The Chief takes a stand against Hogs’ poor tackling

You never like to hear that your team tackled poorly in a scrimmage.

As an Arkansas fan that’s particularly disappointing after the past two seasons when SEC opponents ran roughshod over the Razorbacks.

Unfortunately, Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis not only said his Razorbacks defense tackled poorly in last Saturday’s scrimmage, but it was also the first thing he mentioned.

The Chief even brought the subject up himself while speaking to the media following the scrimmage that was closed to reporters and fans but open to former Razorback players and their families who were invited back to campus for a barbecue.

I’m not going to try to make a positive out of a negative. Bad tackling is bad tackling.

However, the fact that Chavis actually addressed it, said that it was his responsibility to correct, and that the Razorbacks would correct it was actually refreshing to hear.

It told me that Chavis deals in reality, and that he has a strong belief in accountability. By saying he and his staff were going to correct the mistakes, Chavis showed that he had the confidence in himself, his staff, and the players to get it done.

I like that. I like how Chavis and other members of Arkansas head coach Chad Morris’ staff attack team deficiencies head on and without hesitation.

Everything Chavis said about the Hogs’ bad tackling effort works well psychologically.

The Chief put his troops on notice in front of everyone willing to listen that their work Saturday was below standard. However, he put the onus on himself to correct the problem.

Chavis didn’t miss a tackle in the scrimmage, but he stepped up to take the blame for it. By accepting accountability himself, the Chief is modeling accountability for his troops. He is showing them the attitude they should take individually and collectively concerning their performance.

No doubt the work the Razorbacks will put in leading up to their season opener Sept. 1 against Eastern Illinois will help them to perform better.

Chavis set a standard for Arkansas’ defense, made it known, and hopefully will coach the Razorbacks to succes. Time will tell if he is able to accomplish that goal and to what degree, but it is refreshing to hear a defensive coordinator take such a stand. That hasn’t exactly happened in the recent past at Arkansas.

Mixed Results

Reading between the lines of comments made by Chavis and Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock following Saturday’s scrimmage, it would seem the Hogs’ defense got the best of the early part of the scrimmage by throwing some things at the offense with the pass rush that it didn’t handle very well.

As the day progressed, it sounds like the offense got into a rhythm and the defense got tired, lost its technique, and possibly did not pay attention to the keys it should have. When players get tired, they often revert to old habits rather than relying on their training.

Technique wins in blocking and tackling, and often those techniques aren’t natural and even grind on a player physically. Good players push through that grind and finish with sound technique.

Getting players to understand that they can push through the pain while keeping their technique intact is a process, one not accomplished over night, but doing so is what is necessary to be a successful player and a successful team. It is the toughness factor that allows teams to truly meet their potential.

Morris and his Arkansas staff talk about it more than the previous staff, and probably more than Petrino’s did, too, although Petrino’s offenses certainly understood about strain, technique, and execution.

Of course, talk is talk. We are going to have to wait and see how this team develops during the course of the season, but as the season opener is inching ever closer, relief will be here soon.

I would rather that the scrimmages have been open to the public, but I have to admit, I’m incredibly eager to see this Razorback team in action. If the rest of the Razorback Nation shares that same feeling, maybe it will make for grand afternoon at Razorback Stadium even if the opponent is as lackluster as Eastern Illinois.

Ranked Opponents

Much has been made about the relative weakness of Arkansas’ schedule. Some have called it the lightest in the SEC.

Of course a culprit is Michigan buying itself out of a two-game, home-and-home series with the Razorbacks so the Wolverines could schedule a more traditional opponent in Notre Dame.

That left former Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long scrambling to find an opponent for this season and Eastern Illinois is what he found.

Couple that with the fact that Vanderbilt rotates on to the schedule as Arkansas’ other Eastern Division opponent along with the Hogs’ annual game with Missouri, and pundits have called the Razorbacks’ schedule “weak.”

I guess you could look at the schedule that way, but it’s really a bunch of malarky. Arkansas’ schedule could be tougher, but it’s not weak.

The Razorbacks play four opponents ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, which was released Monday.

First up is at No. 9 Auburn on Sept. 22. The Hogs play host to No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 6 and No. 25 LSU on Nov. 11 before traveling to face No. 18 Mississippi State on Nov. 17. Texas A&M, Arkansas’ Nov. 28 opponent at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, would be ranked No. 33 if the AP Poll were extended that far.

Those five games alone make Arkansas’ schedule challenging enough for a first-year head coach with a team coming off a 4-8 schedule.