Arkansas has struggled to consistently run the ball this season, and that – along with the concussion suffered by quarterback Tyler Wilson, the issues in the red zone and the four consecutive losses – has led to plenty of questions about the offensive line’s play.
Travis Swanson has started 31 consecutive games for the Razorbacks.
Through five games, the Hogs rank 116th out of 120 FBS teams in rushing offense, averaging 106.6 yards per game and 3.42 yards per carry. They’ve also been bad inside the opponent’s 20, ranking 109th in red zone offense.
Coach John L. Smith pointed to the offensive line’s play earlier this week when discussing the Hogs’ red zone woes, which last week included four scoreless trips inside Texas A&M’s 20. Specifically, Smith said the inability to run the ball in the red zone has hurt the Hogs and that the coaches “have to kick our offensive linemen in the tail and take it to heart.”
So with that in mind, we went 1-on-1 with one of the leaders of that group, junior center Travis Swanson, and got his take on the state of offensive line, this week’s matchup with Auburn and the red zone problems.
Q. What’s the mood like with the offensive linemen right now? You hear people wanting the team to run the ball better. I know you guys are working hard to do that. How are you guys taking that?
SWANSON: We’re taking it good. We’ve always had the attitude this entire season to just come to work every single week, or come to practice every single week and work. We haven’t missed a beat when it comes to that at all. We’ve always known that there’s going to be people that go out there and criticize what they would think would be better. We just know not to pay attention to that.
Q. You guys have lost some people, too, in recent years, attrition that you weren’t expecting. Like an (Anthony) Oden. What’s that been like?
SWANSON: You know what, those guys maybe had some difficulties along the way. They’re not meant to be here for whatever reason that is. You can’t really look back on that and be like, ‘Oh, what if we had him?’
Q. What’s Coach K’s (offensive line coach Chris Klenakis’) demeanor been like the last few weeks?
SWANSON: He’s always the same. He’s the same fiery coach that walked through these doors three years ago when I was a redshirt freshman. The biggest thing he’s taught me since he’s gotten here is how to work. That is his biggest thing. And he just teaches you every single day how to properly work, just grind out and get better. That’s how he’s been for all three years he’s been here.
Q. What do you feel like your matchup is like with Auburn’s defensive line and linebackers?
SWANSON: They’re good. The strength of their team is the D-front, front seven, kind of like last week in A&M. They’re a good team, obviously. An SEC team. Can’t take anything away from them there. So it’s going to be a good matchup.
Q. You had 500-something yards last week, 90-something plays. As Coach (Paul) Petrino was just saying, you should win those games. It seems like a weird, fluky type deal to get blown out. What do you think about that?
SWANSON: You don’t put up numbers like that and usually lose a game, let alone only put up 10 points. So a lot of it is just small errors that we make the majority of the time in the critical zone. We know that we’re going to come to work this week and put ourselves in a situation inside the critical zone to kind of help that, to make sure those small errors don’t happen again.
Q. The red zone issues. What do y’all see on the tape that’s preventing you from getting those drives all the way in?
SWANSON: Small, very micro errors. You don’t really see anything that’s very drastic. Offense is the thing where everyone has to be clicking. No small execution errors. And that’s the thing. When it comes to it, it’s not just one huge thing here, one huge thing there. It’s just a small thing here that is easy to fix, too, which is one of the most frustrating things.
Q. Is that what it feels like is going on with the team right now? You try to put your finger on this and that? Every week, it just seems like there’s something new.
SWANSON: You can say that. Offense, you’ve got 11 guys who’ve got to do their job all the time. So it’s just taken a little bit to maybe work those kinks out, maybe a little longer than we wanted.
NOTE: Two of the questions were asked by another reporter in a group setting.