Pistols Drawn: Can Chris Klenakis Improve the Arkansas Run Game?
Last year Arkansas had a prolific passing game, but the running game left much to be desired.
After the Liberty Bowl a shake up in the coaching staff left Arkansas searching for a new offensive line coach, due mostly to the fact that Mike Summers took the job as the offensive line coach at Kentucky shortly after the season ended.
On January 15 Arkansas made a huge hire to fill the void left by Summers. Chris Klenakis, Nevada's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, took the job and brought even more excitement to a heavily hyped 2010 season.
As OC and offensive line coach, Klenakis and his "Pistol" formation led Nevada to the No. 1 rushing offense in the nation. Last year Nevada racked up 4484 yards and a staggering 7.4 yards a carry. Nevada was the first team in NCAA history to have three 1000 yard rushers.
Arkansas didn't enjoy the same rushing fortune. They rushed for 1713 yards on the season and averaged 4.3 yards a carry.
Arkansas used the Pistol, or Shot, formation last year. The formation was used more as a passing formation than it was for the run. Since Klenakis is regarded as the creator of the Pistol, the hope is that him knowing the finer points of it's execution will make the Arkansas rush attack more effective.
A steady running game will balance out an offense that was a regarded as pass first.
With Ryan Mallet starting what many think to be a Heisman campaign in 2010, the idea of balance should excite him.
If Arkansas can get the pistol formation rolling it can open up the medium range passing game for Mallet. When the run is a real threat then the offense will see less of linebackers dropping into coverage. Routes over the middle will open up, which is good news for the tight end corps also.
Mallet has tremendous play fake ability. The play fakes will become even more effective when the threat of a home run on the ground keeps defenses off balance.
The one knock on Mallet's technique is his footwork. His footwork gets sloppy late in games, possibly due to fatigue. When that happens, his throws either sail high or torpedo into the ground, short of the receiver. Hopefully, Klenakis can improve the run game which will lead to Mallet having to attempt less passes in games.
Arkansas' success in 2010 hinges upon the defense also. Arkansas could score points in a hurry. The problem was sustaining long drives. Those long drives keep a defense fresh. Freshness will be important for a defense that is light on depth.
A decent rushing game that can grind out yards and keep a defense off the field will be important for the 2010 team, especially late in games.
With possibly three Top 20 teams in the SEC West, Arkansas might have to rely on the rushing game to win two big games this season.
Last season Arkansas had a hard time getting any offense going against Alabama. This year, if Arkansas can enter the game with a balanced attack, then the Alabama game is winnable, and if the Alabama game is winnable the West is also.
Auburn had an impressive recruiting class. Last year they showed flashes of an impressive offense. A balanced offensive attack could keep the Auburn offense, which has reloaded with talent, off the field.
Arkansas has a stable of talented running backs. If Klenakis can get the offensive line to fully grasp the blocking schemes, than Arkansas' running backs could see more carries and more yards in 2010.
Klenakis might be one of the most highly anticipated assistant coach hires in Arkansas history. It might be the first time that a teams success might actually depend on the teaching skills of an offensive line coach.
A big year for Klenakis could mean a big year for the Hogs
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