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Andy Hodges

We don’t know what we don’t know about Hogs … but Mallett still Mallett

Hogs serious about getting back to the basics during spring practice, which really just means nobody has a clue what to expect from this team, but there is a feeling it just might actually produce some better play on the field.



Every year about this time people start asking what we know in March about Arkansas’ football prospects for November.

Every year the answer is the same: We don’t know what we don’t know.

The only thing we know at this point of spring practice is former quarterback Ryan Mallett is, well, still Ryan Mallett.

In case you’re wondering what in the world, well, just before Saturday’s scrimmage when Mallett — yes, the same one with the million-dollar arm and nickel head — came roaring through the narrow parking lot between Barnhill Arena and the Smith Center behind Razorback Stadium.

And promptly faked an aim at quarterback Ben Hicks, sitting down on his horn, then hysterically laughing as he tried to find a parking spot.

“How Ryan Mallett …,” said one media person watching this unfold as we awaited our cattle call outside the fences of the stadium. Most were just standing there shaking heads.

Whether Hicks actually thought it was funny or not isn’t known. Normally you wouldn’t expect those antics from a grown man with a few years of being on some NFL rosters.

To be fair he wasn’t going 100 miles an hour, but anything over 10 with players and other assorted people walking to the stadium is probably a little too quick and he was exceeding that. No one thought he was actually trying to run over anybody, but that’s probably not the time or place for it.

Nobody that cut Mallett from three NFL rosters (and doesn’t appear to have a whole lot of interest in signing him again) said he couldn’t still throw the ball so that pretty much narrows down his problem, doesn’t it?

Mallett is wandering around Razorback practices these days, usually standing behind the quarterbacks, but exactly what he brings to the table is something only Chad Morris and Joe Craddock can answer.

Quarterback Ben Hicks making a read behind Cheyenne O’Grady during Saturday’s scrimmage at Razorback Stadium. PHOTO BY ANDY HODGES | HITTHATLINE.COM

In a scrimmage where the main highlights in front of the media came on a couple of big runs by Devwah Whaley and Chase Hayden, plus a true freshman wide receiver (Trey Knox) just simply beating a sophomore (safety Joe Foucha) in the modern-day tame version of the old Oklahoma Drill, there wasn’t a whole lot to see.

Ask the recruits, high school coaches and various others who get to stay longer than the media because they’ll see more than we do.

Don’t ask the media because all we’re doing is repeating what we’ve been told. It’s been awhile since I heard a college coach step in front of a microphone and talk about his team looking like it might not win a game against a high school team.

What this team is doing IS focusing more on fundamentals than last year. From what we’ve seen and heard that’s the bulk of what’s going on. Morris and Craddock have both told us the offense has actually scaled back, the tempo has slowed considerably … and the defense apparently is winning most of the head-to-head matchups.

That appears to be the focus for the spring … along with recruiting at a pace never seen before with the Hogs, according to the guys who follow that important game within the game.

The initial reaction upon hearing about the fundamentals is Morris is still working on the foundation. We hear about culture, the latest buzzword in college football, but it comes down to players … good ones.

There’s never been a plowhorse win the Kentucky Derby and there’s never been a team without really, really, good players win an SEC championship, much less a national title.

Morris knows this. He also knows the dysfunctional mess he walked into. Oh, don’t look for him to talk about any of that, but his actions are pretty clear.

Converted cornerback Jordon Curtis runs the ball behind a wall of blockers during the Razorbacks’ scrimmage Saturday. PHOTO BY ANDY HODGES | HITTHATLINE.COM

Getting back to basics is how coaches for decades have done things when they don’t have the talent in numbers to compete for a title. Being sound is the only way they’re going to win games.

That IS something Morris knows he has to do this year. A repeat of last season won’t work and there really isn’t an excuse anybody would buy.

Working on the fundamentals also keeps expectations down. Fans remember more about what was expected in August than what was delivered at the end of November.

Which is why coaches often like us not knowing what we don’t know about a particular team in the spring.

Right now, the bottom line is we’ve all seen a few good things, some bad things (snaps from center still seem to be a little wild at times) and some things we don’t know if they’re good or bad.

Quarterback John Stephen Jones leaps to field a high snap from center during the Hogs’ scrimmage Saturday. PHOTO BY ANDY HODGES | HITTHATLINE.COM

But there is a different feel around this team. The players look more like SEC players (particularly at wide receiver and in the offensive line). The attitude seems to be more focused.

What that translates to on the last day of August isn’t known.

Don’t expect a lot of answers in the spring. You get the idea this isn’t a spring where Morris will be showing off a lot for the fans with a high-flying offense.

But it just might produce a team that plays better.


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