Wondering out loud if Bijhon Jackson, Austin Capps, and Dylan Hays will prove that a long-held football adage is applicable to more than one position.
Best I can tell, credit for the theory, “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one,” belongs to Jess Neely, Rice coach from 1940-1966.
In the 3-4 — Arkansas’ new defense — Jackson, Capps, and Hays are sharing the singular position of noseman. So, does that mean the Razorbacks don’t have one standout player at the all-important position or that rotation is necessary at that spot?
Late last month, always-positive Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told the Little Rock Touchdown Club, “I love our noseguard committee,” noting the unanimity of their Arkansas roots.
The group is on the spot. A basic tenet of a successful 3-4 is that the noseman command a double team. Otherwise, offenses have free rein to exploit a numerical advantage against a three-man front.
Using two first downs and 49 yards total offense in the first half by outmanned Florida A&M to project the success of the Arkansas defense against quality opponents is a waste of time.
This week, TCU senior center Austin Schlottmann offers a legitimate test for Jackson or Capps or Hays. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Schlottmann played in all 13 games and started four, including one at right guard. Last year, Schlottmann started 11 games at center before an injury and was Second Team All-Big 12. According to TCU, Schlottmann snapped the ball 752 times, allowing one pressure, and nary a sack. Surrounding him are three returning starters, making it unlikely a defense in transition will be sophisticated enough to fool ‘em.
Compare Schlottmann’s qualifications with those of the committee members:
—Jackson has been a disappointment. Ranked the No. 1 prospect in Arkansas in the 2014 class, he was considered among the Top 10 defensive tackles in the country by a couple of recruiting services. But, in three years, he never started a game. The UA media guide’s year-by-year summary says “saw action in all 13 games,” “played in 12 games,” and “played in all 13 games.”
—A sophomore, Capps participated in 12 games last year without a start.
—Hays is a redshirt freshman.
Arkansas defensive line coach John Scott’s plan is to rotate the three and his reference point is Damon “Snacks” Harrison, who was with the New York Jets when Scott was helping with the team’s defensive linemen.
“Snacks is the most dominant nose guard I’ve seen and he’d play 30 snaps a game,” Scott said recently, adding 30 would be a good number for any Arkansas noseman.
“ … with the way people spread you out and tempo, you’ve got to be able to roll those guys,” Scott said.
Chasing TCU quarterback Kenny Hill is part of the equation. Last year, Hill had 15 carries for 93 yards in the double overtime loss to Arkansas and double-digit carries in five other games.
The bait and switch in the offensive line for the season opener is almost as concerning as how Arkansas’ defense fares vs. Hill and friends.
For months, the left to right lineup of tackle Colton Jackson, guard Hjalte Froholdt, center Frank Ragnow, guard Johnny Gibson, and tackle Brian Wallace was considered a given.
Instead, preferred walk-on and true freshman Ty Clary of Fayetteville started at right guard, former walk-on Gibson moved to right tackle, and Wallace was demoted. Clary — who had scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Tulsa, Arkansas State University, and others — and Gibson are supposed to start Saturday.
Following the 49-7 victory over FAMU, head coach Bret Bielema described the surprise move with Clary as part of a search “… to find our best five combo … “
Recent history suggests that quest is ongoing. Last year, Wallace didn’t replace Jackson at right tackle until the fourth game and Gibson didn’t make his first start until November. Besides, Jackson struggled at times last week at left tackle and TCU is far better than the Rattlers.
Sports Columnist Harry King can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org