Austin Allen is going to like what he sees here.

The junior quarterback, who will be taking over for his brother Brandon this season in Fayetteville, will have high expectations placed on his shoulder pads thanks to his sibling.

However, Austin can at least rest easy knowing his jersey will be clean.

He’ll be lined up behind a position group that’s protected its quarterbacks better than any school in the SEC, if not the country, over the last four seasons.

Before getting into the numbers, it’s worth dispelling any notion that Arkansas’ success in this area stems from being a run-heavy offense over this span. Since 2012, the Hogs ranked 10th in the SEC in rushing attempts per game (37.1) and eighth in the SEC in passing attempts per game (29.5).

Even since flipping philosophies under coach Bret Bielema during his three seasons, Florida, LSU and Auburn have recorded fewer passes than Arkansas, so let’s not confuse them with Air Force.

Arkansas has steadily improved each season with Bielema — 3-9 in 2013, 7-6 in 2014, 8-5 in 2015. However, the Razorbacks made their leap in pass protection during the maligned John L. Smith’s one-year stint in 2011.

That year, the team finished second in the SEC by allowing just 18 sacks, a 10-sack improvement from the previous season.

It was a less-than-shimmery silver lining for a squad that didn’t have much to write home about. The program was coming off a school record-tying 11 wins in 2011, Bobby Petrino’s last season on The Hill. With Smith on the sidelines, Arkansas was ranked as highly as No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll before finishing 4-8.

Still, it established a standard that Bielema has partly built his program on. Here’s a look at just how successful Arkansas has been since Smith’s lone season and the three subsequent years under Bielema.


1. Arkansas 54 1.08
2. Georgia 81 1.53
3. Alabama 82 1.46
4. Auburn 89 1.71
5. Tennessee 90 1.80
6. Mississippi State 97 1.87
7. LSU 99 1.94
T8. Texas A&M 106 2.04
T8. Vanderbilt 106 2.12
10. Missouri 109 2.10
11. Ole Miss 111 2.13
12. South Carolina 114 2.24
13. Florida 127 2.49
14. Kentucky 129 2.69

The Razorbacks have led the SEC in sacks allowed each of the last three seasons. No SEC team has even led the league in this category in back-to-back seasons (let alone three straight seasons) since Arkansas itself did it in 2003 (tied for first) and 2004 (sole possession of first).

As a whole, its 54 sacks allowed is a head-turning 27 better than the next-best team Georgia (81).

Alabama is actually second in terms of sacks allowed per game (1.46), but I wanted to rank the teams based on the totals to make the massive gap clear. It’s still evident when you see that the Hogs have only allowed a little over one sack per contest in the 50 games they’ve played.

In 2015, Dan Enos made the most of this annual strength in his first season as offensive coordinator. Brandon Allen turned in by far his best effort, leading the SEC in QB rating (166.5) and yards per attempt (9.3). For the season, Allen threw for 3,440 yards, 30 TDs and 8 INTs.

Behind his trusty offensive line, Brandon blossomed into a sixth-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars and one of only two SEC signal-callers selected in 2016 along with Dak Prescott. He was sacked just 14 times in 13 games, an average of just 1.08 times hitting the turf per outing, which coincidentally is equal to the program’s four-year average.

How does Arkansas stack up with the best in the country over the last four seasons? Those 54 sacks are tied with Georgia Tech for the fewest among Power 5 schools and tied for fourth-fewest in the entire FBS. The 1.08 sacks allowed per game is ranked fifth.

Note: Only teams who were official FBS members since 2012 are included.


1. Air Force 32 0.62
2. Ball State 52 1.04
3. Toledo 53 1.06
T4. Arkansas 54 1.08
T4. Georgia Tech 54 1.02
6. Army 59 1.23
7. New Mexico 60 1.20
T8. Duke 66 1.25
T8. Kent State 66 1.35
10. North Texas 67 1.37

The question is whether the Hogs can replace three starters up front: center Mitch Smothers along with the left side of the line that featured First-Team All-SEC left guard Sebastian Tretola and left tackle Denver Kirkland.

Plus, how much will the loss of offensive line coach Sam Pittman — widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the nation who coached the group since 2013 — affect the offensive line after leaving for Georgia?

However, the team replaces him with Kurt Anderson, who has NFL experience after coaching the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line during the last three seasons.

Replacing the effectiveness of 1,500-yard rusher Alex Collins will also be crucial to keep teams from keying in on Allen, but the team has a promising, well-rounded group of candidates to do the job there in sophomore Rawleigh Williams III, sixth-year senior Kody Walker and true freshman Devwah Whaley.

Allen will also have plenty of experienced pass-catchers to target in seniors Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed, Keon Hatcher and Jeremy Sprinkle as well as junior Jared Cornelius among others.

He’ll also have a wall that has a track record of providing QBs enough time to find weapons like that.