The face of the Arkansas offense has been their running back in just about every year that Bret Bielema has been the coach. Yeah, we are talking about that Bret Bielema, the coach of the 2010 Wisconsin Badgers, in case you didn’t make that connection. In fact, Bielema has coached a 1,000 yard rusher in each of the last 10 seasons, dating back well before his time as a Rose Bowl runner-up.
There will be a few new faces on the Razorbacks’ offense this year mostly at running back and on the offensive line, but chief among them will be the new quarterback Austin Allen. Why is that? Mostly because Arkansas really struggled against SEC teams with capable passing attacks last year, and that should be expected to continue. SB Nation’s own numbers-guru Bill Connelly touched on this in his very in-depth Razorback’s preseason preview. The gist of it is this:
The Razorbacks were able to slow down limited offenses -- Tennessee managed just a 106.7 passer rating, Auburn 118.6, Missouri 51.7, and Kansas State 108.0. But good passing games wrecked shop. Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State combined to complete 83 of 113 passes (73 percent) for 1,234 yards, 10 touchdowns, and one interception. Passer rating: 192.6. - Bill Connelly
Things were pretty much the same in the Razorback’s season opener as Louisiana Tech redshirt freshman J’mar Smith took the Razorbacks to the wire. He threw for just 212 yards and didn’t have any touchdown throws, but most of the success that the Bulldogs had was through the air, and they only lost 21-20. Because the Razorbacks have trouble defending teams with a good passing attack, they will most likely have to throw the ball well against TCU to stay in the game.
In Allen’s debut as the Razorbacks’ man under center he was 20/29 for 191 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He didn’t take any shots more than 20 yards downfield, but he was able to make clutch throws on 3rd and 4th down to keep drives alive for the Hogs. He also has a talented group of pass-catching options to throw to.
Keon Hatcher is their number one wide receiver, coming up with six receptions for 86 yards last weekend. He missed the 2015 season due to injury, but didn’t seem to have much trouble getting re-acclimated to the offense. Drew Morgan was their leading receiver last year, finishing 2015 with 843 yards and 10 touchdowns. He will be the safety valve for Allen. Jared Cornelius doesn’t have the big numbers, but he is their speediest guy, and likely the one that they will use to challenge the TCU defense deep. Beyond those guys, Allen also has a big red-zone target in tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. He is listed at 6’6”, 256 lbs and has the hands to be a threat as a receiver.
The Razorbacks have several good options in the running game, but if they want to leave Fort Worth with a win they will need to challenge the Frogs through the air. Austin Allen may not be their best weapon on offense, but he will be the most important one if they are to have success in this weekend’s matchup.