Arkansas football: Fireworks? Not exactly, but Red-White spring game was physical by design
Coach Sam Pittman emphasized physicality heading into Arkansas’ Red-White Spring game. That’s what he wanted to see in Saturday’s scrimmage. There was no scoreboard, no time clock, just physical football.
And that’s basically what we saw for nearly 2 hours. A physical brand of football. So, from Pittman’s standpoint, although there was no official final score, it must be considered that the Razorbacks accomplished what they set out to do.
In an era of high-flying up-tempo offenses, Arkansas looked old-school in Dan Enos’ return to Fayetteville. The Hogs’ new offensive coordinator displayed a much more controlled tempo as they began to move veteran quarterback KJ Jefferson into a more pro-style offense.
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That’s certainly not to say that Jefferson won’t be carrying the football this season. He’ll still run some read-option. You can’t take the football out of the hands of your best player. And you’ll see Jefferson under center this season, another new “tactic” that will further test his footwork.
With the focus on physical play, we didn’t see the group of quarterbacks airing it out like in some scrimmages. Backup Cade Fortin did “engineer” a couple of good drives, and Jacolby Criswell showed some leadership as well under center.
But this scrimmage gave Pittman a better look at both lines of scrimmage and he’ll make further evaluations as he reviews the tape. The battles in the trenches are where this scrimmage had its winners, not on the scoreboard.
Sure, it made for a rather boring exhibition from a fans’ standpoint, but it probably accomplished more of what the coaching staff was looking for. Pittman wanted a much more physical scrimmage than what last year’s Spring game resulted in and the 2023 version did just that.
What does that mean for this season? That remains to be seen, but it would appear as though Pittman and the Hogs will want to be more dominant at the line of scrimmage. It’s no secret that Pittman likes to run the football. Yes, he’s old-school that way, and in his 4th season at Arkansas, he has been successful so far doing it.
That certainly doesn’t mean Arkansas will abandon the pass. As Pittman said, he likes to go deep. And he’s got a quarterback with a capable arm to do so. Saturday wasn’t the time to display that ability, but everyone knows it’s there. We’ve seen it.
Yes, Saturday’s scrimmage was a real sneak peek at what kind of team the Razorbacks can and will be in 2023. With new coordinators on both sides of the football, Arkansas’ identity won’t change dramatically. At least that was the indication Saturday.
They’ll be physical at the point of attack, attempt to dominate at the line of scrimmage and wear down their opponents with a bruising run game that features Jefferson, Rocket Sanders and some depth in the backfield that includes Rashod Dubinion and AJ Green.
The receiving corps is still a collective question mark as it didn’t get that much of a workout Saturday. Isaiah Sategna came up with a few catches, including a TD, but for the most part, the emphasis was on muscle and the ground attack.
This combo looks mighty fine pic.twitter.com/fRIQ71fDLZ
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) April 15, 2023
So, while the scrimmage was well-organized and much cleaner played than a lot of sloppy spring games, there were really no definitive answers coming out of it other than being determined to be one of the more physical teams in the conference this season.
That may be bucking the trend of where offenses have been leading to in the past several years, but it appears that it can work for Arkansas.
Sam Pittman cover photo via Twitter @RazorbackFB