Thirteen SEC teams have wrapped up spring practice; the last one to do so will on Saturday when Arkansas hits the field for its Red-White spring game (1 ET, SEC Network).
What should we keep an eye on? Here are three things:
1. The Austin Allen era begins: For three seasons, Brandon Allen commanded the Razorbacks offense, now his younger brother takes over as the starting quarterback following coach Bret Bielema’s announcement last week. It’s an opportunity Austin has waited patiently for and one that coaches say he’s more than ready to take advantage of. Still, Austin has only 19 collegiate pass attempts to his credit, so he’s mostly an unknown commodity; this is a chance for fans and observers to get a sense of what to expect from the junior in 2016. Matching the level his older brother reached in the second half of 2015 might be asking a bit much, but if Austin can come close, the Razorbacks will be in pretty good shape this season.
2. A revamped defense? Last season, the Hogs took a step back defensively and struggled to keep SEC opponents from throwing the ball successfully around the yard and racking up points. There’s a sense that this year’s unit could take a step forward since it returns nine starters, including virtually the entire two-deep on the defensive line. Even offensive coordinator Dan Enos noted that his offensive line has had challenges handling defensive coordinator Robb Smith's group because “they’re pretty good.” Some personnel adjustments have been made, like moving Jeremiah Ledbetter from defensive end to defensive tackle and moving Taiwan Johnson to nose guard, and there’s competition for a starting job at strongside linebacker. There’s also a five-star recruit who fans will get to see in action for the first time, defensive end McTelvin Agim.
3. Retooled offensive line: The Hogs have been at their best up front in the Bielema era, but this offseason has been one of transition as the team must replace three starters from the 2015 squad and will only have one player starting in the same spot he was last year: right tackle Dan Skipper. The other returning starter, Frank Ragnow, made the move from right guard to center. There’s a new left side of the line with redshirt freshman Colton Jackson at left tackle and converted defensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt at left guard, while sophomore Brian Wallace steps in at Ragnow’s former right guard spot. Can this group jell and lead the kind of offensive success the Hogs experienced last season?