The top 10 Arkansas Razorbacks football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
What You Need To Know About The Arkansas Offense
1. DE Deatrich Wise Jr., Sr.
One of the SEC’s best pass rushers, and a rising star in the NFL draft circles, Wise came up with eight sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss with 31 tackles. Athletic for his size, he’s got the bulk of a pro end at 6-5 and 280 pounds and a strong first step. He came on late in the season with seven of his sacks coming in the last four games coming up with 2.5 against LSU and two against Missouri – he’s a force when he gets into a groove. Just an okay recruit, it took a few seasons before he blossomed and now he’s coming into the season as a star expected to carry the Hog line. He’ll have help, but he’ll be the one offenses key on to stop.
2. LB Brooks Ellis, Sr.
The team’s leading tackler came up with 102 stops after rising up with a 72-tackle sophomore campaign. While it’s not his job to be a playmaker in the backfield, he came up with 1.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss with a pick. At 6-2 and 248 pounds, he’s built for the middle turning into one of the team’s most consistent players with 15 tackles against both Alabama and Mississippi State and 12 against Texas Tech – he gets in on everything. Becoming a key leader last year, he’s smart enough to graduate early and he has the experience to be the unquestioned quarterback of the front seven. As long as he stays in one piece, he’s a rock-solid lock to finish with 100 tackles again.
3. DE Jeremiah Ledbetter, Sr.
While Deatrich Wise might be the star pass rushing end, Ledbetter is does a bit more against the run making 55 stops and helped a bit behind the line with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 280 pounds he’s built like a 3-4 end, but he can work in any system with just enough quickness to do a little of everything. A former JUCO transfer, he’s trained to be a tackle and even work on the nose to go along with his next-level athleticism. He’s got pass rushing skills, but that’s not necessarily going to be his job even though he’s a three-down defender.
4. TE Jeremy Sprinkle, Sr.
Hunter Henry might have been the best tight end in college football last season, but Sprinkle might have better tools – at least he might be faster. Henry was a do-it-all tight end, and Sprinkle can hit a little bit with his 6-6, 255-pound size. More than that, he’s a field-stretcher catching 27 passes for 389 yards and six touchdowns – with three coming against Mississippi State – averaging 14.4 yards per try. Okay, no, he’s not Henry, but Bret Bielema tight ends always produce, and Sprinkle is about to blow up.
5. QB Austin Allen, Jr.
There wasn’t any wavering in the offseason – Allen was named the starter and it’s his offense to run. While he’s not all that big at 6-1 and 208 pounds, and doesn’t really have much in the way of meaningful experience, he’s a pure passer coming in as the 2012 Arkansas Player of the Year as a bomber. Able to move just enough to take off from time to time, he’ll end up with positive yards. With a solid enough arm to stretch the field, he might not have a cannon, but he’s an accurate enough to be dangerous when he gets time to work.
6. LB Dre Greenlaw, Soph.
The second-leading tackler, Greenlaw came up with a terrific freshman season cranking up 95 tackles with a sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. A hitting machine on the outside, he came up with 16 stops against Auburn, 12 against LSU, and double-digit tackles in four games. Originally considered a safety, he bulked up to 231 pounds on his 6-0 frame and became an even more physical playmaker. His game is about speed, and he should be a better pass rusher who’ll be turned loose.
7. RB Rawleigh Williams, Soph.
Back after suffering a scary neck injury, he’s healthy again and about to be the type of back who can crank out All-SEC yards. At 5-10 and 224 pounds, he’s built to be a workhorse with decent pop, nice hands for the passing game, and good enough speed to come up with a few big plays when he gets into the open field. Smart, shifty and tough, now he just has to stay healthy after coming up with 254 yards and a score in his limited time.
8. WR Drew Morgan, Sr.
The team’s leading receiver blew up in his second season catching 63 passes for 843 yards and ten scores, and was used a little bit as a rusher, too. When he was targeted, he was unstoppable catching eight passes for 155 yards against Texas A&M, and hitting Ole Miss for nine catches for 122 yards and three scores in the classic win. At 6-0 and 191 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s shifty and quick enough to easily find the seams. Physical for his size, he’s able to battle for the ball and isn’t afraid to come up with the big block.
9. OT Dan Skipper, Sr.
An interesting prospect from the start, he started out his career as a way-tall guard who grew into a terrific run blocker before starring at left tackle. Last season he moved over to the right side earning Second Team All-SEC honors at his new tackle spot, and now he’ll move wherever he’s needed as the team’s top pass protector. At 6-10 and 326 pounds he’s a tall blocker who’s tough to get around and powerful enough to provide a pop. While he grabs a bit, and he takes his share of penalties, he’s also going to be the key to the line – even if he ends up moving back to guard.
10. RB Kody Walker, Sr.
Second on the team in rushing behind Alex Collins, the massive pounder will have to share time, and might give way to Rawleigh Williams once fully healthy, but at 6-2 and 251 pounds is too talented not to get at least ten carries a game. Injured throughout the first part of his career, he’s a sixth-year senior with the blasting ability to work as a fullback and average five yards per carry when he gets into a lather. He averaged 4.38 yards per run last year with 394 yards and six scores – missing four games and not getting many carries early on – but he was a big runner late in the season.