Houston Nutt left big shoes to fill in Fayetteville. Then in steps Bobby Petrino, and the suddenly things don’t look so bad.
So what, that the Razorbacks only mustered a 5-7 season, Petrino did something that Nutt, could not do: turn Casey Dick into a legitimate quarterback.
However this year the Hogs have a stud quarterback in former Michigan player Ryan Mallett. Mallett is 6-foot-7 and has a cannon for an arm.
The main target for Mallett will be tight end D.J. Williams. Williams caught 61 passes for 723 yards last season.
Williams will be the safety valve while Joe Adams, London Crawford, and Jarius Wright look to expand the Hogs offense.
Senior Lucas Miller looks to fit into the rotation at some point after tearing his ACL against LSU.
The biggest threat is running back Michael Smith. He topped the 1,000-yard mark last season and has some great abilities in the open field.
Smith is not the dominant back that Arkansas grew accustomed to with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The smaller back is quick as lighting and is hard to grasp in space.
Dennis Johnson and De’Anthony Curtis put in quality time during the spring, as Smith was out after surgery. Look for the running game to still be a strong point as Mallett learns how potent the Petrino offense is.
The O-line is lacking one of the most heralded linemen in SEC history, Jonathan Luigs. Former guard Wade Grayson is taking over for the departed award winner.
Both tackles, Ray Dominguez and DeMarcus Love, return to secure the outside. Meanwhile, Seth Oxner and Mitch Petrus look to hold down the guard spots.
The entire front seven returns to Reynolds Razorback Stadium, from last season. Defensive ends Jake Bequette and Adrian Davis will wreak havoc on opposing teams. Malcolm Sheppard is free to roam for the Razorbacks in the interior D-line.
Zach Stadther is the other tackle and looks to cash in on the opportunities that will arise due to the attention Sheppard will draw.
Linebackers Freddy Burton, Wendel Davis, and Jerry Franklin look to lead the Hogs in defense. Davis received lots of attention from the coaching staff after a strong spring practice.
Franklin is aggressive getting to the ball. The Backs are lead by corners Isaac Madison and Ramon Broadway. The X-factor will be Jerell Norton. Strong safety, Jerico Nelson looks to be an enforcer across the field.
The free safety position is up for grabs between Matt Harris, Tramain Thomas, and Elton Ford. Ford is still questionable after a serious neck injury last season.
Reynolds Razorback Stadium hosts Georgia, Auburn, Eastern Michigan, South Carolina, and Troy.
The Razorbacks will have three neutral site games. They will face Missouri State and Mississippi State in Little Rock. They will also travel to Arlington to face the Texas A&M Aggies.
With a new quarterback in Petrino’s system, I don’t think that there is a wide receiver that is capable of being the game breaker that is needed in the SEC.
The Hogs will be improved and some young talent will get an opportunity to play early. The Razorbacks finish no better than 5-7.
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