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Week Four Previewing: Q&A With Arkansas Expats

OTS sent the boys up at Arkansas Expats a few questions, and John was kind enough to send us some answers back.  Check back with them for OTS's responses to their questions shortly.  Without further ado:

(1) Ryan Mallet has quickly established himself as arguably the best pure passer in the SEC, but what would you say is the weakest part of his game?

Well, his shoulder does get a little tired after throwing multiple TD passes. Other than that, his lack of mobility is an obvious drawback and he probably hasn't found quite the right balance of knowing when to gun it downfield and when to dump it off to the short receiver. But, in all honesty we don't have much to complain about here.

(2) The Hogs are clearly loaded at taiback, but to date Arkansas has ran the football relatively very little, and in limited action against Georgia the run was generally ineffective. Exactly what is Petrino expected to do with the running game from here on out, and how much success is expected?

From everything we've read, it seems that Bobby Petrino would prefer to run it more than we've seen so far. For example, his brother Paul (who's the offensive coordinator) said that he felt like the 3rd quarter of the Georgia game was a better indicator of what they'd like to do on offense - more of a balance between runs, short passes and long passes.

But, the running game has been surprisingly weak so far. Possibly not a huge issue when your QB is throwing for five TDs and 400 yards, but in the long run we'll need to step it up. It didn't help that Michael Smith was hurt on the first play against Georgia and missed that entire half...we'll need more quality time from him to get the running game going.

(3) Largely along those same lines, are there concerns about the strength of the interior offensive line with the loss of Jonathan Luigs?

While I don't claim to be an expert on offensive line play, it does seem that something is off in this area. The Hogs have had a real weakness in short yardage situations going back to last year, and we were hoping that USC transfer Broderick Green would shore things up, but he struggled in preseason scrimmages and again versus Georgia. On 1st & goal from the two he ran up the middle two times for no gain, before he was bailed out by a short TD pass to D.J. Williams on 3rd down. This is definitely something we need to improve.

(4) Ray Dominguez had a rough night against Georgia. Will the Hogs sink or swim with him at left tackle, or could we possibly see some of Anthony Oden this weekend?

I read today that Anthony Oden has been practicing with the first team, so it looks like we'll be seeing a lot of him this weekend. So, if nothing else we'll have Greg Oden on our side.

(5) After Lucas Miller broke his collarbone earlier in preseason practice, many expected him back for the Alabama game, and it seems like he will be available this week. Exactly how much are you guys expecting out of him?

Our top three receivers - Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs - have done quite well in his absence, but Petrino said a few times after the Georgia game that he'd like to rotate more people in and out to keep them fresh for the end of the game. Given that Lucas Miller was our best possession receiver last year, it seems reasonable to expect that he'll get a decent amount of playing time if he's feeling ok. So, expectations are pretty high.

(6) For all of the criticism that the Arkansas defense has taken this past week, the Arkansas run defense generally performed pretty well against UGA -- sans the breakdown against Richard Samuel that led to an 80-yard touchdown run. Is the run defense better than its given credit for?

Well, the run defense is probably better than the pass defense. And, to quote the great Alabamian Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

(7) After getting only one sack and one hurry on 25 passing attempts. Do the Hogs have any pass rushers who can legitimately give cause to worry for the Alabama offensive line, or will you guys have to rely on overload blitzes to get pressure?

We had high hopes for Malcolm Sheppard, who had a good season in 2008 and a good summer camp this year, but he didn't do too much against Georgia. My guess is that Greg McElroy's jersey will be relatively clean at the end of the game.

(8) I know you guys have only seen your Hogs play twice to date, but even with the small sample size exactly where do you think this team is right now? Have you seen anything to date that would cause any significant adjustment in terms of how the rest of the season will play out?

This is an interesting team. The offense seems to be better than what we'd hoped for, and the defense seems to be (much) worse. I'd like to see them establish the running game more, but it's hard to complain about that *too* much when your QB is throwing 40-yd touchdown strikes. The defense, though, is scary (in a bad way)'s difficult to win in the SEC when you can't really stop anybody (obvious statement alert).

It's hard to say about adjustments at this point given that they've only played two games, but the timing certainly isn't great - going to Tuscaloosa to face a really good Bama team isn't exactly a cure for our defensive ills. So, I'll say that even marginal improvements on the defensive end would be a nice moral victory for us at this point.

(9) Is there anything in particular that us 'Bama fans should be keeping our eyes on this weekend that hasn't gotten much publicity to date?

The good news for Bama fans is that our special teams are another pretty weak spot...possibly thought to be even more of a concern than the defense before we played the Bulldogs. So, you can hold your breath with anticipation every time we send a punt or kickoff your way.

The bad news for Bama fans is that Petrino usually has a few new wrinkles up his sleeve for every game, and we tend to have different skill players step up and do well each time (going back to last year). So, it wouldn't surprise me to see a WR or RB I didn't even mention here make a big play or two.