I tried to cover a lot of positions in this look. Again, I didn’t make a prediction of nine. I wrote how the Hogs could get to nine. I don’t make my season prediction until the middle of August.
There is a bit of irony in your selection of Tight End as a ‘breakthrough’ position on this year’s team. If one or two of the youngsters do emerge, as you project, the irony is that most fans will not see it as a surprise or “breakthrough”, because 90%+ of the ones that pay some attention to such things just assume that with all of those 4 stars we’ve recruited there we’re going to be fine there.
Of course, those that look closer (as most on this board do) know that while there is a lot of potential at that position, there is also just a little frustration that none of the youngsters we signed in 2015 have made much of a move just yet. I tend to agree that the “non-sexy” but likely choice to take most of the snaps along with Sprinkle is Kraus, assuming he is fully recovered from last season’s injury. However, the odds are that one (hopefully more) of the young trio also has the light come on for them this year, which will turn a “good, solid” position into a real strength. i.e., the norm for a Bielema team.
Great article, Clay … I think the TCU game is key to getting to 9. If the underdog Hogs can get out of Fort Worth (my new home town) with a win, even by a point, it will do wonders for the team’s confidence going into its SEC opener with the Aggies at JerryWorld. Coach Paul Rhoads may be Arkansas’ secret weapon against these two spread teams he knows so well.
Like Clay, I’m not as concerned as some about the OL or QB situations … for the Razorbacks to win 9, the defense has to return to 2014 form and the kicking game will have to win one when it counts.
How I believe it has to happen:
Opening 3-2 would require a 6-1 finish. That seems to fit the Arkansas way - get the disappointment out of the way early, then go on a roll. But those ridiculous four home games are in those final seven games. A 5-0 or 4-1 start is probably necessary.
That means winning in Texas against one or two spread passing opponents. To do that, not only does the offense need to be able to score touchdowns right away, but the pass rush also needs to be great. Not good.
If Arkansas goes 4-1 to begin, then getting to 9 wins means finishing no worse than 5-2. That means at least splitting the four against Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida and LSU at home. And splitting those would require the Hogs to go 3-0 on the road.
Auburn is a really tricky one. It is the eighth straight game for Arkansas. It is the game after a bye for Auburn and Gus, the coach who loves to prepare for the Hogs.
The more I look at it, 5-0 seems like a necessary path to 9 wins. That means beating TCU and aTm. Both of those teams are in considerable flux. Not going to say it is impossible.
One more thing. For Arkansas to get to 9 wins, it would really help if some of our SEC opponents would show signs of weakness. Most of our league foes have quarterback issues.
Over the past four years, Alabama, LSU and Auburn recruited at an elite level. If you account for who’s still there, aTm, Ole Miss, Florida, Mississippi State and Missouri did not recruit on that same level.
And we know the issues LSU and Auburn have had, converting their recruiting into wins.
Yes, Randy. I don’t factor in what could happen wrong for others. Of all the NEW quarterbacks in the West, I like Austin Allen the best. But I haven’t seen any of those practice. I have seen Austin practice and I know the way the WRs like him.
So, who will the Hogs miss the most from last year and who will rise up with a greatly improved performance over 2015. I’ll say HH and Ramsey.
Clay-did you leave out Ledbetter for a reason or just an oversight?
I’ll be honest, I just don’t see it.
There are some huge, huge holes to fill at some key positions. There is going to be drop off at the QB spot. Austin may have some talent, but I know he’s a long way from where Brandon was at the end of last year. O-line may end up fine, but is going to take awhile to mesh together. TE has talent, but Hunter Henry was the Mackey winner for a reason. Finally, losing Collins to the draft was expected, but you just don’t lose that kind of talent and say there isn’t going to be a bit of a drop off. Alex was a great blocker. That takes time to learn.
Perhaps the slow starts have jaded me. If so, I’ll accept that. I know that my expectations are going to be lowered. Fans thinking 9-10 wins are going to be pretty outraged if we go down to Fort Worth and get beat by a good TCU team. It’s a brutal, brutal schedule this year. Even more so than in years past. TCU and Louisiana Tech are no slouch opponents. There are SEC teams on the schedule that we have not won against in 4 years or more (Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M and Mississippi State). This would have been a great year to have Kentucky or Vandy on the schedule.
We are going to be picked last or next to last next week at Media Days. Don’t be mad if that occurs. I think there is good reason to see that on the front end, from a neutral perspective. I hope we find a way to prove them wrong and hit Clay’s thinking of 9 wins.
I think that position will be just fine, I think all of them will contribute and one will break out to help sprinkle by mid way…
I had a chance to watch TCU practice 4-5 times this spring, and I think it will be a good game, I think it will come down to the battle of the Qb’ play and who can contain each other strengths, if we can establish the run and beat them down we will win by 10, If we can’t control those receivers, everything will be on Allen to keep pace of them. (Also I’m in North Forth Worth and couple of us get together to watch games all the time…)
Coming out of camp injury free especially to key players is a must and that hasn’t happened very often
Our history shows lately that a critical season ending injury in August changes our mojo
Sept is key and BBs team have not started out well and that is a big challenge for him and boy would it be HUGE (TexASS size) to be 4-0 heading into Oct
Anxious to see how AA manages this team and if the D can win us a few
Can the special teams win us one late? (Miss st) last year or do we still fell to execute the kicking game when the game is on the line
It’s almost media days and after that it’s time
Ledbetter should be included. He’s a great SEC talent and playmaker. Just skipped by him. Probably skipped by some others, too. I’m going back into that story to add Jeremiah.
I’m not too worried about the QB so much except that it is probably the thinnest position, from a quality standpoint, at least early in the season. If AA goes down early, it will take a miracle to get to 9 as the gap seems too big between AA and RP for a loss of AA for a couple of weeks or more to not be tragic, as respects the record. Injuries can be better sustained by the rest of the team early. RP might be fine by mid-season but that could be too late for this season’s record to be better than last year’s. Here’s hoping the line protects him and he doesn’t take any unnecessary risks outside the pocket.