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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Arkansas spring wrap

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

2010 overall record: 10-3

2010 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 7, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

RB Knile Davis, WR Greg Childs, WR Joe Adams, WR Jarius Wright, OG Alvin Bailey, DE Jake Bequette, LB Jerry Franklin, LB/S Jerico Nelson, S Tramain Thomas

Key losses

QB Ryan Mallett, TE D.J. Williams, OT DeMarcus Love, LB Anthony Leon, S Rudell Crim

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Knile Davis* (1,322 yards)

Passing: Ryan Mallett (3,869 yards)

Receiving: Joe Adams* (813 yards)

Tackles: Jerry Franklin* (100)

Sacks: Jake Bequette* (7)

Interceptions: Tramain Thomas* (4)

Spring answers

1. Depth in the defensive line. Even with starting tackles DeQuinta Jones and Byran Jones both out this spring with injuries, the Hogs unveiled the kind of depth and athleticism in their defensive line they haven’t had under Bobby Petrino. They have size, numbers and experience up front, and with the addition of junior college tackle Robert Thomas, should rank up there among the top defensive lines in the league.

2. Wright is right on time. The Hogs are bursting at the seams with great receivers, but Wright demonstrated this spring that he’s poised to have a memorable senior season. He’s the fastest player on the team after turning in a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash back in March and then went out and made one big play after another once spring practice began. With Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton also returning, the Hogs will have as many big-play receivers as any team in the country in 2011.

3. Playing for a title. A year ago, the Hogs talked openly about contending for an SEC championship, and while they fell short of that goal, they did play in their first-ever BCS bowl game. Entering the fourth season under Petrino, they’re even more adamant about bringing home some SEC hardware in 2011. The leadership is there. So is the talent and experience. And having at least been on the periphery of the Western Division race last season, they know now precisely what it takes to get there.

Fall questions

1. Can the Hogs get the running game cranked back up? Knile Davis was one of the surprises of the league last season and led all SEC running backs with 1,322 rushing yards. He was the missing piece in Arkansas’ already explosive offense. But exiting this spring, Petrino came away disappointed with the way the Hogs ran the ball and said the running game wasn’t nearly consistent enough. Davis will have help. Dennis Johnson returns after missing all of last season with an injury, and so does Ronnie Wingo, Jr. The Hogs lost their big power back, Broderick Green, who tore his ACL this spring and will miss the season.

2. Is Wilson the man at quarterback? All signs point to Tyler Wilson being the heir apparent to Ryan Mallett at quarterback, but Petrino said coming out of the spring that he wasn’t ready to name a starter and wants to take a longer look at sophomore Brandon Mitchell once preseason practice begins. Mitchell gives the Hogs more of a runner back there when the play breaks down, although Wilson can also make plays on the move.

3. Who’s going to emerge at offensive tackle? Nothing was settled this spring at either of the starting offensive tackle positions. The Hogs will miss DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez, a pair of departing seniors who helped clear the way for Mallett to throw for more than 3,000 yards each of the past two seasons. True freshman Brey Cook, an early enrollee, and sophomore Anthony Oden will have their work cut out in the fall and still have to hold off senior Grant Freeman and junior college newcomer Jason Peacock.