Addition by subtraction could help Arkansas offensive line protect Austin Allen

Former Arkansas offensive tackle Dan Skipper was voted preseason first-team All-SEC this past year at Media Days.

When December rolled around, all the print, radio and television personalities appeared to be right. Skipper indeed made first-team All-SEC. And that was with the coaches doing the actual voting, not the credentialed crowd.

Nevertheless, the selection was an odd one. At 6-foot-10 and 310 pounds, Skipper had a recognizable name in conference circles due to his mountain-like size. But the Razorbacks struggled in the trenches most of last season, as they were unable to open running lanes consistently and didn’t protect poor quarterback Austin Allen very well in the pocket.

According to Cole Cubelic, a former Auburn offensive lineman now working for SEC Network, the voting process is flawed.

“It goes back to the voting again,” Cubelic told me last week on the Saturday Down South podcast. “Dan Skipper was first-team All-SEC preseason last year, and I think another misconception with offensive linemen and offensive line play is size. People just get enamored with size and they think, ‘Oh, Dan Skipper is 6-10. He’s a great tackle.’ And it just wasn’t the case.

“He didn’t play great football last year. Nothing against him personally. He wasn’t a great SEC offensive tackle.”

Hogs coach Bret Bielema (below) has built a reputation as a bit of a throwback. He prides himself on having the biggest offensive line in the country and being able to maul opponents up front. That was his MO at Wisconsin before coming to Fayetteville.

Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

However, Arkansas was only tied for 10th in the league a year ago with 164.2 yards rushing per game. The story was even worse from a yards-per-carry perspective, as its average of 4.1 was just 12th. Yes, Rawleigh Williams III was one of 11 players in the SEC to rush for 1,000 yards. But among those 11, he was ninth in yards per attempt.

Not to mention the fact that Allen kept getting chewed up and spit out Saturday after Saturday. He deserves some of the blame, though.

“It was not all on that offensive line last year,” Cubelic said. “There were times when in slide protection the quarterback needs to know, get the ball out. There’s a time in a three-step drop, you’ve got to get the ball out. Five can’t block seven, so you’ve got to know, get rid of the football.

“But there were a lot of breakdowns, there were a lot of missed stunts, missed games — easy, simple tasks that the offensive line should have been able to handle last year that they did not. So if that group doesn’t improve, I’ll be surprised if Austin Allen survives the season. You look at the Texas A&M game, the Alabama game, the LSU game, he cannot take hits like that on a regular basis again this year.”

“You should be utterly embarrassed if you let your quarterback get hit or sacked or anything like that.” — Frank Ragnow

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