FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — TCU quarterback Kenny Hill is going to make some big plays against Arkansas this Saturday. There’s really no way around it. The combination of his talent and the Horned Frogs’ offensive scheme is good for a few large gains against any defense.
What the Razorbacks must do is limit those significant gains by getting Hill out of his comfort zone. That’s the formula for slowing down the Horned Frogs.
So, how can the Hogs make Hill uncomfortable? Head coach Bret Bielema has the right idea after seeing firsthand what Hill is capable of during a 41-38 Arkansas victory in double overtime last September.
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“He’s probably better on the move than out of the pocket,” Bielema said Monday. “ A dynamic player that we’ve got to keep in the pocket and hopefully try to impose our will.”
Ding, ding, ding! Keep Hill in the pocket, that’s the best recipe for success. Arkansas’ matchup with TCU a year ago provides the perfect example.
Here’s how Hill performed last season against Arkansas while inside the pocket versus when he escaped the pocket:
- In the pocket: 20/36 (55 percent), 277 yards, INT (returned 47 yards for a TD), 3 sacks
- Outside the pocket: 4/5 (80 percent), 39 yards, passing TD, 15 carries, 93 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD
(Note: These stats don’t include quick screen passes.)
Did Hill produce some big plays while in the pocket? Sure. Is that how he rallied his team from a 20-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime? Absolutely not.
Hill was electric only when the Hogs failed to account for his mobility. The plays he made with his legs were demoralizing and crucial to wearing down Arkansas’ defense.
When he was boxed in, unable to escape the pocket without meeting a defender, he looked rattled. That was evident in the first half last year in Fort Worth. While in the pocket, Hill completed 7 of his 17 attempts for 75 yards and made a handful of errant throws over the first two quarters. One of those poor throws resulted in an interception, thrown off his back foot, that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Brooks Ellis. As a result, Arkansas held TCU scoreless in the first half and entered the locker room with a 13-0 lead.
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads says “discipline on the edges” is the key to keeping Hill from escaping the pocket. Arkansas’ new 3-4 scheme should make that easier. Entrusting a versatile athlete such as outside linebacker Randy Ramsey (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) to set the edge is far more likely to be effective than tasking a defensive end, like the Razorbacks did with Deatrich Wise Jr. (6-5, 271) last season.
Regardless of the scheme and players on the field, Hill is almost certainly going to break out at some point Saturday. When he does, it becomes about effort.
“As plays develop, gaps are going to open up, and at some point he’s going to take advantage of that,” Rhoads said. “We’ve got to retrace our steps as rushers. We’ve got to come out of coverage at the appropriate time as pass defenders and hopefully limit the big plays that could be gained through that.”
As talented as Hill is, his effectiveness can be minimized if the Hogs execute their scheme and players take care of their individual responsibilities. Whether or not they can do that Saturday will go a long way toward deciding the outcome.
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