What’s Wrong With the Hogs’ Defense? Why the Two-Point Conversion Failed & Two Stories About Auburn Fans

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This and More in This Week's Ask Mike

Q: Our first question this week is from HotlantaHog who wants to know: What’s the deal with the Hogs’ defense? I thought they were supposed to be the strength of the team.

A. They have run into some tackling issues and are taking poor angles to the ball the last two weeks but some of that is due to the opponent. Georgia and Ole Miss have two of the most balanced offenses in the country. When you can run and throw as well as they do the secondary is going to give up some big plays. I’m not real worried about it. With the exception of Alabama there’s not another team on their schedule that creates the matchup issues we’ve see the last two games.

The good news is the offense is getting better and better mainly because K.J. Jefferson has really developed as a true run/pass quarterback. Forget the Georgia game. Some of what happened there was crowd intimidation. Most of it was Georgia’s defense which is the best in college football. I loved the way the offense bounced back in yet another road game.

Now they get to come home. I can’t wait to see what they do against Auburn.

Q. BloodRedHog asks: Do you agree with the decision to go for 2 and the play Kendall called? I agreed with the call, but felt a run or draw for KJ was the better play call than a pass.

A. It wasn’t a straight pass. There was a run option but the defensive tackle on the right side was unblocked the play. He forced K.J. to throw it early. A.J. Green was open at the goal line but Jefferson had to throw it over the D-tackle who almost swatted the ball anyway. That caused the pass to sail high over Treylon Burks. It looked like an alignment issue. That D-tackle was uncovered at the snap and he came full speed into the backfield.

Q. Twinky275 wants to know: Excluding the Bama game, to you, how does the remaining season look like for the Hogs? Any particular bowl game you think?

A. I think they can still finish tied for second or maybe third in the West. Ole Miss still has to play a much improved A&M team and I would not rule out Mississippi State against them. That game is in Starkville. The Bulldogs have better passing numbers than Ole Miss.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say Cotton Bowl. But they could drop down to the Texas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl with another loss or two.

Q. John Harris says: I have an idea that our TE’s are going to play a big part moving forward this week. Do you anticipate Trey Knox creating mismatches at the position?

A. Sam Pitman said so after the game. Knox alternated with Blake Kern and had five catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. Pittman says that the plan moving forward is to continue to use Knox at tight end and get him bigger in the offseason. He could potentially have two more seasons after this to develop as a tight end if he uses his COVID exemption.

Q. PorkSoda has a hoops question: What is your take on Men’s Basketball recruiting? is it just a result of an exceptionally talented class from the state of Arkansas, or do you think Musselman will continue to recruit at this level?

A. It’s some of both. Yes, Muss is making use of the in-state talent that’s out there. But it looks like he’s going to be able to go into other states like Texas and land four or even five-star guys. I also think the portal will also continue to be a big part of his recruiting.

Q. Lanny wants to know: What did you think a about the decision to bring in Hornsby late in the second quarter with the game tied? He put the offense in a 2nd and 16 hole.

A. I didn’t like it but it didn’t end up hurting them. Jefferson came back in and got the offense to 1st and 10 at the Ole Miss 33. An incomplete pass and a three yard loss forced a field goal attempt which failed. Not good but not Hornsby’s fault. Briles thinks a lot of the kid’s track speed which so far has rarely translated to anything on the field. As a true run/ pass QB he’s gonna need to put on some weight and become a better passer. Raw speed only works if there’s nobody on the edge or there’s a hole in the D-line.

Q. Dr. Strangepork says: Opposing teams now have almost 2 seasons worth of defensive game film on the Hogs, surely they have planned and tracked tendencies and tells – what are the chances they tweak it with different fronts and blitzes going forward?

A. Hopefully they will. Personally I believe that much of the run/stop issues we’ve seen lately has to do with Arkansas’ three-man front. When talking about the success Arkansas had running the ball against Ole Miss K.J. Jefferson said Arkansas took advantage of what he called “a light box” from Ole Miss. He was referring to their three-man front. When you have to use your secondary and your linebackers in pass coverage first, which is what happened the last two games, it makes sense that a four-man front would be better at stopping the run than a three-man front.

Also I could not help but notice the success A&M had against Alabama’s offense by blitzing multiple players. You have to be careful with that and not overdo it but, to me, Arkansas relies on a three-man rush by its down lineman too much.

Q. Razorback Redneck says: Georgia shut us out. Auburn put up 10 points on them and gave up just 34 to our 37. What does that say about the Auburn game this week?

A. To me the difference was obvious. Auburn played Georgia at home. The Hogs got them in front of 93,000 crazy Georgia fans. As I said last week, Georgia’s players were fired up because of all the Arkansas hype by the national media. No way is a team going to maintain that kind of intensity in back-to-back games. Auburn was a take-care-of-business game for Georgia. That’s what they did. Comparing the scores of those two games is misleading.

Q. Oklahawg asks: Having seen the Hogs for six games, evaluate the new coaches on Pittman’s staff. Who is the most pleasant surprise? Who has had to endure the most to get a quality product on the field?

A. I’d go with Michael Scherer, the linebackers coach. I thought the linebackers did a good job last year. I was told that a coaching change was made there because Sam Pittman wanted better recruiting. I was wondering if the coaching would drop off. It didn’t. It got better. Scherer has done a great job of developing Hayden Henry who came back for an extra year. Henry is one of the biggest surprises to me.

The coach that overcame the most? I’d say Dowell Loggains, the tight ends coach. Hudson Henry has been hurt most of the season. For whatever reason Blake Kern has not stepped up the way he did last year and Loggains has been searching for answers. As I said earlier, he moved Tre Knox to tight end last week and Knox was very effective against Ole Miss. That may end up paying big dividends moving forward.

Q. @mousetown on Twitter says: My Hogs ran into another round of fake injuries in the Ole Miss game. Seems like some teams do this a lot but you sure don’t see Arkansas doing it. Can’t they pass a rule against this garbage?

A. Let’s say the opposing coach is able to call for a video review of the play while the so called injured player is being tended to by the team trainers. A dead give away should be when a player is standing with no obvious issues. He looks around and then drops to the field. Still there would be no way to prove 100% that is it fake. The only answer is to require injured players to remain on the bench for the duration of the possession in which they were supposedly injured or had cramping issues. That would cut down on the faked stuff.

Q. Eddy Lynn says: I read on Twitter where you were poking fun at an Aggie fan who claimed that A&M was going to beat Alabama because the Tide was overconfident and then would go on to win the SEC West after Alabama falls apart for the rest of the season. Looks like to me he’s been right so far.

A. That wasn’t why I was, as you put it, poking fun at him. A key part of what he posted on social media was that Jimbo Fisher was a genius coach and he had intentionally allowed Arkansas and Mississippi State to beat A&M in order to make Alabama overconfident. Now, Alabama was overconfident and A&M losing those games was probably the reason. But Fisher did not lose those games on purpose. The premise is idiotic.

We’ll see if Alabama falls apart and the rest of the SEC West beats up on each other clearing the way for the Aggies to win the West. First of all Alabama is going to have to lose again and while it’s possible I don’t think it’s going to happen. Also the Aggies are still going to have to beat Ole Miss and that game is in Oxford. It’s not impossible for A&M to win out but to me it’s not likely.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 wants to know: What are your top 2 favorite memories against Auburn?

A. This has nothing to do with the games but in 2012, the John L. Smith year, Arkansas went to Auburn and won its only SEC game. Auburn ended up going winless in conference play that year which was shocking and humiliating to their fans. The game was basically over with a few minutes left in the 4th quarter. One of our people on the trip was supposed to come up to the photo deck and help me take a camera and tripod to Arkansas’ locker room but the guy didn’t show up. So I did it myself.

Most stadiums have an elevator from the photo deck to the field level but the elevator at Jordan Hare Stadium only goes to the concourse at the top of the lower section. The game was still going on and I figured that as I made my way down the aisle to the field Auburn fans would start harassing me since I was wearing a red and white Razorback Nation shirt. To my surprise a couple of young Auburn fans jumped up and carried the equipment down to the field for me. They were very polite. It was obvious that they had been raised right.

Two years later, which was Bret Bielema’s second season at Arkansas, Arkansas and Auburn met in the first game of the season. Our crew had gone out to eat on Friday night but the place recommended to us had no available tables so we sat at the bar and ate. There were several Auburn fans sitting around us and we had a perfectly fine discussion with them about the game coming up. There were no arguments. No popping off. We had a really good time talking to those guys and I was able to learn a lot about Auburn traditions, some of which are very strange.

I’d say Auburn is the best place in the SEC for visiting media. Those people may not treat their head coaches very well but they are really good hosts for visitors.

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