SEC

2010 NCAA Football Preview: Arkansas Razorbacks

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 8-5, 3-5
Bowl Game: Liberty Bowl (@ 20-17 vs. East Carolina)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 4th SEC West
Offensive rank: 20
Defensive rank: 89

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2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Broderick Green, 442 yards, 11 TD
Passing: Ryan Mallett, 3,624 yards, 30 TD, 7 INT
Receiving: Greg Childs, 894 yards, 7 TD
Tackles: Jerry Franklin, 94 total tackles
Sacks: Adrian Davis and Jake Bequette, 5.5 sacks (5 solo, 1 assisted)
Interceptions: Jerry Franklin and Tramain Thomas, 3 interceptions (Thomas, 1 touchdown)

2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 18 @ Georgia: This road trip to Athens may prove a linchpin in the Razorbacks' season. Sure it's their first SEC game of the year and there will be plenty of opportunities to grab wins in the conference, but with a tough matchup against the defending champs the next week, beginning SEC play 0-2 would not help their push to win the West.

September 25 vs. Alabama: A loss to 'Bama is not a guarantee by any means. The Razorbacks have not fared well in this series of late, losing four of the last five with the lone win coming in a 2006 overtime contest. If they can take down the defending champs, and especially if they can also beat the Bulldogs the week before, Arkansas will hold the inside track to Atlanta at the end of the season.

November 27 vs. LSU: Getting Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss at home is a gift in the SEC. Now they'll just have to capitalize and win at least two of these games. Ole Miss is in a bit of a rebounding year, so a team like the Razorbacks with SEC title aspirations needs to win that one, leaving a split with Alabama and LSU a plausible goal. One loss in the West could be enough to win the division, or at the very least come oh-so-close.

AP: 22nd

Coaches': 23rd

Key Losses

Michael Smith, RB; Mitch Petrus, G; Adrian Davis, DE; Malcolm Sheppard, DT; Wendel Davis, LB

Key Returning Players

Ryan Mallett, QB; the backfield sans Michael Smith; Greg Childs, WR; Joe Adams, WR; D.J. Williams, TE; DeMarcus Love, OT; Jake Bequette, DE; Jerry Franklin, LB

Offensive Overview

The Razorbacks return preseason Heisman candidate Ryan Mallett at quarterback to an offense that ranked 20th in the nation last season and loses very little. The offense will again be the strength of this team and Mallett is the perfect quarterback to lead the effort. The Hogs will use a form of the Pistol this season, and while Nevada may lead the nation in rushing from the formation, the passing game will still rule at Arkansas. Mallett suffered a foot injury that kept him out this spring, but is expected to be ready to go for the start of the season. His ability to stay healthy will be key to Arkansas competing in the division.

Four running backs could be used this season. Dennis Johnson is a smaller, scat back type; Broderick Green is a big back who was used in goal line situations last year, scoring 11 touchdowns and also leading the team with 442 rushing yards; Ronnie Wingo is listed at 227 pounds and could emerge as a featured back at some point in his career; and Knile Davis is more of an aggressive runner, although he isn't exactly the fastest kid on the team. The offensive line will be good, not great next season. There are plenty of veterans including guard DeMarcus Love, who could be among the nation's top guard prospects for next year's draft. This will be a veteran line that should be formidable in both aspects of the offense.

The wide receivers are another story. More than formidable, they might be the best group in the SEC, or even the entire nation. Greg Childs is the leader of the bunch after leading the team with 894 yards and tying with Joe Adams, who also returns, as the leader in touchdowns with seven. Jarius Wright was second on the team with 681 yards and five touchdowns and will also play a major role. The depth is there as well with Cobi Hamilton and Lance Ray itching for opportunities. Perhaps the best of them all is tight end D.J. Williams, who is among the top tight ends in the nation. He isn't exceptionally tall, but he's a phenomenal pass catcher who, along with the slew of receivers, will give Mallett plenty of chances to put up some nice numbers. The passing game ranked 10th in the nation last season. Expect another top 10 performance.

Defensive Overview

The defense is the key to a good season and the secondary is the catalyst. They don't have to hold opponents to 10 points a game or anything, but they'll have to stop allowing 400+ yards per game, as they did in 2009. The scoring defense wasn't awful (25.08 points per game), but seeing that number dip below 20 would be a very welcoming sight. And then there's the pass defense. The 99th ranked pass defense and 12th in the SEC just won't cut it for a team with SEC title dreams.

A cornerback a year ago, Rudell Crim moves to strong safety. He didn't have an outstanding year at corner in 2009, but the hope is that he'll be more productive as a hitter from the strong safety spot. Tramain Thomas will get the nod at free safety, but Elton Ford should be a big part of the rotation as well. Ramon Broadway and Darius Winston will take over at cornerback and Isaac Madison returns from a torn ACL that sidelined him in 2009.

Jerry Franklin is the leader of the linebackers corps and is a major playmaker who should put up some good stats once more. The leading tackler a year ago with 94 and tied for the lead in interceptions with three, Franklin, a former safety, is a fantastic athlete in for another big year. Jerico Nelson could move to safety if the secondary struggles, but he'll start the year as an outside linebacker. In the middle, Jermaine Love and Terrell Williams will battle for time. Freddy Burton should see time as a backup on the outside.

Jake Bequette was the co-leader in sacks a year ago with 5.5 and will be looked upon to be the team's top pass rusher. Tenarius Wright will line up opposite Bequette looking to take advantage of any added attention that he demands. Zach Stadther and Patrick Jones should get the nod on the inside with an eye on shutting down the run for a team that ranked 73rd in the nation, and ninth in the SEC, in rush defense. There is plenty of depth with Lavunce Askew, Damario Ambrose, DeQuinta Jones and Calvin Barnett, who was one of the team's top recruits in February and is listed at 330 pounds on the official Arkansas football website.

Special Teams Overview

Alex Tejada hit 16 of his 22 field goal attempts and 58 of his 59 extra point attempts. He had a long of 47 yards, but was just 3 for 7 from beyond 40 yards. The Razorbacks will look for greater consistency out of Tejada this season. One of the younger guys could see time if he struggles. Dylan Breeding will be the punter in the upcoming season, but averaged only 38.7 yards per punt as the starter last season. All-around improvement in the Hogs' kicking game will be key going into the season.

Dennis Johnson is expected to serve as the primary kick returner once again after returning 40 kicks for 1,031 yards and a touchdown. His 25.8 yard average was great and the Razorbacks will hope he can duplicate his '09 success. The punt return game was nothing special last year and the chance will be there for somebody to step up and claim the job with the top punt returners from last year's squad gone.

Head Coach: Bobby Petrino

The way in which Bobby Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons didn't sit well with a lot of folks in Atlanta, but he has the Razorbacks on the right track since taking over for the 2008 season. Petrino has made several coaching stops throughout his career including 2003 to 2006 when he was the head coach at Louisville, coaching the Cardinals to two one-loss seasons. His 11-1 season in 2004 was capped by a Conference USA title and a Liberty Bowl win over the previously undefeated Boise State Broncos. In 2006, he took the Cardinals to a 12-1 record and, with Louisville now a member of the Big East, a Big East Championship. He finished the year, and his Louisville career, with a 24-13 Orange Bowl victory over ACC champs Wake Forest. Since taking over at Arkansas, he coached the Hogs to a 5-7 season in 2008—a bit of a dip from the previous two seasons—but led the way to an 8-5 season and a January bowl in 2009. In 2010, he figures to bring his squad back to double-digit wins.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

D.J. Williams, TE; DeMarcus Love, OT; Rudell Crim, CB

Season Prediction

2nd SEC West

This is assuming the defense, and especially the secondary, improve in 2010. If they do not and teams continue to put up big numbers in the passing game, that second place prediction could turn into fourth place or worse with a few more losses. Mallett and the passing game will be outstanding and the four-back rotation will make for a nice ground game, but it isn’t fair to expect them to engage in weekly shootouts to come up with wins.

If the shuffling in the secondary works and everybody performs up to their potential, we could be looking at a special season for the Hogs that could ultimately culminate in an SEC West title and trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. They'll almost certainly have to beat Alabama to earn that right and more than one SEC loss could sink those dreams in a hurry, but the schedule isn't a killer and plenty of talent, especially on offense, returns for this to potentially be a year to remember. We'll see how opportunistic Bobby Petrino's squad is this season. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

 

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