A disappointing showing last Saturday extended Arkansas football’s losing streak to three games, as the Razorbacks fell to Texas A&M 34-22 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
While many fans are focused on the temperature of Sam Pittman’s seat, Best of Arkansas Sports is also entrenched in the on-field coverage of the team.
Here’s a few takeaways and observations from Arkansas’ snap counts against the Aggies, as determined by Pro Football Focus…
1. Impact of Luke Hasz’s Injury on Arkansas’ Offense
You don’t really need snap counts to know that Luke Hasz going down with a broken clavicle on Saturday had a major impact on Arkansas’ offense. He was quickly becoming one of KJ Jefferson’s favorite targets and without him, the Razorbacks’ offense sputtered to one of its worst showings of the Sam Pittman era.
The injury came just three snaps into the game and North Texas transfer Var’keyes Gumms filled in with his first significant playing time of the season, playing 21 snaps. Super senior and former walk-on Nathan Bax also probably got more action than expected with 36 snaps.
All together, the tight ends combined for 60 snaps on 58 plays. It’s fair to wonder if that number would have been much higher had Hasz not gotten hurt. Over the previous two games, Arkansas used 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two receivers) on 31.3% of its snaps.
Had that percentage held steady against Texas A&M, the Razorbacks would have had two tight ends on the field for roughly 18 plays. They played fewer than that Saturday, but an exact number is hard to know without rewatching every play because they actually used some four-receiver sets (10 personnel), so coming up with an estimate using just snap counts is impossible.
The Razorbacks hadn’t shown the four-wide receiver look in at least the previous two games, against LSU and BYU, but that may have already been in the game plan even without the Hasz injury because Pittman did say earlier in the week that they put some plays in for Isaiah Sategna.
Speaking of Sategna, the speedy redshirt freshman played nine offensive snaps and caught one pass for two yards on a pop pass.
Moving forward, Pittman said he’s opening up the tight end competition between Gumms, Ty Washington, Bax, Francis Sherman and even running back Dominique Johnson.
2. Running Back Rep Distribution with Return of Rocket
Saturday marked the return of Rocket Sanders, who missed the previous three games because of a knee injury suffered in the season opener against Western Carolina.
Pittman admitted that he wasn’t at 100%, though, and that is likely why he played only 63.8% of the snaps (37 of 58). He carried the ball 11 times for 34 yards and caught two passes for 36 yards.
The remaining running back snaps were split up between Arkansas’ other four scholarship running backs, with freshman Isaiah Augustave even getting some offensive snaps for the first time since playing just one in Week 2 against Kent State. In fact, his five snaps against Texas A&M doubled his career total.
The main backup was Rashod Dubinion with 13 snaps, followed by Dominique Johnson with four and AJ Green with two. Green had been dealing with a shoulder injury the last two games, so that may have played a role in his decreased snap count.
3. Six Arkansas True Freshmen Burn Their Redshirt
What makes the injury to Luke Hasz even more unfortunate is that it came just three snaps into his fifth career game, meaning he has burned his redshirt. Perhaps the Razorbacks could appeal for it, but it’s unlikely that would be approved.
He was actually one of six true freshmen to appear in their fifth game for the Razorbacks on Saturday.
Most notably, cornerback Jaylon Braxton made his second career start and played a career-high 58 defensive snaps despite being shaken up at one point. He returned to the game following his injury and ended up playing the second-most snaps of any Arkansas defender, behind only Lorando Johnson’s 59.
Linebacker Brad Spence played 17 defensive snaps to burn his redshirt and nickel back TJ Metcalf, who seems to have carved out a role for himself in the dime package with six defensive backs, played two. Offensively, running back Isaiah Augustave played five offensive snaps.
The sixth is safety Dylan Hasz, but all of his action came on special teams.
The only other true freshman to play offense or defense against the Aggies was defensive tackle Ian Geffrard, who made his third career appearance. He can play in one more regular-season game without burning his redshirt.
Linebacker Alex Sanford and defensive end Quincy Rhodes Jr. also played in the game, but only on special teams. For Sanford, he has now appeared in four games and will burn his redshirt the next time he gets on the field, unless it’s in a bowl game. Rhodes has appeared in only two games after missing the last three with a concussion.
4. Cornerback Pecking Order for Arkansas’ Defense
The other significant injury in the game was to preseason All-SEC cornerback Dwight McGlothern, who suffered a concussion midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. He played just 22 defensive snaps.
As mentioned above, freshman Jaylon Braxton got the start opposite of McGlothern and played a majority of the snaps. That meant McGlothern’s replacement was former starter Jaheim Singletary, who ended up playing 31 snaps.
It was only when Braxton was briefly shaken up that TCU transfer Kee’yon Stewart entered the game and even then, he played only four snaps. Starting nickel back Lorando Johnson also got some reps at the position — seven, according to PFF — and appears to be ahead of Stewart in the cornerback pecking order.
The player noticeably absent from that list is LaDarrius Bishop, who has starting experience but has been limited to only special teams so far this season. He is a super senior who missed most of last year with a torn ACL.
5. More Linebacker Reps to Go Around
One takeaway in last week’s piece was that Chris Paul Jr. and Jaheim Thomas took a large majority of the linebacker snaps over the previous two weeks. In fact, they accounted for 96.6% of them against BYU and LSU.
Sam Pittman was asked last week about the need for a third linebacker to emerge to spell them when they need a break and he essentially said it boiled down to them proving in practice that they can be trusted to do their assignments in games.
Well, it seems like not one, but three did that because Antonio Grier (22), Brad Spence (17) and Jordan Crook (13) each got double-digit snaps against Texas A&M. Mani Powell was even out there for two plays. That led to the percentage of linebacker snaps played by Paul and Thomas to drop to 64.9%.
That may have played a role in Arkansas’ defense seemingly getting stronger as the game went on, opposed to collapsing in the second half as it did against LSU.
Arkansas Football Snap Counts vs. Texas A&M
- *QB KJ Jefferson — 58
- *RT Patrick Kutas — 58
- *RG Joshua Braun — 58
- *C Beaux Limmer — 58
- *LG Brady Latham — 58
- *WR Andrew Armstrong — 55
- *WR Isaac TeSlaa — 53
- *LT Devon Manuel — 42
- *RB Rocket Sanders — 37
- *TE Nathan Bax — 36
- WR Tyrone Broden — 35
- TE Var’keyes Gumms — 21
- WR Jaedon Wilson — 17
- LT Andrew Chamblee — 16
- RB Rashod Dubinion — 13
- WR Isaiah Sategna — 9
- RB Isaiah Augustave — 5
- RB Dominique Johnson — 4
- *TE Luke Hasz — 3
- RB AJ Green — 2
- *NB Lorando Johnson — 59
- *CB Jaylon Braxton — 58
- *DE Landon Jackson — 54
- *S Hudson Clark — 53
- *LB Chris Paul Jr. — 50
- *LB Jaheim Thomas — 50
- *DE Trajan Jeffcoat — 44
- *DT Eric Gregory — 42
- S Alfahiym Walcott — 41
- *DT Cam Ball — 39
- *S Jayden Johnson — 33
- CB Jaheim Singletary — 31
- DE John Morgan III — 23
- *CB Dwight McGlothern — 22
- DT Taurean Carter — 22
- LB Antonio Grier — 22
- DT Anthony Booker Jr. — 18
- DT Keivie Rose — 18
- LB Brad Spence — 17
- LB Jordan Crook — 13
- DE Zach Williams — 13
- DT Ian Geffrard — 5
- CB Kee’yon Stewart — 4
- DB TJ Metcalf — 2
- LB Mani Powell — 2
- LB Malik Chavis — 2
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…