Hog Pass Game Can Benefit From Addition By Subtraction
It may be counterintuitive to think that the Arkansas Razorbacks’ passing game could improve this season given that former standout receiver Treylon Burks is plying his NFL trade with the Tennessee Titans rather than playing his senior year with the Hogs.
Maybe it’s just crazy to think the Hogs’ overall passing game could be better without Burks?
After all, Burks had 66 catches for 1,104 yards last season as the primary option for Razorback quarterback KJ Jefferson. Critics might even say that Burks was mostly his only option last year, or the only one he was really looking for before he started racing.
As you probably know, Jefferson was the Razorbacks’ leading running back last fall with 664 rushing yards. Jefferson actually rushed for 838 yards on 146 carries before losing 174 yards, mostly to sacks in the passing game.
I think it’s fair to say that Jefferson and the Hogs as a whole depended on Burks last season, and why not, the man delivered like Federal Express. Had Burks returned for his senior season, he likely would have crushed most if not all of Arkansas’ career by receiving records with a healthy season.
But has that addiction had a general chilling effect on Arkansas’ passing game?
Next showdown for No. 19 Razorbacks
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, September 3
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville
September 10 – South Carolina
September 17 – State of Missouri
September 24 – Texas A&M at Arlington
October 1 – Alabama
October 8 – in the state of Mississippi
October 15 – at BYU
October 29 – at Auburn
November 5 – Freedom
November 12 – LSU
November 19 – Ole Miss
November 25 – in Missouri
I think so. Intuitively, Jefferson knew that getting the ball to Burks was almost always the Hogs’ best option for a big play, so often he was just looking for him instead of moving through the progression of his course tree. For a relatively inexperienced quarterback with legs, that was probably his best bet at the time — get the ball in the hands of your best weapon or run.
However, this reliance on Burks might have had a general chilling effect on the rest of the host corps. When you know the ball is probably not coming your way, it’s hard to put in the maximum effort every time. It’s just human nature. Unfortunately, most college players can’t just turn the tap on and off. If you ride at three-quarters most of the time, that ends up becoming your top speed most of the time.
We saw the results of the Razorbacks’ reliance on Burks in the Outback Bowl. The receivers had trouble opening and Jefferson had trouble finding them. Cleverly, Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendall Briles relied heavily on the quarterback rush, and Jefferson and backup QB Malik Hornsby ran all over a depleted Penn State defense that was missing several starters. who have retired from the bowl game.
As Briles told reporters during his media interview during training camp, he’s not worried about the stats. He just wants to win. That’s exactly what the Hogs did in running over the Nittany Lions, 24-10. Running the ball led to a victory over Penn State in the only game between the two proud programs.
The Hogs won, but the way Arkansas won is why analysts like Tim Tebow and Jordan Rodgers don’t rank KJ Jefferson among the best quarterbacks in the SEC.
By the way, Tebow and Rodgers will be on campus this weekend for their SEC Nation TV program which airs at 9 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network ahead of the ESPN No. 19 Razorbacks TV season opener at 2:30 p.m. with the No. 23 Cincinnati Bearcats.
The Paul Finebaum also hails from Fayetteville at 2 p.m., and “Marty and McGee” will kick off Saturday’s festivities at 8 a.m. Host Marty Smith almost said John Daly would be a guest on Saturday morning. The stage for all three programs will be set up on the lawn at Old Main, unless rain forces other plans.
Both Tebow and Rodgers see Jefferson as a runner who chops the ball up, but not really a skilled passer. It’s kind of ironic that Tebow made a name for himself as a quarterback for the Florida Gators.
These pundits wonder what the Hogs will do without Burks, and that’s legitimate.
I personally think we’re going to see growth in the Razorbacks’ passing game. Jefferson is going to go through his progressions this season, and because of that, the big, fast receiving body Razorback is going to break his tail to open up and make plays.
Come midseason, returns like Warren Thompson and Ketron Jackson Jr. as well as transfers like Matt Landers and Jadon Haselwood will be known and respected by the Arkansas fan base and Hogs opponents.
Is this a pie-in-the-sky perspective on the Razorbacks passing game? Probably, but until there is evidence on the ground in the country, I’m going to expect the best, rather than the worst.
What I like the most about Pittman as a coach is his positive attitude. He strongly believes that people speak results through their vision and their attitude. Pittman is so positive with people, and especially with his players. The Hogs Plus streaming service currently has a standout feature on Pittman, in which he wears a microphone while working out. Positivity just emanates from the man.
Now he coaches and corrects, but Pittman does it with encouragement and affirmation, and you can see the players bursting with pride and self-esteem. Undoubtedly, the piece has been edited and is only an excerpt from a two-hour practice, but it certainly gives you an idea of how the man directs and guides his program. That positivity has been key to Jefferson’s development and will be with the receiving corps this season.
Hog fan confidence currently appears to be at its highest level in a decade. I think that’s fine, but Cincinnati isn’t a one-year wonder of a program. The Bearcats had a lot of turnover last year, but coach Luke Fickell has a mature program. Cincinnati is reloading this season, rather than rebuilding.
Pittman summed up his eagerness and anxiety for Wednesday’s season opener in his last media encounter until after the game.
“The first game, you better be ready because you have no idea what they’re about to do,” Pittman said. “They have their basics, but you walk into LSU and they have you covered zero all night. You go to a different party than you expected…You have to adapt…These first matches are different. You don’t know what they’re going to throw at you… You learn a lot about your team in the first two or three overs of Game 1.
Much more will be known about this Razorback team around 6 p.m. Saturday, but there’s no certainty in the SEC or with a schedule like the Hogs.
Speaking recently with longtime football watcher Razorback, he summed up the Arkansas schedule as well as anyone.
He said it looks like the Razorbacks have a certain win at Missouri State and a likely loss to Alabama. He tagged the other 10 draw games. I think that’s a pretty nifty summary of an incredibly tough schedule for what could be Razorback’s best team in a decade, whether they finish 7-5 in the regular season or 10-2.
The latest headlines from The Fayetteville Flyer, delivered straight to your inbox.