SEC: Jose Valdez

Arkansas spring wrap-up

May, 5, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Arkansas Razorbacks
2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 8; Defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Michael Smith, WR Joe Adams, WR Lucas Miller, TE D.J. Williams, OG Mitch Petrus, DE Adrian Davis, DT Malcolm Sheppard, LB Wendell Davis, LB Jerry Franklin

Key losses

QB Casey Dick, OT Jose Valdez, C Jonathan Luigs, P Jeremy Davis

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Michael Smith* (1,072 yards)
Passing: Casey Dick (2,586 yards)
Receiving: D.J. Williams* (723 yards)
Tackles: Jerry Franklin* (87)
Sacks: Malcolm Sheppard* (6.5)
Interceptions: Jerry Franklin* and Ramon Broadway* (2)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Missouri State
Sept. 19 Georgia
Sept. 26 at Alabama
Oct. 3 Texas A&M (Arlington)
Oct. 10 Auburn
Oct. 17 at Florida
Oct. 24 at Ole Miss
Oct. 31 Eastern Michigan
Nov. 7 South Carolina
Nov. 14 Troy
Nov. 21 Mississippi State
Nov. 28 at LSU
Mallett takes charge: Arkansas ended the spring with Ryan Mallett as the starter. There was a caveat of sorts, though, from Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. That's if the Razorbacks played a game today, meaning that Tyler Wilson isn't completely out of the race when preseason practice begins in August. Both Mallett and Wilson threw the ball well and put up big numbers this spring, but it's Mallett's job at this point.

Playmakers galore: The Hogs shouldn't have any shortage of guys who can make a play on offense. Sophomore receivers Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs all had big springs and will be a year better after playing as true freshmen a year ago. D.J. Williams is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country, and running back Michael Smith should be healthy again come fall.

Not so defensive on defense: Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson will have the depth and personnel to do more things on defense next season. He was handicapped by inexperience and injuries last season. The linebacker corps is solid, led by senior Wendel Davis, and senior defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard has bulked up and has the quickness to make life miserable for opposing offensive linemen.

Fall questions

Running game: One of the Razorbacks' priorities during this past recruiting class was to find some bigger running backs to help Smith, who missed the spring while recovering from hamstring surgery. Freshman Knile Davis was having a great spring, but injured his knee. Broderick Green, a 242-pound transfer from Southern California, is another possibility, but he's still waiting to hear if he'll be eligible in the fall.

Navigating the schedule: There's no such thing as an easy schedule in the SEC. But Arkansas' path in 2009 is as brutal as it gets. The Hogs are the only team in the league that has to play at Florida, at Ole Miss, at Alabama and at LSU. They also face Georgia at home and Texas A&M at a neutral site. The Hogs will be a much-improved team. The hard part will be improving their record with such a killer schedule.

Putting the "special" in special teams: Arkansas struggled in most facets of special teams last season. The Hogs were last in the SEC in kickoff coverage and punt return average. They're also replacing their punter, Jeremy Davis, who averaged 43.2 yards per kick. Petrino brought in former Michigan State and Louisville coach John L. Smith to oversee the kicking game, which will need to be better if Arkansas is going to make a move in the West.