Tuesday, July 10, 2012
One good reason: Arkansas
By Edward Aschoff
We continue our "One good reason" series by checking in on the Arkansas Razorbacks:
Arkansas will win the SEC: That offense is still very good.
Sure, quarterback Tyler Wilson lost three NFL wide receivers from last season and stud Marquel Wade's status for the upcoming season is unclear. But as a whole, this team is still very talented and very explosive on offense. Wilson is the SEC's top quarterback and could have easily been a first-round draft pick in this year's NFL draft if he had decided to leave school early. But he's back and so is that cannon of a right arm. Oh, and who will be by his side? None other than the dynamic Knile Davis. He's one of the best running backs in the country and it sounds like he's going to be 100 percent this fall after that gruesome ankle injury he suffered last fall. This is the league's best QB/RB duo.
At receiver, Cobi Hamilton should be in contention to be the league's best. We always knew he had talent, so now he'll really get to show it as the primary receiver for the Razorbacks. It sounds like he and Wilson developed some pretty good chemistry this spring, too. Tight end Chris Gragg, who is on the John Mackey Award watch list, is one of the top tight ends in the SEC and the coaches expect him to be an even bigger part of the offense this fall. Rising juniors Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton have had to bide their time, but impressed coaches in practice all of last year and should step right in and contribute more this fall.
The offensive line is still a bit of a concern, but there is still some decent experience there and that goes a long way in this league. Paul Petrino certainly isn't his brother, but don't expect too much change, if any, when it comes to how the Hogs' offense is run.
Why it won't: Bobby Petrino's absence will be too much. Defensively, there are still some questions and Arkansas still plays in the toughest division in all of college football, but the real concern is how this team will respond without Bobby Petrino. His embarrassing exit was a real slap in the face to a team that he heralded as arguably his best during his tenure. Sure, the Hogs have rallied around interim coach John L. Smith, but we haven't seen this team with him as the head coach in a pressure situation during a big game or during the season. We haven't seen him as the leader during two-a-days. What happens if adversity strikes this fall? Could an early-season loss cause this team to lose some confidence?
Petrino injected a ton of confidence and edge into his past Arkansas teams. You could see the same confidence he carried every second of the day in his players, and that's one thing that made Arkansas so good and gritty the past couple of seasons. He was also an exceptional playcaller, so the loss of that will surely be felt at times.
It'll be interesting to see how players react to Smith this fall, considering he has that 10-month interim tag attached to his name. Will he be able to command the same sort of respect that Petrino did and will he be the same sort of leader and motivator that Petrino was? Honestly, we aren't sure, yet.