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Why Arkansas' Offense Could Be the SEC's Surprise of 2015

Published by Bleacher Report on Tue, 09 Jun 2015

When you think of Arkansas' offense, the words "conservative," "punishing" and "vanilla" probably come to mind.Explosive, on the other hand, is probably one of the last that pops into your head.The Razorbacks were the definition of average last year offensively, when they finished eighth in the SEC in total offense (406 yards per game) and yards per play (5.76).That's going to change, because this Arkansas offense could become the surprise of the SECNew Identity with a New CoordinatorWhen Jim Chaney took what, at best, was a lateral move to become the offensive coordinator at Pitt, it left a lot of people outside of Fayetteville scratching their heads.Why would he do that'What's going on that isn't out there publicly'All of those fears were put to rest when head coach Bret Bielema made one of the most underrated and surprising coaching hires of the silly season, luring former Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos to Fayetteville to take the offensive coordinator role with the Hogs."I like the chemistry and environment of our room," Bielema said at SEC spring meetings in Destin last month. "I hired an offensive coordinator who I think is lights-out."He's right.While coaches who employ pro-style offenses typically don't light up stat sheets when compared to other systems, Enos' program established itself as one of the most prolific big-play passing offenses in the MAC.The Chippewas finished second in the MAC and 18th in the nation with 8.3 yards per attempt and third in touchdown passes with 27. Enos produced a 3,000-yard passer in four of his five seasons as their head coach, which is something that Bielema has produced just once as a head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas from 2006 to 2014.As George Schroeder ofUSA Today told Bo Mattingly of Sports Talk with Bo in Arkansas, the hire of Enos isn't getting enough publicity.Is Arkansas going to all of a sudden become an Air Raid team' No.With four returning offensive linemen and running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins back, the identity of the Hogs will still be that smashmouth style that has become synonymous with Bielema's teams."What I've really challenged our players about is let's be great at both. Let's be a great running team, let's be a great passing team," Enos told Sam Khan Jr., of ESPN.com.Enos will swing the pendulum ever so slightly in that direction, which could make all the difference in the world.Quarterback with a FoundationHow good was Arkansas' quarterback Brandon Allen last year'He finished the season with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. That's remarkable considering Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs and Justin Worley, Texas A&M's Kyle Allen and Kenny Hill, Vanderbilt's Johnny McCrary and former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskelall of whom were part-time startersfinished the year with more interceptions than Allen.Clearly, Allen can manage a game well.He's comfortable with the offense, familiar with the weapons and, for the most part, doesn't take chances if there's even a slight risk.Allen has to adjust to Enos' style, but it's clear that Enos is more interested in adding another layer to the Hog offense rather than reinventing the wheel.That's enormous for Allen, who's set up for a phenomenal senior season."There's three things I can't wait to see come out of his senior year," Bielema told Bleacher Report earlier in the offseason. "He's incredibly tough, he's a very smart football player, and the biggest person who wants to have success in our football program is Brandon Allen."Is he the most physically talented quarterback in the conference'Probably not.Jeremy Johnson is more of an NFL prospect, Joshua Dobbs and Dak Prescott have stellar dual-threat capabilities and Kyle Allen has more arm strength. But Allen has a solid foundation to build on and doesn't have to deal with overwhelming roster turnover, which will allow him to take that next step that Enos is looking for.ContinuityThe Arkansas offensive line rivaled the size of most NFL offensive lines a year ago, and four of those players return to plow the road for Williams and Collinsone of the most fearsome running back tandems in the country.The Hogs are going to play ground-and-pound football as well as anybody in the country, and those holes will only become bigger if Allen and Enos stretch the field in the way they anticipate.It's not just the running game that will thrive with continuity, though.Keon Hatcher, who led the Hogs last year with 43 catches, 558 yards and six touchdowns, is back to help take the passing game to the next level. The 6'2", 210-pounder from Owasso, Oklahoma, has the size to create matchup problems downfield against undersized defensive backs.Speaking of matchup nightmares, that's exactly what tight end Hunter Henry is.At 6'5", 250 pounds, with surprising speed, Henry has established himself as one of the most dangerous tight ends in the SEC over the last couple of seasons. He caught 37 passes for 513 yards last year, when he took home second-team All-SEC honors from the conference's coaches.The transition period for Arkansas should be minimal thanks to the veterans that litter the roster on that side of the ball.Because of that, the Hogs should be able to hit the ground runningand throwingin 2015 and produce one of the most surprising offenses in the SEC.Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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