Preview 2017: Arkansas Razorbacks
Previewing and looking ahead at the Arkansas Razorbacks season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Arkansas Offense
Almost never consistent, the Hogs weren’t able to run well enough, they didn’t get strong enough play from the line, and there were too many turnovers, but they still controlled the ball well and managed to grind games down when everything was working.
Losing star RB Rawleigh Williams to a neck injury suffered in spring ball is a hit no matter how it gets spun. There are plenty of talented options waiting in the wings – led by Devwah Whaley – but Williams was a 1,360-yard, 12-score force.
Dan Skipper is gone at left tackle, but the other four starters are back to a young line that should be stronger and better. Size isn’t a problem, but pass protection was an issue and, again, the group didn’t blast away well enough for the ground game.
Austin Allen is a solid veteran passer who can carry the offense at times. As long as he’s keeping the picks in check and can keep the chains moving, he’ll be fine, but he needs the receivers to emerge. Four of the top five receivers are gone, with Jared Cornelius the lone reliable veteran returning.
Biggest Key To The Arkansas Offense
Do that running thing it’s supposed to do – every week. Arkansas, be Arkansas. It needs to start running the ball a whole lot better each and every week.
The consistency just wasn’t there for an offense that’s built to be able to blast away no matter what. Just when it seemed like nothing was working – with just 25 yards on the ground against Auburn – the Hogs destroyed an amazing Florida defense with 223 yards in the big win. It ran for 357 yards against Mississippi State, and got stuffed the next week against Missouri and was held to a dead stop in the bowl loss to Virginia Tech.
What You Need To Know About The Arkansas Defense
Former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads is stepping up into the defensive coordinator job. For an Arkansas defense that struggled way too much against the run, allowed over 31 points per game, and was hit for 30 points or more in six of the eight SEC games, the change should be a plus.
Moving to a 3-4, now the hope is for former star recruit McTelvin Agim to blossom as an end – and as the only returning starter up front – while the linebacking corps needs to start being more explosive and force more mistakes. It starts with finding more of a pass rush from all sides of the front seven.
The secondary that allowed 200 yards or more nine times only gave up 12 touchdown passes, and now it gets back three decent starters that should be even stronger as long as the front seven can …
Biggest Key To The Arkansas Defense
Generate more pressure. The pass rush wasn’t nearly effective enough, with just 25 sacks and not enough plays behind the line. The defensive front hasn’t been a regular in the backfield in the Bielema era – outside of coming up with a ton of tackles for loss in 2014 – but can a dangerous pass rusher emerge?
There was more production from several spots as opposed to 2015, when it was Deatrich Wise and a whole lot of nothing else. But still, with TCU and Texas A&M up in the first three games, getting to the quarterback would be nice.
Arkansas Will Be Far Better If …
The defense can come up with third down stops. The Hogs own the time of possession battle – finishing second in the country – and they’re great at being able to control the tempo of games. Even so, getting the defense off the field more would be nice after allowing offenses to convert almost 40% of their chances. On the plus side, it’s a big improvement after giving up 47% of third down chances in both 2014 and 2015, but it’s still not up to normal Bielema snuff.
Best Arkansas Offensive Player
QB Austin Allen, Sr. – Yeah, new projected starting running back Devwah Whaley is probably going to be the team’s best player – and that wouldn’t be a bad thing – but going into the season, it’s Allen who’ll be the leader and star.
The 6-1, 209-pounder doesn’t look the part of a big bomber, but he’s a baller and a big-time passer. An Arkansas state high school champion two years in a row, he took over last season for his brother – Brandon Allen – and was almost as good.
Brandon was more accurate and efficient in 2015, but Austin was fine last season, hitting 61% of his throws for 3,430 yards and 25 scores with 200 yards or more in each of the last five games and 11 times on the year. Now he has to cut down on the picks, giving away 15 on the year and five in the last two games. Arkansas went 1-4 when Allen threw multiple interceptions.
2. RB Devwah Whaley, Soph.
3. WR Jared Cornelius, Sr.
4. OT Brian Wallace, Jr.
5. C Frank Ragnow, Sr.
Best Arkansas Defensive Player
DE McTelvin Agim, Soph. – Consider this as much of a projection and a prayer as a sure-thing. However, the 6-3, 289-pound former five-star recruit has everything in place to become one of the SEC’s most dangerous pass rushers.
He showed flashes last year after taking over the starting gig – making 27 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Too strong, too quick, and with too much upside, with all the hopes pinned on him to be the main man up front, he’d better be the team’s best defensive player.
2. CB Ryan Pulley, Jr.
3. LB Randy Ramsey, Jr.
4. LB Dre Greenlaw, Jr. 5. S Kevin Richardson, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Devwah Whaley, Soph. – Just like some are trying to convince the rest of the world that the LSU running back situation might be even better with Leonard Fournette leaving early and Derrius Guice taking over, you’re going to hear some chatter that Arkansas could be better with Whaley taking over for Williams.
There’s a word for that: wrong.
Whaley, though, is expected to be phenomenal – it just would’ve been nice if he’d have been a part of a 1-2 punch with Williams. The 5-11, 216-pounder has special talent and upside, and now after rushing for 602 yards and three scores, he’ll get his shot to carry the attack.
The Arkansas Season Will Be A Success If …
The Hogs win nine games. On the one hand, getting to play South Carolina and Missouri from the East – and missing Florida and Georgia – is a massive break. On the other, going on the road to deal with Alabama and LSU all but stops any West title dreams.
Even so, with TCU and Auburn at home, and seven games against teams that finished with losing records, win nine games and keep moving forward.
Key Game To The Arkansas Season
Sept. 23 vs. Texas A&M Played in AT&T Stadium, call it the Beleaguered Bowl. The SEC opener against the Aggies is coming off two-week break after the TCU battle, with the loser in big, big trouble.
If the Hogs beat the Horned Frogs, fine. Lose, and it might be win-or-bust for Bielema – but the pressure will be on A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, too. With the next two SEC games on the road at South Carolina and Alabama, lose to the Aggies, and … uh oh.
2016 Arkansas Fun Stats
– 3rd Quarter Scoring: Opponents 103 – Arkansas 51
– Field Goals: Arkansas 13-of-17 – Opponents 9-of-16
– Penalties: Arkansas 80 for 680 yards – Opponents 57 for 526 yards