SEC: Isaac Madison
What’s new: Bobby Petrino brought in Chris Klenakis from Nevada to coach the offensive line. Klenakis’ expertise with the “Pistol” offense will enhance that part of the Hogs’ package. Garrick McGee was promoted to offensive coordinator after Paul Petrino left for Illinois, although Bobby Petrino will still call plays. Kris Cinkovich is the new receivers coach and Steve Caldwell the new defensive ends coach.
Sidelined: Linebacker signee Courtney Gaston didn’t make it academically and will attend junior college. The same goes for defensive tackle signee Calvin Barnett.
Key battle: With Rudell Crim moving to safety, that opens up what should be a hotly contested battle for the two starting cornerback spots. Junior Isaac Madison returns from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season, while senior Ramon Broadway and sophomore Darius Winston are also eyeing starting roles.
New on the scene: The Hogs need some help at linebacker, which is where true freshman Braylon Mitchell comes in. True freshman kickers Eduardo Camara and Zach Hocker could give senior Alex Tejada a run if he’s not more consistent. True freshman Byran Jones is one to watch at defensive tackle, and the Hogs think true freshman defensive end Chris Smith can bolster their pass-rush off the edge.
Breaking out: Ronnie Wingo Jr. has the size, speed and explosiveness to be one of the SEC’s top running backs after playing in all 13 games last season as a freshman. Pushing 230 pounds, Wingo was timed at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash this spring.
Don’t forget about: Tenarius Wright missed the spring with a foot injury. He’d hoped to play linebacker in college, but is better suited to play defensive end. He only scratched the surface of his potential last season as a freshman and still finished with seven tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
All eyes on: Junior quarterback Ryan Mallett. Everybody will be watching to see how he moves after undergoing two different surgical procedures to repair a broken bone in his left foot this offseason. Mallett just recently returned to full speed after sitting out spring practice. He had a second procedure in June to replace the screw in his foot.
Quoting: “Nobody expects more out of us than we do ourselves. If you want to call that pressure, fine. Our goal is to win a championship, and we don’t mind saying so.” – Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams
In fact, 12 were taken in the NFL draft, and seven went in the first three rounds. Gone are Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Kareem Jackson, Major Wright, Javier Arenas, Chad Jones, Myron Lewis, Walt McFadden, Marquis Johnson, Kendrick Lewis, Reshad Jones and Trevard Lindley.
What’s that leave in the way of the top defensive backfields in the SEC for 2010?
Here’s a look:
2. South Carolina: The Gamecocks were second in the league last season in pass defense and should be even harder to throw the ball on in 2010. Sophomore Stephon Gilmore is one of the best young cornerbacks in college football, and his former high school teammate, safety DeVonte Holloman, may be one of the breakout players in the league. Senior Chris Culliver, a second-team All-SEC selection last season, also returns and is switching from safety to cornerback.
3. LSU: If you’re looking for the fastest secondary in the SEC, look no further than the unit the Tigers will put on the field this season. Patrick Peterson is the best cornerback in the country -- period -- and his running mate on the other side, Morris Claiborne, has been turning heads since the spring. They may end up being the best cornerback tandem in the league. Jai Eugene has moved from cornerback to safety, while Brandon Taylor returns at the other safety. He, too, is a former cornerback.
4. Auburn: There’s nothing like adding three veteran leaders back to the mix, and that’s what Auburn will do with senior safeties Zac Etheridge, Aairon Savage and Mike McNeil. All are returning from serious injuries. One of the priorities this season is to get junior cornerback Neiko Thorpe more help. He played too many snaps a year ago. Demond Washington is returning to his cornerback position after filling in at safety last season.
5. Vanderbilt: Don’t blink. Vanderbilt has consistently played some of the best pass defense in the SEC under Jamie Bryant, who oversees the Commodores’ secondary. Safety Sean Richardson and cornerback Casey Hayward are returning starters, and both have what it takes to be All-SEC players. Junior Jamie Graham has settled in at the other cornerback after playing receiver earlier in his career. Nickelback Eddie Foster also returns, and the Commodores liked what they saw this spring from freshman safeties Jay Fullam and Kenny Ladler.
6. Alabama: The only guy who won’t be new for the Crimson Tide this season in the secondary is junior safety Mark Barron, who led the SEC with seven interceptions a year ago. Everybody else who was in the rotation is gone. Alabama still has plenty of young talent in its defensive backfield, but there could be some growing pains early. Sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has unlimited potential. There’s also a chance that junior college cornerback DeQuan Menzie could be back after tearing his Achilles tendon in the spring.
7. Georgia: The Bulldogs gave up far too many big plays in the secondary last season and allowed a league-high 25 touchdown passes. They should be better in 2010, particularly with the addition of junior college safety Jakar Hamilton, who was one of the stars of the spring. Junior cornerback Brandon Boykin has the skills to be one of the league’s top cover guys, but the Bulldogs are still thin at the cornerback position. They can’t afford any injuries.
8. Tennessee: The dismissal of starting safety Darren Myles Jr. following his arrest and involvement in a bar brawl drops the Vols down a spot or two. They don’t have a lot of depth behind him. The leader of the unit is sophomore free safety Janzen Jackson, who can be one of the best defensive backs in the league if he stays out of trouble off the field. Junior cornerback Art Evans is underrated and will be the Vols’ top cover guy.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs got big performances from freshmen last season in their secondary, which means their pass defense should improve considerably from their No. 11 showing in the SEC a year ago. Sophomore cornerback Corey Broomfield had six interceptions, and sophomore Johnthan Banks had four interceptions. Banks is moving from free safety to cornerback this season. Also look for a big junior season from strong safety Charles Mitchell, who is Mississippi State’s enforcer back there.
10. Kentucky: With Lindley missing four full games last season with a high ankle sprain, the rest of the Wildcats’ defensive backs were forced to step up their games. Three starters return, including budding star Winston Guy at free safety. Cornerbacks Paul Warford and Randall Burden are also back, as Kentucky started five defensive backs in most games. Finding another safety will be key this preseason.
11. Ole Miss: The lone returning starter is senior safety Johnny Brown, who’s coming off his best season. The Rebels’ other safety a year ago, Kendrick Lewis, was one of their mainstays on defense, and replacing him won’t be easy. Junior college newcomer Damien Jackson will draw that job, and he was extremely impressive in the spring. Ole Miss will be both inexperienced and thin at the cornerback positions.
12. Arkansas: The Hogs gladly welcome back junior cornerback Isaac Madison, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Their pass defense suffered with Madison out of the lineup, and they finished last in the league, allowing 401.2 yards per game. They also gave up 22 touchdown passes. To get more speed on the field, Arkansas moved Rudell Crim to safety during the spring. Ramon Broadway returns at the other cornerback and Elton Ford at the other safety.
2009 conference record: 3-5
Offense: 9; Defense: 7; Kicker/punter: 2
QB Ryan Mallett, RB Ronnie Wingo Jr., WR Greg Childs, WR Joe Adams, TE D.J. Williams, OT DeMarcus Love, DE Jake Bequette, LB Jerry Franklin
RB Michael Smith, OG Mitch Petrus, DE Adrian Davis, DT Malcolm Sheppard, LB Wendel Davis
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Broderick Green* (442 yards)
Passing: Ryan Mallett* (3,624 yards)
Receiving: Greg Childs* (894 yards)
Tackles: Jerry Franklin* (94)
Sacks: Adrian Davis and Jake Bequette* (5.5)
Interceptions: Jerry Franklin* and Tramain Thomas* (3)
1. Secondary shuffle: With hopes of shoring up their pass defense – which ranked last in the SEC a year ago – and to get more speed in the secondary, the Hogs moved Rudell Crim from cornerback to safety this spring. Crim played safety in junior college, and it’s a look the Hogs will probably stick with in the fall. Junior cornerback Isaac Madison returns from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season, while senior Ramon Broadway and sophomore Darius Winston are two other cornerbacks the Hogs think they can count on in 2010. Winston was more physical this spring.
2. Pick your playmaker: The hard part for Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett may be picking which of his favorite targets to throw to. He's surrounded by guys who can change the game in a hurry. Receivers Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton combined for 22 touchdown catches last season. D.J. Williams is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league, and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino envisions using all four running backs. Ronnie Wingo Jr. is up to 230 pounds and hasn’t lost a step, and Dennis Johnson had his best spring yet.
3. Keeping the faith: When Arkansas went into Bryant-Denny Stadium a year ago to take on Alabama, Petrino wasn’t sure his team really thought it could win. In a way, that was a turning point for the Hogs, who played much better in their big games the rest of the season. Confidence doesn’t figure to be a problem next season. This is a team that has supreme belief in itself, believes it will find a way to win those close games in 2010 and fully expects to be right there in the middle of the SEC championship race.
1. Proving it on defense: Petrino thinks the defense will be better. The players on that side of the ball insist that they will be better, and the talent and experience certainly suggest that they’ll be better. But now the Hogs have to go out and prove it after some embarrassing outings a year ago where they were torched for big plays and even bigger points. To be fair, they played solid defense in spots last season. The trick will be doing it more consistently and not giving up so many big gainers.
2. Linebacker shortage: One of the trouble spots on defense again figures to be linebacker. There’s not a lot of depth, and some new faces are going to have to come through. Terrell Williams and Jermaine Love battled it out at middle linebacker this spring. That’s a key spot for the Hogs. Junior Jerry Franklin has played a lot of football and will start out on the weak side, but the Arkansas staff has challenged him to get stronger in the weight room. This is a position where Arkansas simply can’t afford to have any injuries next season.
3. Kicking it straight: It wasn’t the best spring for senior place-kicker Alex Tejada, who was inconsistent in scrimmages as well as end-of-practice situations. He also missed an extra point in the spring game that didn’t sit well with Petrino. The Hogs are sure to be in a bunch of close games next season, meaning field goals inside 40 yards and extra points are must-makes. Two freshman kickers arrive this summer, so it could get interesting when practice resumes in August.
He’s seen his defense play with more consistency, more instinctively and react quicker on the practice field.
And let’s face it: The Arkansas defenders are playing against some pretty talented playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
There’s also been a lot of experimenting, moving some guys around and shuffling the depth chart.
One of the big changes this week was Rudell Crim going from cornerback to safety, which immediately gives the Hogs more speed in the secondary.
A year ago, Arkansas was brutal against the pass. The Hogs were last in the SEC and 99th nationally. They gave up 22 touchdown passes, and many of those were big gainers.
In fact, the Hogs went eight straight games where they gave up a touchdown play of 60 yards or longer, and six of those were passes.
“We try not to focus on listening to the bad or the negative,” said junior cornerback Isaac Madison, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. “But the simple fact is that we were who we were last year. We can’t hide that, but we use that to turn it into positive energy and try to become better.”
That positive energy has been more apparent than ever this spring on the practice field.
“These spring practices have been the best spring practices I’ve been around since I’ve been here, and that’s including when we had D-Mac [Darren McFadden] and those guys,” senior defensive end Damario Ambrose said. “Everybody out here is focused. Everybody knows what our goal is, and that is to show everybody how good we really are.
“We want to make sure everybody knows, especially on defense, that we’re going to show up every single game with a purpose, and that’s to work hard and win games.”
The Hogs are still thin at linebacker and can’t afford for somebody like Jerry Franklin to get hurt.
But their numbers on the defensive line and secondary are better than they’ve been under Petrino. A pair of incoming freshmen, tackle Byran Jones of Junction City, Ark., and end Chris Smith of Mount Ulla, N.C., may also be able to help right away.
“We played good defense at times last year,” Petrino said. “We were good against Alabama for three quarters. But we need some good things to happen, because I still think there’s a confidence level there that needs to be reinforced. We need a dominant performance early in the year, or two or three, so we feel it and then build on that confidence.
“I know they know we’re better just because of the way we’ve battled out on the practice field and how physical our scrimmages have been.”
Added Ambrose: "Everybody knows about the high-ranking offense, but we want to come out and show people that we’re a force to be reckoned with, not just the offense.
"We want to score some touchdowns this year."
But at Arkansas, there’s a legitimacy to it, which comes with the territory when you return one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, who’s flanked by all of his top playmakers from a year ago, and a coach who has a long track record of putting together high-powered offenses.
Junior quarterback Ryan Mallett, who threw 30 touchdown passes a year ago, says simply, “As long as all 11 guys are doing their job, and that includes me as the 11th guy, then really nobody can stop us but ourselves.”
Notice there hasn’t been a mention of the Hogs’ defense yet.
And, yes, it’s a fact in the SEC that if you don’t play sound defense, you’re not going to win the championship.
For that matter, only twice last decade did the SEC champion finish lower than 20th nationally in total defense. LSU was 75th in 2001 and Florida 42nd in 2000.
Six of the last seven SEC champions have finished in the top 10 nationally in total defense.
The Hogs were 89th last season in total defense and 72nd the year before, which brings us back to the question everyone’s asking in the Ozarks: Can Arkansas improve enough on defense to be a legitimate SEC contender in 2010?
“Everybody knows about our prolific offense with Coach Petrino and Ryan Mallett and all the other weapons that we have, but this has been our best spring on defense,” said junior cornerback Isaac Madison, who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the preseason.
“With the big strides we’re taking on defense, there’s no way we can’t be contenders. There are lot more guys on this defense who’ve played now and know what to expect. When you have experience, that builds confidence and courage. When you know the guy next to you has been through it, it boosts your composure in tight situations.”
Petrino, who’s as regimented as they come and equally meticulous about keeping to the schedule, feels like the program is right on schedule.
“We wanted to be in position to compete for the championship, and I think we’re right there,” said Petrino, whose Hogs wrap up the spring with their annual Red-White Game on Saturday. “I’m looking forward to the challenge. We know it’s not going to be easy, but I think our players believe it now and that’s the best part of it. They’re practicing to go compete for the conference championship.”
Just recently, Petrino went back and watched tape from spring practice a year ago.
“There’s no question we’re ahead of that,” he said with a confident smile.
In particular, there’s more competition at more spots. And for a change, the defense is pushing back in practice.
Granted, Mallett hasn’t been out there this spring while he recovers from a broken bone in his left foot, but the defense has had more than a few moments.
“Last week was probably the most competitive scrimmage that we’ve had since I’ve been here as far as a battle between the defense and the offense,” Petrino said. “The offense had to work to get first downs, and we didn’t give up a lot of big plays.
“I think we’ve made a lot of strides, but it’s still yet to be seen.”
The Hogs, who finished 8-5 last season, were close in a lot of games. They lost in the fourth quarter against Georgia, Florida and LSU.
And while the defense received most of the blame, Petrino said it’s on the offense to do a few things better this season, too.
A big emphasis this spring has been running the ball better and more consistently and doing it in the toughest situations. The Hogs have a four-headed backfield -- Ronnie Wingo Jr., Dennis Johnson, Broderick Green and Knile Davis -- and they’re all different types of runners.
“We have to do a better job of running the ball against the real good teams, moving the ball, getting first downs and keeping the other offense off the field,” Petrino said. “The toughest thing about playing a team like Alabama is that if you have to throw the ball and they know it, you’re going to get hit.”
The other key, if the Hogs are indeed going to push the Crimson Tide in the West next season, is learning how to finish games.
Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee admits that Arkansas was a team prone to fourth quarter-itis a year ago.
“We have the personnel right now to run with anybody in the country for three quarters,” McGee said. “When you get in the fourth quarter, all decisions count. The next step for us is performance in the fourth quarter, making it happen, making the plays to win the game.
“We were there against Georgia, there against Florida, there against LSU, right there in the fourth quarter and didn’t perform like we had earlier in the game. So, it’s not going to be about our talent or about schemes this year. It’s going to be about us developing chemistry and us getting our confidence level to the point where we can go into these stadiums and win on the road in the fourth quarter.”
Senior tight end D.J. Williams shrugs at the thought of the Hogs not being able to handle the hype. They will almost certainly start the season ranked in the Top 25, and two games in September are already looming large – at Georgia on Sept. 18 and home against Alabama on Sept. 25.
“Nobody expects more out of us than we do ourselves,” Williams said. “But now it’s time to go do it."
His coach couldn’t agree more.
“That’s a big part of it, making sure everyone believes it and everyone buys into it,” Petrino said. “We’ve got to get to where it’s not just talk and words and a dream … but where we’re right there doing it.”
So much so that senior Rudell Crim worked at safety Tuesday in practice. Crim started all 13 games at cornerback last season, but played safety in junior college.
Arkansas, which was last in the SEC in pass defense a year ago, should have some depth at cornerback in 2010, especially with junior Isaac Madison set to return after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
Crim’s move to safety also tells you something about the lack of stability at that position. The Hogs are still looking for the right combination in the secondary, and Petrino said they would continue to move people around in order to get the best four players on the field.
With Crim sliding over to safety, sophomore Darius Winston worked with the first team Tuesday at cornerback. The Hogs also feel good about sophomore David Gordon’s potential at cornerback, although Gordon has been limited this spring and still has prove he can stay healthy.
The Hogs’ most experienced cornerback is senior and three-year letterman Ramon Broadway, who started in five games last season and six the year before.
Madison also did more Tuesday in practice than he’s done to this point in the spring, and he’ll get some contact in Saturday’s Red-White spring game. Losing Madison last preseason was a huge blow to Arkansas’ defense.
“We’ve got some guys back there who’ve played,” Petrino said. “What they need now is for something good to happen to them, to play well early next season and build on that confidence.”
- Florida receiver Carl Moore's future with the Gators is uncertain after missing a second straight practice for personal reasons, writes Jeremy Fowler of The Orlando Sentinel.
- Emmanuel Moody says it's time that he and the rest of the Florida running backs step up and play a bigger role for the Gators.
- Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb is making a run at durability, writes Charles Goldberg of The Birmingham News.
- The SEC teams are using the spring to sort out their quarterback situations, writes Joe Biddle of The Tennessean.
- It's a more hands-on Joker Phillips now as Kentucky's head coach, writes Chip Cosby of The Lexington Herald-Leader.
- Mississippi State's O'Neal Wilder follows his heart and chooses track over football, writes Kyle Veazey of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
- The return of cornerback Isaac Madison from a knee injury has been a calming factor for the Arkansas coaches.
- A redshirt season could be in the works for converted Georgia linebacker Richard Samuel.
Of note, sophomore Ronnie Wingo Jr. will open No. 1 at running back. He's now pushing 230 pounds. Petrino thinks he has four running backs who can play, and they're all different types of runners. One thing he'd like to see out of junior Dennis Johnson is more durability.
Also, senior Jermaine Love is listed as the starter at middle linebacker, while both Jerry Franklin and Freddy Burton -- the starters a year ago -- are listed at one outside linebacker spot and junior Jerico Nelson at the other outside linebacker spot.
Junior Isaac Madison, who missed last season after suffering a knee injury, is listed third-team at one cornerback, but that will change. Madison probably won't go through much contact in the spring, but he was the Hogs' best cornerback before he got hurt. They never recovered in the secondary after he went down.
With Ryan Mallett recovering from a broken toe this spring, Tyler Wilson will work with the first unit at quarterback.
"This is my time to get better as a player, quarterback and person," Wilson said. "I’m going to come in every day like this is my team and my responsibility. The way the team is during the spring is a reflection of how it will be during the season, so I take it as my duty to lead this team and get things ready for Ryan whenever he’s able to get back on the field."
Junior defensive end Jake Bequette said the goal for the defense this spring was crystal clear.
"Our goal is to bring up the caliber of our defense," Bequette said. "We always set our expectations high, and in order to do that, we have to be more consistent. We have to have those complete games and we are holding teams in single digits and really shutting them down. We want to keep the ball in our offense's hands and allow them to be really successful.“
Suffice it to say that Year No. 3 under Petrino brings with it some heavy-duty expectations. This will be his most talented team, his most experienced team, and the schedule turns a little bit in the Hogs’ favor.
Arkansas could start the season ranked in the top 20 of the preseason poll, something the Hogs haven’t done since 1999.
Junior quarterback Ryan Mallett returns as one of the most feared passers in the country, and the arsenal of playmakers surrounding him is as stocked as any Petrino has ever coached.
If the defense comes through, it could be a season to remember in Fayetteville.
Granted, that’s a big if when you look at the Hogs’ defensive numbers from the past two seasons, but Petrino is confident they will be improved on that side of the ball.
Petrino talked about his defense and a lot more in a recent Q&A I did with him heading into the spring. The Hogs open practice on March 30 and play their spring game on April 24:
Even though Mallett’s going to be sidelined this spring with the broken bone in his left foot, how important are these next three or four months for him if he’s going to become a truly great quarterback?
Bobby Petrino: The one thing you know he’ll do is work real hard at it. He just won’t get the 15 practices in, but should be good to go for all the summer work. He’ll certainly be in the classroom doing everything he needs to do to get ready and take that next step.
What gives you hope that your defense will be better next season and more consistent?
BP: We’ve recruited hard the last two years on defense and really tried to address issues in the secondary and the defensive front. So I think we’re going to be more talented and more physical on defense this year. We have to tackle better, and we have to stop the explosive plays. That’s what really hurt our defense a year ago. We would play good and play good and then give up a big play.
Sort of like the Alabama game last season when you were within a touchdown in the third quarter and then give up an 80-yard touchdown pass?
BP: Our defense had played great, and they hit an 80-yard touchdown. And we’re right there. We just don’t make the play on the ball. So we’ve got to do a better job of playing the ball in the air and just stopping the big plays. The deep play-actions and screens are what hurt our defense more than anything.
How important is getting Isaac Madison back at cornerback after he missed all last season with a knee injury?
BP: He’ll be back and is doing real well (with his recovery). That was a huge loss for us because he’s our fastest, most experienced, smartest secondary player. He should be back at full speed and ready to go. He’s doing everything right now. I’m not sure I’ll let him do the contact part of spring ball. He’ll do everything else.
How would you assess the rest of your defense?
BP: Our defensive front will be good, and we’ll have depth. We’ve got [Jake] Bequette coming back and Damario Ambrose and Tenarius Wright at the defensive ends and then inside a lot of guys with a lot of experience coming back with [Zach] Stadther and D.D. Jones, Pat Jones, [Lavunce] Askew and [Alfred] Davis. All those guys have played a bunch of football, which is new. We haven’t had guys who’ve played a bunch of football before. At linebacker, I’m a little concerned about depth. That’s been an area where we’ve been hurt by a lack of depth. We have to have a good spring in developing depth at linebacker, but we do have a lot of experience in Freddy Burton and Jerry Franklin. Jerry has started every game since I’ve been here, and he’s just a junior. But I am worried behind those guys.
As you look at all the intangibles it takes to compete for a championship, do you believe you guys are closer to being there?
BP: We’re definitely closer. Experience is something that really helps, the understanding of what we want to do and then our expectations. I think we took a huge step last year from the Alabama game to the Florida game. We went into the Alabama game and didn’t execute and didn’t play as well as we could. But also, I don’t think we expected to win, and I don’t think we executed because we were a little intimidated. Then when we went to Florida, our guys competed really, really hard and did everything they could to win the game. Mentally, we grew up and matured.
Your new offensive line coach, Chris Klenakis, was on staff at Nevada last season where the Wolf Pack led the country in rushing with an average of 344.9 yards per game. They were third nationally in 2008. What kind of dimension does he bring to your running game?
BP: He’s the guy who invented the Pistol [offense], he and coach Chris [Ault] together. I coached with Coach K before [at Nevada] and put together an offense before with him and were very successful. He’s a very good teacher in the offensive front, but he also understands every other aspect of the offense. I think we’ll be much more physical in the run game next year. We actually ran what everybody wants to call the Pistol last year and executed the passing game really well out of it. Now, we need to run the ball better out of it.
When you look at your running game, you appear to have all the different pieces in place in the backfield?
BP: I’m really excited about our backfield. This spring will be very, very competitive. Ronnie Wingo has sprinter speed. He won the 100 and 200 meters in the state of Missouri in high school and today weighs 230 pounds. He really excites me. The other guys are all capable. Broderick Green is 248 pounds and the big guy we need back there. Knile Davis is up in the 220s. We have a chance now where we can be much more physical running the ball and running the ball downhill. That’s so important in this league. When you get into a battle with Alabama, you have to be patient and run the ball and not give up the negative plays. That’s what they’re so good at, causing you to have negative plays.
You’ve obviously had some potent offenses during your career. Where do you think this one stacks up in terms of playmakers and the ability to score in a variety of ways.
BP: When you look at the overall picture, it’s the deepest group [of playmakers] I’ve had. We have to prove that we can do it up front. That’s where we have to make great improvement. But when you have a Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright all coming back with two years of experience, and they’ve all made a lot of plays in this conference, that’s exciting. Our young guy, Cobi Hamilton, might be better than all of them. He’s a special, special talent and made a lot of plays last year as a freshman. But we’ve got to take care of business in the offensive front so we can be consistent.
How much do you feel the fans’ expectations?
BP: I feel good about the expectations of our players, the expectations of our team. That’s the key. We’re hoping everyone expects us to win, and if the fans do, then obviously that’s great. But the best part of it is when our players expect to take the field and win, and I think we’ll be that way this year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Just some awful news for Arkansas, which has lost starting cornerback Isaac Madison for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
He suffered the injury in last Saturday's scrimmage, and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino announced Monday that Madison, a junior, is out for the season.
The last thing the Hogs need is another rash of injuries on defense. They had several key guys go down last season, and the secondary remains one of the most unproven spots on the team.
Sophomore Greg Gatson replaced Madison in Saturday's scrimmage and was also working in that spot Monday in practice. The future would also seem to be now for several first-year players, including true freshmen David Gordon and Darius Winston. Gordon has made several plays this preseason.