Some lessons from Hogs’ spring game 

After Saturday’s spring practice-ending Red-White game, many observers wondered why Arkansas’s highly touted “new” offense looked so much like its “old” one.

All spring, the focus of attention has been on the hiring of high school coaching sensation Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator and the introduction of his “spread” offensive scheme. After all, for the past few years, Arkansas has been one-dimensional, continually ranking at the top of the conference in rushing and at near its bottom in passing. Largely because of a lack of offensive balance, Arkansas has failed to win consistently in the SEC.

After a dismal 4-7 record last year (with only two conference wins), Head Coach Houston Nutt drew heightened criticism for his stubborn dedication to the run and his refusal to call plays that challenged the defense over the middle and beyond 10 yards from scrimmage. While his play calling kept Arkansas in most games, the overall lack of imagination on offense made the Hogs predictable and easy to defend in crucial situations. Fourth-down calls against Vanderbilt and South Carolina come immediately to mind, but the proof is in the pudding and Arkansas was 0-4 in games decided by 10 points or less. The margin between winning and losing is not usually 70-17. Play-calling makes a difference.

So after the offense on display in the Red-White game looked like it did when Nutt was still calling the plays, Nutt and Malzahn were asked what happened to the wide-open offense everyone expected to see. They both commented that since the game was televised on ESPNU, they didn’t want to tip their hand to opponents this early. That seems a bit far fetched. It’s not like SEC defensive coordinators haven’t seen the spread. And Malzahn has written a book about his offense, for heaven’s sake.

Seriously, does anyone think that Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll was watching the Hogs’ spring game? Of course he wasn’t. He was too busy with his own team. Sorry Hog fans, Carroll is not yet worried about a team he beat by 53 last season.

What is more worrisome than fans not getting a look at the spread, or that the Razorbacks ran more times than they passed in a Red-White game, is that this might have been first taste of things to come. After the game, Nutt was quoted as saying, “I limited him [Malzahn] to certain things, but he did fine.” This shows that Nutt is still intimately involved in the offense (more than a typical CEO-style coach would be) and will continue to exert his authority over it.

If Nutt decided to hold Malzahn back, as his quote here so indicates, then it raises the critical question: Who is really running the offense? What’s the point in hiring a coach to call plays when you limit the plays he can call?

Now, it’s only spring practice, and it could be that Houston’s comments don’t indicate that the Razorbacks’ offensive philosophy will remain unchanged from last year. But the very real concern is that things may not be different, mainly because Nutt has never believed his offense was the problem. Even last year, Nutt commented that play-calling was overrated, and he later made a point to take credit for the Ole Miss victory while taking a shot at his critics with the infamous “I called some great plays today” statement in his post-game interview.

For the sake of Arkansas’s season, hopefully Nutt’s most recent remark was nothing more than misspoken words and that his intention is to let Malzahn direct the offense without interference.

But if not, then Nutt has told us a lot about who is in charge of the offense on the Hill and what Arkansas’s fans and opponents can expect this fall.

J.R. and Henry are a couple of sports fanatics who have tired of the same ol’ song and dance of the statewide sports columnists and are offering their opinions on the Little Rocking blog on Wednesdays and Saturdays.


Speaking of Sports


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Little Rock will next week host a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems led by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Guest Sports

  • Back to the minors

    I consider myself a fan of the Arkansas Travelers, mainly because I’m a lover of baseball in general. But my fandom is two-faced. Though I enjoy the experience of the games, I don’t much give a damn who wins them. Just give me a few cheap beers and a trip
    • Apr 3, 2008
  • Squirrel hunting with the Hogs

    Things I’d rather do than see the Arkansas Razorbacks trounce an inferior North Texas squad in what might as well be called an exhibition game:
    • Oct 4, 2007
  • A renewed baseball spirit

    J.R. and Henry say Dickey-Stephens hits a home run.
    • Apr 19, 2007
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Kids count, not confidentiality

    • Public awareness saves lives
      Confidentiality kills children

    • on December 8, 2016
  • Re: Worth it

    • And loyal, to a fault.

    • on December 6, 2016
  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation