Arkansas must take advantage of South Carolina’s porous, injury-ravaged O-line

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has been one of the worst teams in the SEC at sacking the quarterback through its four games this season.

The Hogs have just 7 sacks. Only 4 of those have come against their three FBS opponents. But even with 3 sacks against Florida A&M included, that’s 1.75 per game. That ranks No. 12 in the conference.

This Saturday, the Razorbacks will face likely the worst offensive line they’ll see in league play this season at South Carolina (3 p.m. CT, SEC Network). The Gamecocks have allowed 15 sacks in five games this season. In 2016, they allowed 3.15 sacks per game, by far the worst in the conference.

On top of generally not being very good, the Gamecocks offensive line could be without as many as three starters. So, will Arkansas finally have a big day rushing the quarterback Saturday?

“I think that’s accurate,” defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said. “I’d hope that opportunity would exist. Getting back to a team that’s in 11 (one back, one tight end, three receivers) and 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, two receivers) and has a few more people around the ball and maybe doesn’t run the quarterback as much as some other folks, I think puts you in position to maybe make some calls to go after the quarterback.”

Rhoads is right. How the Gamecocks deploy personnel can help the Hogs pressure on quarterback Jake Bentley. But really he’s just avoiding saying the opponent isn’t very good up front and banged up.

The Gamecocks haven’t yet ruled out any offensive linemen for Saturday. But it has been expected that right tackle Zack Bailey, their best offensive lineman, won’t be returning until next week. Right guard Cory Helms is also likely out. Left tackle Malik Young’s status is unknown. All three have ankle injuries. Bailey and Helms both missed South Carolina’s loss to Texas A&M last week. Young was injured during the game.

Rhoads was coy when asked if those injuries would be taken into consideration as the Hogs plan for the game.

“We have to defend their offense and the 11 guys they put out there,” Rhoads said. “Changing to accommodate that or adjust to that is not something that we’ll do.”

Obviously, Rhoads isn’t going to say: “Yes, we plan to do (blank) in order to take advantage of a thin, inexperienced offensive line.” But there’s no doubt a makeshift offensive line that was already one of the worst in the SEC before the injuries will factor into how Rhoads calls the game. And if Arkansas can’t pile up a few sacks against South Carolina, will it happen against anyone this season?

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