game and the Bulldogs have a pretty stout defense that’s been in the Top 20 all season in terms of numbers.
This Arkansas team is either going to be the worst in modern history or tied right there with some of the worst. There’s no way around that sitting at 2-8.
Why not play the youngsters? To many fans, hope for the future is about all they have right now.
It’s an interesting question.