A fast five questions with Bob Holt who covers the Razorbacks for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
Q: Are Arkansas fans as passionate in wanting to beat Nutt as they were in his first year or two at Ole Miss?
A: I’d say most fans probably are still very passionate. I believe the Arkansas players when they say this game is about beating Ole Miss, not Houston Nutt, but I believe the majority of fans still have a lot of hard feelings about Nutt. Many of them wanted him gone from Arkansas, but it ticked them off he went to Ole Miss, an SEC West rival, especially after getting a big buyout from his Arkansas contract.
Q: What is different about the Arkansas offense with Tyler Wilson at QB as opposed to Ryan Mallett and what makes Wilson successful?
A: You’re not likely to see as many long passes from Tyler Wilson as you did from Ryan Mallett. Not that Wilson can’t — and won’t — throw deep, but in his fourth year in the system he has a really good grasp of the offense and he’s patient enough to take the checkdowns that are still going to yield positive yards. Wilson’s arm isn’t as strong as Mallett’s — whose is? — but he can make all the throws as the coaches like to say, he can throw on the run from different arm slots and he’s mobile enough to keep plays alive if flushed out of the pocket. He’s also been incredibly tough and has taken a lot of hits, but hung in there and delivered the ball for completions. He’s developed into a strong team leader the other guys respect and rally around.
Q: Is there a favored receiver for Wilson? Looks like a lot of guys with a lot of catches.
A: Wilson does a good job of spreading the ball around and finding the open man, but his No. 1 target is Jarius Wright. The two have a real chemistry and confidence in each other. When Wilson set Arkansas’ single-game record with 510 passing yards against Texas A&M, Wright caught 13 passes for a school-record 281 yards.
Q: The run game numbers are average. Is that because of the run game’s place in the scheme, under-achieving running backs or something else?
A: Injuries have been a problem at the tailback position. Knile Davis, who rushed for 1,322 yards last season, suffered a broken ankle in preseason practice and is out for the year, a huge blow for the offense. Broderick Green missed the first four games recovering from knee surgery — he made an incredibly quick recovery after being expected to miss this season — Dennis Johnson missed the first two games with a hamstring injury after missing most of last season, and Ronnie Wingo missed the previous game vs Auburn because of a toe injury. Assuming Green, Johnson and Wingo are all ready to play vs Ole Miss, the running game should be pretty solid. A revamped offensive line, with two new starting tackles, also has made steady improvement. Joe Adams, normally, a receiver, has boosted the running game with a handful of carries. He had a 92-yard touchdown run vs Auburn.
Q: What have been the factors in Arkansas’ apparent struggles in run defense?
A: It’s surprising the run defense hasn’t been better, but injuries at end contributed to the problems. DE Jake Bequette returned vs Auburn after missing three games with a hamstring injury and DE Tenarius Wright remains out with a broken arm. Both missed the Texas A&M game when the Aggies rushed for 381 yards, many of which came on the edge when Arkansas’ young DEs struggled on containment and went for fakes inside. But the Razorbacks have struggled in run defense in other games. The interior line and linebackers just need to play better.