I tend to be an optimist by nature, but truly believe the Razorbacks will make a big jump this year in SEC football.
Random thoughts and observations:
Like him or hate him, Bret Bielema seems to recruit solid, good young people. By and large, there is a high degree of individual character involving a Razorback team who seems to know how to go to class, practice, support the community and stay out of trouble.
As with many, I get frustrated with Bielema, but he is a true players’ coach. The players seem to love the guy and are willing to play hard for him. The other thing about Bielema is that he is more than willing to pull the trigger when things aren’t working out. Case in point would be bringing in Dan Enos, and hopefully, promoting Paul Rhoads. Things usually get better or worse and rarely stay the same. Bielema has made a concerted effort to make Razorback football better, yet at $4M+ a year, he should be expected to make things better.
Under the guidance of Enos, I look for Austin Allen to have a banner year. If the running game can be more effective, the play action and passing yardage should be toward the top in the SEC. Allen was absolutely hounded last year and ultimately threw 15 interceptions. Tough kid, but the stat line here must improve.
Skip will be missed, but there appears to be a good deal of quality depth with the offensive line. Chemistry is important and Frank Ragnow should anchor a much improved front. If so, the running and passing game should both thrive. Kurt Anderson has been high on praise from the head coach. One way or another. this season should be telling.
Hopefully, Rawleigh Williams will continue to stay in good health. Number 22 is a true warrior and will always be a Razorback fan favorite, regardless of whether he plays another year or down. Prayers and well wishes go out to RWIII and his family. The kid is top shelf, from everything said and written. Devwah Whaley is a stud in waiting and the two incoming freshmen should supply the backfield with a good many years to come.
Just a hunch, but with JC returning and the influx of gifted, new talent, Michael Smith will have his group more than ready to roll by the end of fall camp. On and off the field, coach Smith is a proven product.
How could things possibly get worse than last year? And frankly, the year before wasn’t something to shout about, either — unless, profanity is a large part of your vocabulary. As Stoerner alluded to earlier, the 3-4 seems to have a significant amount of promise, especially given the players and their existing skill sets. Paul Rhoads has a fiery side about him and his enthusiasm should be contagious. I can’t wait to see these guys strap it on in August.
Our special teams will [potentially] remain a weak link and close games will continue to be frightful. Bielema has not been afraid to initiate change when things aren’t working. During his tenure, with the exception of punting, the special teams have been anything, but special. Hopefully, there will be substantial improvement, though a special teams coach would be a major benefit, in my opinion.
If the guys can stay healthy, I think Bielema gets it done [better] in year 5. He may not win the SEC, but last season’s disappointing 7-6 finish will improve and the Razorbacks should always be competitive, regardless of outcome. Getting shredded by athletic quarterbacks in spread, hurry up offenses and Auburn like blowouts should be a thing of the past.
Keep hope alive.