Countdown to Kickoff 2009: The Preseason Top 50—No. 46 Arkansas Razorbacks

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Countdown to Kickoff 2009: The Preseason Top 50—No. 46  Arkansas Razorbacks

Spring practice has wrapped up across the country and we are a little over four months away from kickoff. To make the time go a little faster, I will count down my top 50 teams one team at a time.


No. 47  Michigan Wolverines

No. 46  ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

Bobby Petrino has known success.  His Louisville teams were among the best in the country.  In his final season with the Cardinals the team reached the BCS and beat a good Wake Forest team in the Orange Bowl.

Petrino, who began his career in 1983 and changed jobs 14 times since, always wanted something more. 

Weeks after his Orange Bowl victory, Petrino resigned from Louisville to accept the Atlanta Falcons head coaching job.  Then, all hell broke loose.

We all know the saga.  Michael Vick went to prison, the Falcons players never really took to Petrino's coaching style, and he resigned his position to take the Arkansas job with three games remaining on the Falcons schedule.

When he met with the press for the first time as Arkansas head coach, the media fueled criticism of him was at a fever pitch.  Petrino went to work.

Though the record left something to be desired, the team showed progress in the second half of their first season under Petrino.  That progress has Razorback fans excited about the future. 

The future, in most Hog's eyes, is quarterback Ryan Mallett.  The Michigan transfer sat out last season per NCAA rules, but was eligible this spring. 

The junior brings a big arm and should thrive in Bobby Petrino's offense, but will compete with redshirt freshman Jim Youngblood and Tyler Wilson, who appeared in two games in 2008 before getting a medical hardship, in the spring.

Whoever the quarterback is, they will have a deep and experienced receiving corp.  Arkansas returns six speedy receivers who had at least 18 catches in 2008, and that was without a star quarterback throwing the ball.  Former walk-on Lucas Miller was the second-leading receiver behind D.J. Williams, who also splits out wide at times.

Williams was a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award and set a school record as a tight end for receptions in a game (10) and a season (61).

The Hogs are solid at running back, too.  Michael Smith, last season's leading rusher, should be back from a torn hamstring injury.  But even if he is slowed, Petrino has a bevy of talented backs waiting for their opportunity.

Battling Smith for playing time will be USC transfer Broderick Green, sophomore Dennis Johnson who rushed for more than 120 yards in last season's win over LSU,  four-star prospect De'Anthony Curtis, and Knile Davis, a four-star prospect who enrolled early and participated in spring practice.

The Razorbacks return all four starters on the line which should be the strength of the defense.  The secondary may be as big a weakness.

Arkansas suffered with coverage issues all last season. Though the Razorbacks ranked an average 54th nationally in pass defense, they also gave up 22 touchdown passes and allowed 200 or more yards in eight games.

Patching up the secondary is near the top of the "to do" list this spring.  Elton Ford, who was playing well until a neck injury against Ole Miss ended his season prematurely, returns. 

Isaac Madison is also back, but struggled through the whole season. So, Petrino responded by signing three junior college defensive backs, which will open up the competition.

 

KEEP AN EYE ON

Knile Davis: The No. 17 running back in the nation in the class of 2009 enrolled early and has a step on some other highly touted running backs in the class.  The 17-year-old Davis brings a dimension of power to the backfield.

Ryan Mallett: Rated the nation's No. 4 prospect two years ago, Mallett has a big body (6 feet 6/255 pounds) and a big arm, and he figures to be perfect fit in Petrino's offense.

Andru Stewart: Although Stewart appeared in just six games for the College of the Sequoias last season, he still had three interceptions, forced four fumbles and blocked two kicks. Arkansas needs a playmaker in the secondary, and Stewart—who enrolled in January—has shown he can be one.

 

PETRINO WON'T BE "TWITTERING"

Georgia’s Mark Richt caught on quick and Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin soon followed. USC's Pete Carroll might just be the most popular coach in the Twitterverse.

Will Petrino follow step?

“I don’t even know what it is,” Petrino said. “What is Twittering?”

As a reporter tried to explain Twitter to the coach he had revelation. “I have Twitter,” he recalled.

“I have it set up because (sports information director) Kevin (Trainor) set it up to make sure nobody else did. But he didn’t tell me the password and, what else? There’s something else you have to know on there. I don’t know the codes.

We got it set up so I can do it; so you can’t get on there on my name and [people] think that I’m Twittering.”

The horror, coach.  Can't have anyone think you'd be "twittering".

 

UP NEXT:  The Pac-10 checks in at No. 45.  This team went to a bowl game for the first time in 10 years last season.  Can they take the next step?

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