Hogs brace for A&M's speedy D ends off edge; RB Collins earns praise; more notes
FAYETTEVILLE - If Brandon Allen remains sack-free Saturday night, the Arkansas Razorbacks will have pulled off part of a great team effort required to upset Texas A&M in the SEC opener at Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Sr QB BRANDON ALLEN
The Razorbacks (1-2) have kept pass rushers from sacking their quarterback in a victory over Texas-El Paso and defeats to Toledo and Texas Tech.
AGGIES SACK ATTACK
The 14th-ranked Aggies (3-0), including a victory over Pac 12 power Arizona State, lead the nation with 15 sacks.
Individually, defensive end Myles Garrett leads nationally with 5.5 sacks while the other end, Daeshon Hall, ranks right behind him with four sacks.
Keeping Allen upright seems to start with the line and tight ends blocking, the running backs blocking and running safety valve routes and receivers getting open in a hurry. Allen also must get rid of the ball quickly and check into the right plays to offset the rush.
RECEIVERS MUST SEPARATE
In fact, receivers coach Michael Smith tells his depleted crew with top receivers Keon Hatcher and Cody Hollister out possibly for the season with broken left feet, and Jared Cornelius out possibly for the season with a broken arm, that pass protection begins with the new starting trio of Drew Morgan, Jojo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards.
"We've got to get open," Smith said Tuesday night. "It's not always on the offensive line and the running backs blocking. If guys don't get open and he's got the ball in his hands. That plays into it also."
Junior tight end Hunter Henry, the leading receiver with Hatcher out, must excel at blocking and getting open fast when assigned a pass route.
"They have two really good ends and a great D-line," Henry said. "We really have to protect Brandon the best we can. We have to be able to run the ball and keep them off balance with play-action. Sell the run so we can break people up and throw the ball. If we run the ball, the play-action game will help slow them down."
Henry said when receiving he and fellow tight end Jeremy Sprinkle must quickly achieve separation.
"We have to run our routes crisp and be in the right spot when Brandon needs us to be there," Henry said. "Because they are going to close that pocket pretty quick."
COLLINS THE PROTECTOR
Running backs coach Jemal Singleton was even more proud of running back Alex Collins' pass protection against Texas Tech than his 170 yards rushing on 28 tough carries.
"What I liked really the most is how we pass-protected," Singleton said. "If you turn on tape and watch Alex Collins in pass protection, he is throwing his body around and doing things we asked him to do."
Collins must do even more Saturday.
"They are leading the nation in sacks in large part (because of) what those guys (Garrett and Hall) are doing," Singleton said. "Very athletic, very long and can get upfield. As 'backs, we have to keep doing the things we have been doing and amplifying them even more because these guys are playmakers."
THE BEST TANDEM
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman calls Garrett and Hall, "the best defensive ends tandem in the country" augmented by supporting personnel and the schemes of veteran defensive coordinator John Chavis. Chavis, in his first year at A&M, successfully coordinated big-time defenses at Tennessee and LSU.
"What they have going for them is tremendous speed on the edge," Pittman said. "Their odd packages and exotic blitzes are very difficult to see. So if they get you in third and long or third and medium you had better watch out."
Arkansas' touted offensive tackles, juniors Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, are respectively matched against Garrett and Hall.
"Obviously, we feel like we've got some good tackles and they feel like they've got some great defensive ends," Pittman said. "We'll see how it matches up. It's the fun thing about SEC. Everybody's got good players."