Sebastian Tretola Gives the Prescription for Arkansas’ Offensive Line Woes

Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

Sebastian Tretola knows a thing or two about offensive line play. Not only was he Arkansas’ starting left guard from 2014-15, but he earned All-SEC honors and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as a senior. Part of an offensive line that gave up the fewest sacks in the SEC both of his seasons, Tretola also helped pave the road for a 1,500-yard rushing season by Alex Collins.

When it comes to the best path forward for Arkansas football program In the trenches, Tretola is clearing the way again. In an interview after this past season on the Coaches and the Mouth podcast, Tretola prescribed a solution for the Razorbacks’ offensive line and they would be wise to take their medicine.

The Symptoms

Hardly anyone needs to be reminded that Arkansas’ offensive line was absolutely putrid at times in 2023. The players never gelled. They found their rhythm only in spurts. They didn’t communicate when defenders stunted or came from unexpected areas. They missed assignments and let free blitzers through to the quarterback. They followed great plays with terrible plays. They false started on consecutive plays. They held and held and held.

All of this led to the most criticized position group on the team being ranked 92nd in rushing yards per game and that was their best category. They were 129th in the country in sacks and tackles for losses allowed. Defenders seemed to be in the Razorbacks’ backfield more often than not. 

Tretola’s Prescription: “Freaky Deakies”

Many fans called into question the level of competitiveness of this Razorback team after blowout losses to Auburn and Missouri in two of the season’s last three games. Some believe that is the reason for the departure of some of Arkansas’ starters and may have been the problem with last year’s team. Sebastian Tretola seemed to embrace that idea.  

The solution?

“You want some freaks in the room,” Tretola said. “You want guys that are embarrassed to lose. You want a guy that says, ‘I’m not going out here and get my butt whipped. I don’t care what I have to do.’” 

Tretola thinks the line needs to get some guys who are willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means breaking a rule or two – like what former teammate Dan Skipper did from time to time.

“The Lord knows I love him, but Skippy was a little tug, a little trip,” Tretola said. “You’re going to know Dan Skipper is out there, same thing with Coach (Pittman). Coach had his moments. I had my moments.”

It remains to be seen if they fit that description, but the Razorbacks have added three new offensive lineman from the transfer portal this offseason. Fernando Carmona from San Jose State, Addison Nichols from Tennessee and Keyshawn Blackstock from Michigan State are set to join a room that looks much different from a year ago.

Obviously, Tretola doesn’t want Arkansas to incur a bunch of penalties, but he’s not asking Razorback players to ignore the rules. He’s asking them just to do a little bit extra to ensure they protect their quarterback or open the lane for their running back. Tretola is a great example of exactly that. Despite espousing this ‘play beyond the rules’ theory, Tretola committed only one penalty in 901 snaps his senior year.

Skipper’s Perspective on Arkansas’ OL

Dan Skipper, who played all over Arkansas’ offensive line and was also a first-team All-SEC selection during his time in Fayetteville, saw the Razorbacks’ problems a little differently.

“The first part of playing fast and aggressive and physical is you have to know where you’re going, what you’re doing,” Skipper said. “There were times this year when it looked like everyone was not on the same page.”

Like the rest of us, Skipper saw guys who were often out of position or were ignorant of who they were supposed to block. He feels like a simpler approach to the blocking scheme might be the key.

“If you’re constantly sitting out there trying to figure out who you have, you can’t do it,” Skipper said.

The Plan for Arkansas Football: Eric Mateos

Sebastian Tretola and Dan Skipper both lauded the hiring of Eric Mateos as the Razorbacks’ next offensive line coach, replacing Cody Kennedy.

The hope is Mateos will not only bring in – and maybe already has brought in – some of the “Freaky Deaky” athletes that Tretola spoke of, but that he will simplify Arkansas’ blocking scheme so that players are not caught up over thinking their assignments. 

Both of the former Razorbacks already knew Mateos since he had been a UA graduate assistant under Pittman in 2013-15. Their loyalty to him shines through pretty clearly in the interview, and both former players commented on how much Mateos is a players coach.

“I think the thing that stands out is how much he cares about his guys,” Skipper said. “I’ve come across guys (in the NFL) from all of his stops and every one of them is like, ‘I love that dude.’”

Tretola said Mateos is the type of guy you could just sit back and have a beer with, eerily similar to the way many people describe Pittman. 

Mateos also joined the interview from a meeting room in the Razorbacks’ facility. He shared a story that typifies his loyalty to his players. At the front of that meeting room was an old autograph of sorts from the tallest player who has ever played for the Arkansas football program.

“I’m in here, up here in the staff (meeting) room it says, ‘Skip was here’ on the top of the board,” Mateos said. “That was the first thing I checked when I got here.” 

Mateos hadn’t been a coach at Arkansas for eight years after making stops at LSU, Texas State, BYU and  Baylor. But he couldn’t help wondering the whole time about whether his former player’s name was still scribbled in that meeting room in Fayetteville, and had to find out for himself once he returned. 

That’s the type of loyalty and passion that Tretola and Skipper are referencing when talking about Eric Mateos. They believe that Mateos can prescribe the treatment to cure Arkansas’ offensive line. Only time will tell, though, if Mateos and the players he’s charged with developing turn out to be the right medicine.


Watch the full episode of Coaches and the Mouth here:

YouTube video


And make sure to read our preview of the Arkansas offensive line:

More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS… 

Facebook Comments