Arkansas Three Keys: Auburn

Three-keys-Arkansas

The Arkansas Razorbacks came close to an elusive SEC win against Kentucky, but that provides absolutely no comfort for a team which needs to turn “close” into “successful” one of these weeks.

By Matt Zemek

Progress remains elusive for head coach Chad Morris, who is paid to find answers to persistent problems and get this program unstuck. The Hogs need to get going in the second half of the season, in order to enter 2020 with the sense that they can become a bowl-level program which can beat up on the lower half of the SEC West and pick off at least one member of the upper tier.

Arkansas isn’t especially close to that level of legitimacy or potency. The Razorbacks need to cultivate an identity which will make them a more feared team. This game against Auburn is a great time to begin to develop a new profile which will gain the SEC’s attention.

1 – Solving the quarterback quandary

Arkansas can’t seem to settle on a quarterback. The revolving door continues. The back-and-forth continues. Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel can’t really separate themselves from each other in ways which enable Morris to find a groove as the architect of the offense and the leader of the program. Morris has said that the two quarterbacks will split snaps in this game, which seems reasonable enough on its own, but the concept needs to be developed even more.

If you watched other SEC games this past weekend, you might have noticed that Dan Mullen of Florida had Kyle Trask and Emory Jones get snaps on the same drive. This recalled the 1997 Florida-Florida State game in which Steve Spurrier had Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise play on the same drive, often exchanging snaps on a play-to-play basis. Johnson would throw a pass on first down. Brindise would hand off on second down. Johnson would come back in the next play. It led to an upset of No. 2 Florida State, knocking the Seminoles out of the national championship game that season.

Splitting snaps is one thing. Morris should consider exchanging individual plays to give sharper instruction to his quarterbacks… and improving results.

2 – Load up

Arkansas needs to load up to stop Auburn’s running game. The Hogs have to force quarterback Bo Nix to beat them, and more specifically, to beat them with his arm, not his legs. The Auburn-Florida game offered proof positive of this. Arkansas can’t win if it doesn’t first contain Auburn’s rushing attack, period.

3 – Fourth-quarter formula

Coaches can talk all they want about being a fourth-quarter team, but players have to cross the threshold. Arkansas continues to fall short in fourth quarters, failing to make the two or three tipping-point plays which could change the identity of a program and the trajectory of a season. It is not a tactic or a strategy; Arkansas players simply have to rise to the challenge at some point. Why not here and now versus Auburn?

Saturday’s game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT. Watch on they SEC Network.

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