Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Playing with pace: Quick tempo helped Hogs' O-Line
Arkansas offensive lineman Beaux Limmer (55) and teammates jog to the sideline, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, during the first quarter of the Razorbacks’ 39-36 overtime win over the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
FAYETTEVILLE — Speeding up the tempo on Nov. 4 at Florida helped the Arkansas offensive linemen play better.
“We were just able to play a lot faster,” fifth-year senior center Beaux Limmer said. “We cut down on our plays.
“We’re just running them fast, so you don’t really have to think as much as we were before. It was kind of just get set, get on the ball and fire off as hard as you can.”
The line helped the Razorbacks gain a season-high 481 yards — including 226 rushing — and beat the Gators 39-36 in overtime last Saturday in Kenny Guiton’s first game as interim offensive coordinator.
Arkansas ended a six-game losing streak and won at Florida for the first time in six tries.
Guiton, the Razorbacks’ receivers coach since 2021, took over as play-caller after Dan Enos was fired as offensive coordinator on Oct. 22, the day after Mississippi State beat Arkansas 7-3 and held it to 200 yards in total offense.
The Razorbacks reduced their playbook and brought back the tempo used by previous offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who is now at TCU.
“It helps us out a lot without having to think too much,” said Limmer, selected as SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week by the conference office. “We just focus on trying to move people off the ball. So it’s probably the biggest thing that helped us out.”
Limmer said the offensive linemen are well aware of the criticism they’ve received during the Razorbacks’ struggles.
“We definitely see it, we hear it,” Limmer said. “But we’d like to take it as motivation.
“We know in bad times that’s what’s going to happen. It’s an SEC program. They expect a lot out of us, so to whom much is given, much is expected. We’ve got to perform.”
Limmer said the tempo seemed to wear out the Florida defensive linemen, particularly junior tackle Desmond Watson, who is listed at 6-5, 435 pounds.
“The big boy, that 400-something-pounder, he was getting pretty tired out there,” Limmer said. “We were going fast.
“I don’t think they were expecting that coming out of the bye week. We had time to train for it, so it definitely played to our advantage.”
Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman was a long-time offensive line coach.
“I think they’ve handled it well,” Pittman said of the linemen continuing to grind through the criticism. “I mean, they want to play well.
“If you have a 300-yard passer, the quarterback is great. If you have a 150-yard passer, the line sucks. If you have a 150-yard rusher, the running back is great. If you rush for 75, the line sucks.
“That’s part of being an offensive line, and for that matter, being an offensive line coach. But it is the greatest position, in my opinion, to coach and to play. It just comes with the territory.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Limmer was the highest-graded Arkansas lineman at Florida at 69.0 in 83 snaps.
Redshirt junior right guard Josh Braun (65.2 grade) and fifth-year senior left guard Brady Latham (62.1) also played 83 snaps.
Fifth-year senior Ty’Kieast Crawford (65.7 grade on 58 snaps) played off the bench at right tackle after redshirt sophomore Patrick Kutas (60.8 grade on 25 snaps) was injured.
Redshirt sophomore Devon Manuel (64.3 grade on 47 snaps) played off the bench at left tackle for redshirt freshman Andrew Chamblee (33.2 grade on 36 snaps).
Limmer, a starting guard the previous two seasons, moved to center for the Liberty Bowl against Kansas when Ricky Stromberg — a four-year starter — opted out to focus on the NFL Draft. He was picked in the third round by Washington and made the Commanders’ roster.
“I think the center position has helped [Limmer],” Pittman said. “It’s certainly helped us.
“I think it took him a little bit to get acclimated to it, but he played a really physical game the other day. He’s comfortable in the offense we ran.
“I thought he played his most aggressive game. It’s going to help him in the NFL as well.”
Limmer has played 612 snaps this season with an overall grade of 74.2, including 77.5 for run blocking and 61.1 for pass blocking, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Up front, they work as a unit, and Beaux’s the guy leading the charge,” Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson said. “He gets everybody on the same page and he’s been doing a great job just being able to come out of his shell and being more vocal and communicating and making sure that he’s getting everybody aligned.
“I’m glad having a guy in front of me like Beaux blocking for me.”
Crawford, who has played 134 snaps on the season, figures to start against Auburn today if Kutas is out because of his ankle injury.
“Ty’Kieast brought some juice,” Pittman said of his play at Florida. “I was really pleased and excited for him.
“He was really good in pass protection — really good. They were trying to bull [rush] him quite a bit because he’s so athletic that he was out on top of them. … He set the bull down real nice. I thought he brought a lot of energy to the offense.”
Limmer said it was good to see Crawford take advantage of playing on the first-team line.
“That’s what we expect when someone comes in like that, next man up mentality,” Limmer said. “The whole offensive line feels for Kutas. Don’t know how long he’s going to be out, but while he is, Ty’Kieast is taking his spot, so we’ll see if he can roll with it. He’s been doing a good job so far, so we’re happy for him.”
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