The Personnel Grouping That Should Most Determine Arkansas’ 2024 Fate

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas football
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

As the afterglow of the annual Arkansas football Red-White spring game on Saturday recedes, it’s time to take stock. As with any glorified scrimmage, you NEVER want to get carried away with the good or the bad.

However, if you look closely, there are signals of what could be coming down the chute for the Razorbacks this fall.

I am constantly breaking down film of various SEC teams on my channel Power Hour SEC and based on what I have seen, there is one area in particular where I feel the Hogs could have an advantage over most SEC teams in 2024. 

Not surprisingly, Bobby Petrino and Sam Pittman went to the well here quite a bit during the spring game. 

To get things rolling, let’s first chat a little about “12 personnel”…

What is “12 personnel” for Arkansas Football?

Every offensive play has a personnel grouping. The first number represents the amount of running backs/fullbacks on the field. The second number represents the number of tight ends. 

Here’s how it breaks down:

The most popular grouping across football is “11 personnel,” which features one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers. Per Sports Information Solutions and analytics ace Bud Davis, the Hogs ran this roughly 60% of the time last season.

The second-most popular grouping, according to SIS, is 12 personnel. Last year, Arkansas ran 12 personnel on 18% of snaps, which was three percentage points lower than the national average. This made sense when the Hogs lost star tight end Luke Hasz early in the year. 

But now with Hasz healthy alongside some other seasoned tight ends, the Hogs are in a unique position to build an advantage over most other teams.

Arkansas Football Depth Chart 

The Razorbacks are normally in the bottom half of talent at almost every position in the SEC. But one area where that hasn’t applied recently is at the tight end position.

This not only applies to now, but historically, as well. The Bret Bielema years were highlighted by Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle, with the former having had an extended NFL career. DJ Williams, AJ Derby and Chris Gragg were also drafted.

Luke Hasz is the most obvious candidate to become the next NFL Pro Hog at this position. When he went down, Ty Washington was an admirable backup. He scored two touchdowns vs Ole Miss. Durability is a concern for both. If they stay healthy, it could be special. 

The emergence of Var’keyes Gumms this spring has also been fun to watch. His blocking was putrid in 2023, but his pass-catching talent cannot be denied – even if it’s taken a while to show up at Arkansas. He was productive at North Texas and has shown glimpses of greatness with the Hogs this spring after catching only three passes for 26 yards last year.

Hopefully, one of the other three tight ends – heralded recruit Shamar Easter, transfer Andreas Paaske and walk-on Maddox Lassiter – will emerge as a playable asset, as well. Paaske is probably the best bet. 

Hasz, Washington and Gumms are more than enough to run 12 personnel. But how good are they?

Production at Tight End

Luke Hasz and Ty Washington’s Pro Football Focus grades were nearly identical, at 77.3 and 77.2, respectively. This trailed only Georgia superstar Brock Bowers among SEC tight ends last season.

This is VERY important: A horrendous Arkansas offense from 2023 returns the two best tight ends in the SEC, per PFF.  

Bowers is a unicorn. But part of what made Georgia’s offense over the past couple of seasons so especially destructive was their talented “backups” – Oscar Delp in 2023 and Darnell Washington in 2022.

Georgia’s offense commonly destroyed teams while playing Bowers with either Delp or Washington. The formation versatility in the run and pass game gave defenses fits on the regular.

To understand why production at the tight end position should have an outsized significance for Arkansas football this season, let’s first look at the receiving rundown from last year:

Player, POSReceptionsReceiving Yards
Andrew Armstrong, WR56764
Isaac TeSlaa, WR34351
Luke Hasz, TE16253
Jaedon Wilson, WR15199
Ty Washington, TE11170
Isaiah Sategna, WR15129
Tyrone Broden, WR15109
Rashod Dubinion, RB1485
Rocket Sanders, RB1075
Nathan Bax, TE531
Var’keyes Gumms, TE326
AJ Green, RB625
Davion Dozier, WR114
Francis Sherman, TE18
Isaiah Augustave, RB37
Dominique Johnson, RB24

A quick look of Arkansas receiving stats show tight ends took up 31 of the 207 receptions and 457 of the 2,250 yards. However, a more advanced stat such as EPA/play tells an entirely different story. EPA is an efficiency stat that factors in more context to play production. A further explanation can be found here.  

Per SIS, tight ends were targeted 10% of the time, but averaged a whopping 0.87 EPA/play. This was way higher than that of the wide receiver targets (roughly 0.14 EPA/play).

Spring Game Analysis 

Three weeks ago, I brought up the idea of the Razorbacks running more 12 personnel on Power Hour SEC and other college football channels. And luckily enough, the Arkansas football coaches were listening to me (kidding).

Bobby Petrino is a genius and in the past has used plenty of 12 personnel. You can see exactly how it works in four separate plays below. 

The next step could be potentially bringing in 13 personnel with three tight end sets. Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs run a ton of this, led by Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. 

That of course depends on a third tight end emerging as a top receiving threat, but the Razorbacks could probably get by in 12 personnel, especially if they use the “switch release” seen in the first play below – and that I go more in-depth on with the Detroit Lions here.

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Twitter: @CarterthePower
YouTube: Power Hour SEC


Check out Carter Bryant’s full breakdown of the Arkansas football spring game:

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More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS… 

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