2012 SEC Sneak Peek: Arkansas RazorbacksPublished 1:48pm Friday, June 8, 2012
Heading into the 2012 SEC football season, the Arkansas Razorbacks have quite possibly the most talent returning, the only problem is that their coaching is up in the air.
Bobby Petrino single handedly changed the fate of Arkansas football with his motorcycle wreck on April Fool’s Day (couldn’t make that up) which involved an intern that just so happened to be a blonde bombshell.
Save your judgments for forum boards folks, this column is about Arkansas football.
Bobby Petrino was second on the list of current SEC coaches in my book, one behind Nick Saban and one in front of Les Miles.
The Evil Knievel wannabe is an offensive mastermind, no denying it.
Despite what you think of Petrino, he found a way to win games at the helm of the Razorbacks, including back-to-back 10 win seasons for the first time since 1988-1989 under then head coach Ken Hatfield.
Petrino was also a great recruiter, getting Ryan Mallet from Michigan to bring his teams offense, and frankly the program, to new heights in 2010.
New head coach John L. Smith (talk about the program going from ‘hero’ to ‘zero’) will take over an offense that won’t need much fine tuning.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson would have been a first round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft if he wouldn’t have decided to stay at Arkansas for the 2012-2013 season.
Wilson threw for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior for the Razorbacks, and will surely enter the SEC preseason as the conference’s first team quarterback.
The Hogs will have to replace their two main receiving threats in Jarius Wright and Joe Adams, who combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
The good thing for coach Smith is that he has the benefit of Petrino recruiting to stock up his receiving corp in whichever way he wants.
The deciding factor for the Razorbacks offensively this season will be the return of tailback Knile Davis, who missed least season with an ACL tear after finishing 2010 with 100-yard games in six of his last seven contests.
Arkansas returns six starters from last years defense, and will need that to be one of their biggest strengths to get over the proverbial hump that is the SEC.
Led by linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, Arkansas can build on a defense that honestly ranked pretty low in SEC competition last season.
The Hogs’ defense ranked 10th in passing defense, ninth in rushing defense, and ninth in total defense in the Southeastern Conference last season.
Defense has seemingly been the Achilles heel for Arkansas football, even with Petrino leading the way.
In the SEC, teams can throw for 400 yards every game, but if they don’t have the defense to stop an opponents running game and slow down an opposing offense, they won’t be where they envisioned themselves at the end of the season.
The last piece of vital info for 2012 Arkansas football comes from the schedule.
The Razorbacks’ toughest test of the season will come in their third game when they play Alabama in Fayetteville. If they can somehow knock off an intermediately experienced Tide team, Arkansas then has Texas A&M on the road on Sept. 29.
If they can topple the Aggies, I’ll go ahead and say that I think they can run the table against a weak close to their schedule, including hosting Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tulsa and closing against two beatable teams on the road in South Carolina and Mississippi State.
The elephant in the room amongst all these predictions for Arkansas football in 2012, is that Smith will be doing it with Petrino’s talent.
Give an average coach (and Smith is definitely that…) an above average team led by the best QB in the league and all he will really need to do is sit and watch.
Note to Smith: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Outlook will feature preview columns of each SEC team leading up to the full Sportz Blitz/Outlook 2012 SEC preview in July.
J.D. Cowart is the sports editor of The Outlook.