Bobby Petrino has stepped into a bad situation in Fayetteville. Gone are the main pillars of the offense that Houston Nutt and staff made famous.
With Darren McFadden and Felix Jones gone, the offense now belongs to senior quarterback Casey Dick. Dick threw for 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. Junior running back Michael Smith looks to step into the gaps left by McFadden and Jones. He’s a breakaway threat whenever he touches the ball and has Brandon Barnett to come in and pound away, for close yardage situations.
The interior of the o-line remains intact from last year with the defending Rimington Award winner Jonathan Luigs returning for his senior year. Petrino will have to break in two new tackles to keep up with the impressive ends in the SEC. Tight end Andrew Davie returns and will spend time as a traditional tight end and some time at the h-back position.
Looking at returning quarterback Casey Dick, there appears to be a lot of available talent. He has started 22 games and threw for 1,695 yards a year ago. The real test for the remaining quarterbacks will be next year when Michigan transfer Ryan Mallet becomes eligible. Petrino will have three years to work with Mallet and try and resurrect the Arkansas program.
The defense will have to carry the offense for the first part of the year as they return seven starters from last season. The defensive line remains intact as they are led by end Antwain Robinson.
The linebacker’s corps is led by Elston Forte and Freddie Fairchild. Fairchild led the team with four sacks a year ago. The defensive backs will be led by junior corner Jerell Norton. Norton led the team with five interceptions and played at a great level throughout the year.
Petrino’s first year in Arkansas will not be an easy task as they travel to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns in week three. They welcome Alabama, Florida, and Ole Miss to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. However, they travel to Auburn, Kentucky, and Mississippi State. They end the season in Little Rock against the defending national champs, the LSU Tigers.