Bret Bielema is in his second season as the Arkansas Razorbacks Head Football coach. Optimism abounds in the Ozarks and possibly for good reason.
Bielema went 68-24 in 7 seasons as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. His first season at Arkansas must have been an eye opening experience for him and they went 3-9 in 2013. 2014 should be better for the Hogs, but how much better is still obviously up in the air.
Brandon Allen (6-3,215) is back at QB and I am not sure if Razorback fans view that as a good thing or a bad thing. Allen struggled as a sophomore with a 49.6% rate and 10 Interceptions. He threw for 1,552 yards and 13 TDs which isn’t that great for a starting QB. But, the potential is obviously there.
He struggled in the Spring Game as well until later in the game and then he looked really good. Austin Allen (6-1,205), the younger brother of Brandon, looked much better at times. But, he is a redshirt freshman. Look for Austin Allen to have a really bright future for the Razorbacks if he is given the opportunity.
The other QB in contention is true freshman Rafe Peavey (6-2,210) from Bolivar, Missouri. But, he could use a redshirt season. Recruits graduating high school early these days and participating in Spring Drills is very helpful and eliminates some of the need for redshirting. But, Bielema probably prefers to redshirt Peavey and let him mature a bit before sticking him out there in the SEC West.
Running Back position looks much better than QB with 3 talented backs. Alex Collins started last season as a freshman and had 1026 yards. Jonathon Williams had 900 yards on the ground and is a bigger back at 220 pounds. Korliss Marshall is an absolute burner who should be dangerous this year although he only had 146 yards last year.
Razorback folks are saying these are the top Running Backs as a group in the SEC, and they are good. But, as an impartial kind of fan would you take these guys over Alabama’s, Georgia’s and Auburn’s?
They are very good and I wonder if the least productive of them last season might not turn out to be the best one of all when it’s all said and done. Marshall was very impressive, but all 3 of them impressed in the Spring Game.
Bielema is old school and runs a Fullback and a Tight End in his offense which worked very well for him at Wisconsin and will work for him at Arkansas as well.
Kody Walker started at Fullback in the Spring game. He started only one game a year ago, but is experienced and tough and has the size at 6-2,245 to be effective as a blocker and short yardage runner.
Physically, even more impressive is back up Patrick Arinze (5-10,255). The guy is a beast and I am a huge fan of having a beast at Fullback.
The Razorbacks started former QB AJ Derby at TE in the Spring Game. He’s a big senior at 6-5,245 and hopefully he can get the job done for the Hogs.
However, sophomore Hunter Henry was really good as a true freshman last season catching 28 passes for 409 yards and 4 TDs. Not sure what the coaches are thinking here or if it means a thing at all, but Henry is one of the better TEs out there at 6-6,250. He made freshman All American team and 2nd team all SEC.
Arkansas has some returning and incoming talent at WR.
We all know about Keon Hatcher who is big and fast and hauled in 27 passes in 2013.
Demetrius Wilson played in 2012 but redshirted in 2013 because of injury and could start in 2014. Eric Hawkins and D’Arthur Cowan could play a lot in 2014. The Hogs have some size and some talent at WR if Brandon Allen can get the ball to them.
Hogs have a pretty good situation up front. Sophomore Left Tackle Dan Skipper who started at Left Guard last year as a true freshman is 6-10 and 315. Skipper is going to be huge before he’s through growing and he led the nation in blocked kicks.
Right Guard Denver Kirkland also started as a true freshman and is a star. Kirkland was a highly touted recruit out of Miami Booker T Washington and is probably at maximum growth already at 6-5,350.
Overall, the Hogs Offensive Line was very productive a year ago and should be again with physical specimen Brey Cook (6-7,330) at Right Tackle, Mitch Smothers (6-4,315) should start at Left Guard. Center is probably between Luke Charpentier and Cordale Boyd.
The Razorbacks have some depth up front and have some more talent coming in.
Bielema always won at Wisconsin with ball control running attack offenses with great defenses. He looks to have the offense in place for next season and they should be competitive.
Not that confident in the defense.
They brought in new Defensive Coordinator Robb Smith after losing last year’s coordinator, Chris Ash, to the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Razorbacks have been in the bottom of the pack in the SEC in defense for a while.
Deatrich Wise (6-6,265) was absolutely dominating at DE beating up on the reserve Offensive Linemen and terrorizing the QBs with 4 sacks during the Spring Game. The other DE, Trey Flowers (6-4,265) was held out of this game. Flowers had 5 sacks a year ago and 13.5 tackles for loss so there’s no question about his ability.
Brandon Lewis (6-5,265) could challenge for playing time at DE.
At DT, Darius Philon (6-3,285) is not huge but is really quick and had 9 tackles for loss last season and 3 sacks.
DeMarcus Hodge (6-1,335) does have the size and is an excellent run stopper.
Braylon Mitchell (6-3,230), Brooks Ellis (6-2,235) and Martell Spaight (6-0-230) all played a lot last season at LB and are all back.
Secondary returns 4 that played a lot, also, including the team’s leading tackler Alan Turner. Rohan Gaines is the other safety and Carroll Washington and Jared Collins are the corners.
Razorback fans are possibly over the horrible season a year ago and a lot of them turned out to see the Spring Game.
They open up at Auburn at Jordan Hare and there’s the possibility that Auburn could be improved over last season.
They have Nichols State at home, but then they travel to Lubbock to take on always dangerous Texas Tech.
Northern Illinois is next and that should be great but then they travel to Arlington to take on the Aggies. Open date and then Auburn and Georgia back to back. Home games but does that matter so much in the SEC?
UAB comes next and then it’s back to the SEC with Mississippi State. Another open date and then LSU looms. Arkansas usually brings the Bayou Bengals their best.
They close out with Ole Miss and Missouri.
It’s going to be really tough to having a winning season with this schedule, but the Razorbacks have some talent returning and they have a good coaching staff and I am not betting against them.