Over the course of only a couple decades, national powerhouse teams have come and gone. Smaller schools have risen to rank among the most talented and respected in the nation only to be knocked down after a few seasons of glory.
In 2009, the Razorbacks of Arkansas will take a place that won't be among the nation's elite, but on the cusp of a comeback.
In Bobby Petrino's first year coaching in 'The Natural State,' Arkansas had one of its most disappointing seasons since 1992, when they were shocked by The Citadel 3-10.
After squeaking by Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe (each decided by four points or less in the fourth quarter), the 'backs went on to be pummeled by three eventual 'Top 5' teams: Alabama, Texas, and Florida.
During the remainder of the season, three of four losses were decided by three points or less, giving the fans of Arkansas hope. The season concluded with a last-minute victory over arch-rival LSU, 31-30 to soften the blow of a no-bowl season. Then the off-season began.
Recruiting landed a five-star prospect in DB Darius Winston, then eight 4-star prospects with three on offense, four on defense and one unassigned. They also picked up 4-star recruit Broderick Green out of USC to share some snaps with Senior RB Michael Smith.
Arkansas also acquired former MSU Spartan head coach John L. Smith to take over special teams. The most important change during the off-season was undoubtedly the transition from QB Casey Dick to QB Ryan Mallett following his transfer from Michigan and red-shirted 2008 season.
It's no secret Mallett is the perfect fit for Petrino's offensive style with a strong arm and excellent decision-making ability. He also has a strong receiving core to throw to with Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Jarius Wright, as well as an outstanding tight-end in D.J. Williams.
The Hogs will be returning veteran wideouts Lucas Miller and London Crawford as well to add to Mallett's support.
Previous season's field general, Casey Dick, adjusted as best he could to Petrino's scheme and threw for just a touch over 2500 yards, 13 touchdowns, and averaged 235 yards per game through 10 of 11 starts, vaulting them to the second-ranked passing offense in the SEC.
The defense, however, ranked last in the SEC in total defense and scoring, tying with Louisiana-Monroe nationally.
In Petrino's second year look for some noticeable improvements, such as a vast improvement in offensive scoring as Mallett takes the reigns and shows off his arm against powerful SEC defenses.
Look for defensive improvements after great pick-ups in recruiting and a nice spring game showing. Most importantly, look for Arkansas to be much more than a floor mat this year in the SEC and maybe even finish atop the SEC West.
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