In Bret Bielema’s “Ground and Pound” Offense, it’s the Receivers that are Being Hyped Up

When Arkansas Razorbacks athletic director Jeff Long hired Bret Bielema from Wisconsin, many fans lamented the abandonment of the spread offense that the previous coach was running, and whined about a return to “Nutt Ball” under Bielema. And yet, going into the 2016 season, it’s not the running game or the lineman that are being talked about by the media, but the deep and talented group of pass catchers returning to the field.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have been defined as a run first team since Bret Bielema got to town. While there is no denying that the Hogs have had great success running the football over Bielema’s 3 years, the passing game has gone criminally under appreciated by some.

Brandon Allen was an absolute beast in his final year at Arkansas, and that was without the majority of his pass catching unit being healthy for the majority of the year. And while Allen and fellow superstar Hunter Henry have moved on to the NFL, there is still an amazingly deep and talented roster of receivers on the roster for 2016.

Oct 10, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Drew Morgan (80) catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half against Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 10, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Drew Morgan (80) catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half against Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Keon Hatcher, for example, was set to be the #1 target last year. He went down with a season ending injury after only playing in 2 games, where he had 13 catches for 198 yards and 2 scores. That puts him on pace for a 1200+ yard season with 12 touchdowns, which would have lead the SEC in both yards and scores.

Jared Cornelius missed 4 games, and was still injured for his first couple of games back, and still finished with 393 yards and 3 scores. He also added that huge touchdown run against LSU. Cornelius has turned into one of the most explosive players in the conference, and expectations are high for him heading into the season.

Drew Morgan is back for Arkansas, after finishing the season tied for 2nd in the SEC in receiving touchdowns with 10. The shifty slot receiver turned into Allen’s #1 target not name Henry, and made several touchdown scores in overtime games. He has a propensity to find the open spot on the field, and is going to be even harder to cover when Arkansas has a healthy roster.

Dominque Reed is the X-factor for the Arkansas passing game heading into 2016. Reed just might be the fastest receiever in the SEC, and he showed off his wheels in key moments last season. He scored touchdowns through the air and on the ground, and showed amazing athleticism and ball awareness, leaping for catches in traffic. The biggest knock on Allen’s throwing ability was his lack of a sideline fade, something they tried to set up with Reed on several occasions. If the new QB can float one downfield, then Reed might turn into the Razorback’s own Randy Moss type player.

The thing is, we haven’t even talked about the tight ends that Arkansas has coming back or moving up for this season. Whoever the new starting QB is for the Hogs, he will have no problem finding talented receievrs to throw to. We just need to find him an offensive line, and maybe stop having running backs get hurt.