SEC Breakdown Day 3: Arkansas Razorbacks

The next stop on my “12 teams in 12 days” segment is in Fayetteville. Where I will be previewing the University of Arkansas Razorbacks.

Why can’t Arkansas be the new Auburn? Why isn’t the team getting the preseason respect Alabama and LSU are receiving? The Hogs are loaded with depth, talent, and excellent options ready to step in and take over in key spots. If everything goes to plan, it might just take two key victories to win the SEC title.

So what does Arkansas have to do to become this year’s Auburn?

Well, Head Coach Bobby Petrino has rebuilt the Hogs pretty quickly after Houston Nutt’s era started to flatline, and now the program is at a high enough level to be just fine, and possibly better, despite losing a Mackey Award-winning tight end in D.J. Williams, a pro-style big arm in Ryan Mallett, both starting offensive tackles, and two great tacklers in linebacker Anthony Leon and safety Rudell Crim.

The key to the Hog’s success, like most every team, will start with their offensive line.

As I said, they have to replace three starters and the importance of that must not be downplayed, but Petrino grabbed his former assistant coach, Chris Klenakis, from Nevada for a reason. There is no better coach suited to take the Arkansas Offensive Line where Coach Petrino wants it to go.

This year lookout for Junior RB Knile Davis. Arkansas has had a phenomenal recent history of running backs from Darren McFadden to Peyton Hillis to Michael Smith to Felix Jones. Davis might have the best all-around skills of the bunch as long as he can hold on to the ball. At 6-0 and 230 pounds he has the size, he has the hands as a receiver, and he has the raw speed with sub-4.4 wheels. After not doing much over the first four games of the season, he blew up with 82 yards or more in each of the final nine games with 110 yards or more in six of the final seven games while finishing with 13 touchdowns. With so much talent in the Hog backfield, Davis doesn’t have to be the workhorse, but he will be.

Former QB Ryan Mallett won’t be easy to replace. But new starter Tyler Wilson, who performed very well against Auburn when Mallett went down last year, is a very solid quarterback. I think he’ll step in this year and do very well in the established system.

In fact, the Hogs could be better off this year as Wilson has the potential to be a much better game manager than Mallett ever was.  He knows how to run the offense and may prove less likely to make the game changing mistakes that Mallett made at times

The Razorbacks 2011 in-conference schedule is about as tough as it gets. In out of conference play, Troy might put up some points, but realistically, the Hogs get a three-week exhibition season to kick things off with Missouri State, New Mexico, and Troy at home before opening up the SEC season with a date at Alabama. If Arkansas can pull off the win in Tuscaloosa, it might be national championship or bust. The most dangerous dates for the Hogs come against Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi State all at home, and the one decent non-conference game, Texas A&M, in Dallas.

The Hogs have enough talent on hand to make another run at the SEC this year if they get the O-Line on board early and catch a break or two along the way.

LSU and Bama are clearly the favorites for the SEC West title, but Arkansas could cause fits for both teams. In the end though I believe the Hogs in-conference schedule is just too good. Arkansas goes 9-3 in the regular season and adds another bowl game for the SEC.

Grade: A

 

2 thoughts on “SEC Breakdown Day 3: Arkansas Razorbacks

  1. Another good one man keep em coming… I agree with this prediction Arkansas will be tough this year and with that coach they will continue to get better.

  2. Yeah Arkansas will still be very tough without Mallet. They’ve just got so much talent. The West better look out for them this season.

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