Imagining What the Razorbacks Starting Lineup Will Look Like in 3 Years
So many things change in a three-year span. From jobs to friends and relationships, three years can make for a much different picture. Change is even more prevalent for college football teams, which have players come and go with the end of every season.
The Arkansas Razorbacks are hoping a lot changes in the next three years after a disastrous 2013 campaign. Head coach Bret Bielema has his work cut out for him to get the Hogs back to the top of the SEC.
The roster is getting stronger with recruiting players to fit their scheme, but how will everything look come time for the 2016 season?
We don't have a time machine to take a look, but what we do have are current players and commits who will give us an idea of it. Here, we take a gander at what the Razorbacks' 2016 starting lineup should look like based on scholarship players who will still be on the team by then and commitments that have yet to play. Uncommitted prospects are not considered, no matter how big of a lean they may be.
All recruiting info courtesy of 247Sports.com.
Peavey was rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports' composite rankings and a 4-star in their regular rankings. There is a good chance he could come in this year and take Brandon Allen's starting spot, woo fans and coaches and end up being in his third year as the starter in 2016. He has the potential to do so and could blossom into a great quarterback for Arkansas.
But, as Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friend.
I believe the starter in 2016 will be the 4-star Storey, who chose the Hogs last June over Alabama and Auburn. He has better size and arm strength than Peavey and overall is a more polished passer. Storey would be a sophomore in 2016 and have a year under his belt to learn the offense.
Arkansas had all sorts of problems at the quarterback position this past year, but it has some solid pieces in place for the future. As stated, it wouldn't be a surprise if Peavey was the starter in 2016, but because of his talent and skill set, Storey seems to be the more likely pick.
Arkansas signed just one running back in 3-star Juan Day for this year's class and is going to sign a few for next year.
With Day, the Razorbacks will have four scholarship backs in 2016, including Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall, who will be seniors, and Denzell Evans, who will be a redshirt junior after sitting out in 2013. If Collins comes back for his senior year, there's no doubt he will be the starter in 2016.
He just finished one of the best freshman seasons in Arkansas and SEC history and is bound for great things. Depending on what the situation calls for, he can either juke past a defender or he can use his power and run them over. What makes Collins so special is his unique blend of speed and power, as well as great ball-carrying vision. However, there's a very good chance he decides to enter the 2015 NFL draft.
If that were to happen, Marshall, who showed flashes as a freshman, would more than likely be the starter.
As it stands today, the Razorbacks will have six wide receivers on scholarship for the 2016 season, with three seniors and three juniors.
They will of course be adding more in the next two classes before that, but out of those six, the two starting spots will be occupied by 4-star JoJo Robinson and 3-star Kendrick Edwards from this year's class.
Robinson is the first explosive playmaker the Hogs have had at receiver since Joe Adams. Though he'll be lining up out wide, Bielema and co. are going to draw up multiple ways to get him the ball. Robinson is electric in open space, and when he turns on the jets, it's hard to catch him.
Edwards will enter 2014 as a raw and tall (6'6") specimen. His size is something you just can't teach, and it gives him a distinct advantage over defensive backs, who are typically not the tallest guys on the field. Arkansas hasn't had a wideout with his size since Marcus Monk, who had a pretty good career himself.
The key adjective defining Edwards is raw. He has to work on his route-running, change of direction and getting more yards after the catch. However, with some work, he could become a very dangerous deep threat for the Hogs and a prime red-zone target. Him being the other starter come 2016 is betting on Edwards improving his weaknesses and fulfilling his vast potential.
If he doesn't, the other starter could possibly be '14 commit Jared Cornelius or Eric Hawkins, who would be a redshirt senior.
Hunter Henry was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, and he lived up to the billing in 2013 as a freshman. He was named a freshman All-American and was an All-SEC performer after finishing with 409 yards and four touchdowns.
Like Collins, if he stays all four years, then there is no doubt Henry will be starting in 2016. So, the real question here is looking at who would start if he's gone.
I've been very high on Jeremy Sprinkle since he stepped onto campus last fall. He's learning the ways of the position and saw some action as a freshman last year, but he's still a little raw. However, in three years, and even in 2014, Sprinkle should be a much bigger part of the offense. If Henry does leave after his junior year, expect Sprinkle to be the guy in the starting lineup.
The Hogs also have '14 commit Jack Kraus, but Sprinkle has the better shot of starting over him. Tight end is a big priority for next year's class, and if the Razorbacks sign 4-star Will Gragg, he could surpass both of them.
The offensive line is a position where there is no lack of depth. In just two recruiting cycles, Bielema and O-line coach Sam Pittman have reeled in some of the top prospects in the country.
Freshmen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper started in 2013 at both guard spots and are the most apparent choices to be the starters for 2016. Skipper is a massive man at 6'10", and working with Pittman has already made him a much more polished player. Kirkland is further along than Skipper at this point and has a very bright future.
Arkansas has stockpiled talent at offensive tackle, and both starting spots could come from the Hogs' most recent class.
Brian Wallace is an advanced run- and pass-blocker for a guy who has never even played at the college level. His talents are undeniable, and if everything goes right, he should be at one of the tackle spots in 2016. Fellow '14 commit Frank Ragnow could very well be the other starter at tackle. He has great strength, and with some fine-tuning, he can be a dominant force for the Hogs.
The starter at center remains unclear. Arkansas has a history of signing guards and tackles and converting a few into centers. There's no way of knowing exactly who the starter will be in 2016, but conventional wisdom says the Hogs will have converted another guy when the time comes.
The Razorbacks have added some key pieces on the defensive line in the last few recruiting classes that should make for a solid group in 2016.
On the interior at the defensive tackle position, the first and most obvious starter is 4-star 2014 commit Bijhon Jackson. Jackson has an excellent first step, and his explosiveness off the snap is matched by few. He would be a junior in 2016, and by that time, he could be vying for All-American honors.
The other defensive tackle spot belongs to Darius Philon, who just completed a very successful freshman campaign. However, he and Jackson will be pushed by 4-star Hjalte Froholdt, who is on board for next year's class.
There are a number of players who could start at the defensive end positions in three years. Jamario Bell, a 4-star recruit who is on board for the '15 class, would be just a sophomore in 2016 but has the talent to start at the strong side by then. Bell must get much better at the point of attack. He is an exceptional athlete, though, and has a prototypical frame for the position.
The weak-side spot could fall to Deatrich Wise or Brandon Lewis, both of whom would be redshirt seniors in 2016. Lewis and Wise saw action in 2013 and have a leg up on other guys because of their experience. Don't count out Tevin Beanum, either.
By far the biggest weakness on the Arkansas team is the linebacker unit. Not only are the Hogs lacking in depth, but they are also lacking in overall talent.
The most likely to be a starter out of all of the linebackers is Brooks Ellis, who will be a senior in 2016. Ellis worked his way into the starting spot in the middle late in the season last year and it looks like he will have a solid career.
The right and left spots are much more of a mystery. If Arkansas can get some studs in the next two classes, then they could perhaps fill the outside spots. But, going off of the three signed this year, Hackett and Ramsey would be the other two starters. Both have a lot to learn with the transition from safety, as does Eugene, but they can tackle well, something Arkansas needs.
There's a better chance at the Hogs signing guys with more talent who will come in and surpass Hackett and Ramsey. Arkansas desperately needs more linebackers, with just four as of now who would be on scholarship come 2016.
With its current roster, Arkansas will have five cornerbacks on scholarship in 2016, including the three it signed this year.
The two starting slots at cornerback will more than likely be filled by D.J. Dean, who would be a senior, and Henre' Toliver, part of the 2014 haul. Toliver has great length and instincts, both of which he uses well in coverage. Dean doesn't have the physical assets Toliver does, but he has good ball skills and should be a key player when his senior year rolls around.
There are four scholarship safeties on the team who will be around in 2016. De'Andre Coley and Alex Brignoni will be seniors, and the two the Hogs just signed, Santos Ramirez and Joshua Liddell, will be juniors.
Who will be playing free and strong safety is unknown, but the two starting spots should be occupied by Brignoni and Ramirez out of the four. Ramirez's size and frame are well suited for the position. He is raw in many areas, but with some coaching, he could become a very big piece in the secondary. Brignoni took 2013 to get better and stronger and should see action this season.
Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.
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