Arkansas Football: Projecting Stats for the Razorbacks' Key Stars in 2012
After finishing 11-2 in 2011, the Arkansas Razorbacks have had a very interesting off-season.
Head coach Bobby Paterno was caught in a shocking scandal that left Fayetteville hurt and confused. His firing meant that the football team not only lost their coach and leader but also the town lost the one and only man they trusted.
Arkansas football is the face of this small place and no one knows how the team or city will respond this upcoming fall.
The Razorback football team is returning a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and will also be relying on new stars to fill in the missing pieces. This team should certainly be in consideration for not only an SEC championship but also a national title.
Here are the statistical predictions for five of the biggest stars on the Arkansas Razorback football team who will be expected to perform at a high level and lead this team to success.
After a breakout season in 2010, Knile Davis did not even have a chance to follow it up after a preseason ankle injury.
Now, after months of rehab, Davis is back and ready to rock the Razorback backfield. In his outstanding sophomore season, he rushed for over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns. He will certainly surpass these marks in 2012, rushing for about 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The now-junior running back is a very talented athlete, combining great speed and power. His 6'1" and 226-pound frame allows him to take it between the tackles and, with his quickness and shiftiness, he can burst it to the outside and be a challenge for defenses to bring down.
Arkansas was ranked ninth in the SEC in rushing last season and, with Davis back, the offense will certainly climb the rankings. Davis will look to make up for lost time and show opposing defenses why their jobs just got a lot harder.
Replacing the top three wide receivers of the Arkansas offense from 2011 will be one of the biggest challenges for the upcoming season.
Joe Adams, Janus Wright, and Greg Childs combined for a total of 141 passes last season and provided constant stress and problems for opposing secondaries. There was always one of them open, no matter how great the defense played.
Cobi Hamilton is the player that quarterback Tyler Wilson will now turn to and rely on as his No. 1 target. Hamilton caught 34 passes and four touchdowns last season and is expected to be one of the top wide receiver prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft.
The senior will be looked up to to lead a young receiving core for the Razorback offense. He will have about 50 catches and 10 to 12 touchdowns.
Wilson and Razorback nation should have no concerns with lighting up defensive backs this upcoming season.
Tyler Wilson was one of the most intriguing and talked-about quarterbacks in college football last year.
He had the task of stepping in for Ryan Mallett and living up to his 4-star recruit potential. And that is exactly what he did.
Wilson threw for over 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011, outperforming his predecessor and completing 63 percent of his passes. He led the Razorbacks to a top-five national ranking.
He had the opportunity to enter the 2012 NFL Draft and opted to return for his senior season. He will follow-up his impressive junior year performance with very similar numbers. He should throw around 3,800 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Tyler Wilson is one of the purest passers and, now that he has returned to school, he will be expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country. How he is able to handle the pressure and hype that follows a successful season and the expectations of a projected top-10 2013 NFL Draft quarterback will dictate much of how Wilson and the Arkansas Razorbacks' season will go.
The Arkansas defense has been the downfall for the team in recent years.
Now that they lost their two leading tacklers from last season, the pressure on that side of the ball will be even greater. The Razorbacks will look for someone to step up and take the leadership role and help guide the defense on the right path.
Many eyes will be turning to Alonzo Highsmith, who had 80 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year. The first-year transfer from Phoenix College is tough and instinctive and can certainly build on these numbers. He will have around the same number of tackles and can reach about six or seven sacks this upcoming season.
The senior will be depended upon to help lead the defense and guide the younger players. The Arkansas Razorbacks look to have one of the most talented linebacking cores in the country and Highsmith can be the face of it.
Chris Gragg is one of the most talented tight ends in the country. Now that Tyler Wilson's three leading receiver weapons are gone, the expectations on Gragg have increased that much more.
The 6'3" senior had 41 receptions and over 500 yards last season. These numbers are very low, considering he averaged over 12 yards per catch and his longest reception was 41 yards.
Gragg, along with wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, will be expected to step in and take over the leading receiving role. Gragg must have around 50 receptions, around 600 yards, and seven or eight touchdowns.
The senior is a big target at 236 pounds and will have lots of eyes watching him and grading his prospect-ranking for the next level. Look for him to live up to the hype and make big catches across the middle and down-the-field for Wilson and provide an uplift for the Razorbacks' offense.