Send a thanks over to Eric Harris for taking the time to answer some questions for us.
Brent: Let’s start with the one that’s been on everyone’s mind: Does Bielema get fired this season? Is the Razorback fan base ready to dispose of him, or do most of you think that’s a bad idea?
Eric: Oh boy is the fan base ever ready for change. Most are currently in the “Fire everyone!!!!11!one!!!” Stage. Because of his insane buyout, I was previously pretty certain he would stay despite the unrest. After the South Carolina melt down, I think the money for that buyout is going to appear from somewhere.
The biggest issue right now for Bielema is, in addition to not winning games, that identity he promised is nowhere to be seen. The offensive line is a disaster, and that physical, control-the-ball style is usually happening to the Hogs instead of the other way around.
Brent: We saw what Austin Allen did to us last year. No matter how many times our defense smacked him around, he just kept getting back up and completing more passes. With his “undisclosed” injury still considered questionable, does he actually play this weekend? If not, what kind of QB is Cole Kelley?
Eric: I think Allen plays cause he’s still clearly the more talented option but he’s not been the same QB as last year, and I think it has a lot to do with the hits he’s taken finally adding up. He’s forcing balls, losing his mechanics, and just trying things he didn’t do last year because he’s expecting to get beat up and doesn’t trust what’s around him.
Kelley is currently the most popular player among fans because the backup QB for every bad team is. Because of his size and the fact he wears number 15 you’ll see him referred to as “New Mallett” in reference to Ryan Mallett, or Swag Tebow. Kelley is a huge dude, listed at 6’7” and 275 lbs.
He’s gotten some action this year, mostly in the “Steamboat” package for him to lower his head and get short yards. There’s been some good and some bad when he throws the ball. Against Texas A&M he missed a wide open man for a TD, but he also had a nice drive and TD pass in garbage time against South Carolina. Kelley has the potential to be very good and I like him a lot, but if he plays the whole game it’s going to get very ugly.
*Note: the back-up QB isn’t just the most popular on bad teams. He also is on the good teams. -ducks head-
Brent: Running backs Devwah Whaley, Chase Hayden, and David Williams all have almost a perfectly even split of carries and yards. Is there a true leader of the pack? How does Arkansas usually deploy them? What are the strengths of each back?
Eric: At the beginning of the year most would have ranked the three Whaley/Hayden/Williams. Now it’s probably flipped. Williams has been a pleasant surprise, being able to be consistent and is a threat out of the backfield. His running style is more of the no-nonsense, get north and south back.
Hayden is a true freshman and the quickest of the bunch. Fans (rightfully) went nuts when he only got 2 carries against TCU, and since then they’ve made an effort to a fault to give everyone equal carries. Whaley is hyped as the most complete, but is coming off a horrible game against South Carolina and a lot of the explosiveness from his freshman year is missing.
Brent: What is the strongest positional unit on the Razorback defense? Weakest?
Eric: The linebackers are quietly having a solid year. Dre Greenlaw and Scoota Harris have been the most solid playmakers this year. They are the top two in tackles for the season as well. There’s also Dwayne Eugene who leads the team in TFLs and is tied for the lead in sacks.
The switch to a 3-4 defense is slowly improving the defense in terms of a yards per play basis, while the final score looks ugly against South Carolina, three of those scores came directly from turnovers.
Weakest is probably the defensive line. McTelvin Agim has made a few plays but there are just too many times there isn’t a pass rush and the opposing quarterback can find an opening because the secondary can only hold on for so long.
Brent: In what area do you think Arkansas has the best matchup against Alabama, be it a positional matchup or even an individual player matchup?
Eric: Oh yikes. I don’t think there’s and advantage anywhere, it would be the secondary if Henre Toliver is on Calvin Ridley. I think Arkansas has a reasonable shot of keeping him in check if Toliver and Santos Ramirez keep tabs on him. That likely will be moot though as I expect the run game to flatten the Hogs and they just pick on true freshman Kamren Curl in the secondary. Curl’s effort has really been admirable but he’s still making freshman mistakes.
Brent: Finally, what is your game prediction?
Eric: My prediction is lots and lots of pain. 49-7 Bama.