Regular Season Recap: Arkansas

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Arkansas Razorbacks

Final Record: 4-8 overall, 2-6 SEC

2012 will be an unforgettable – or forgettable – year for Hogs fans. From Bobby Petrino’s April 10th firing to the April 24th hiring of John L. Smith, Arkansas has been the SEC’s roller coaster program and the brunt of many jokes for the past nine months.

Smith was tabbed to take over a program he was familiar with, as a coach who would keep the coaching staff in tact and give the players some peace in the midst of all hell breaking loose. Although some knew it was nearly impossible to happen, he was in the running for a long-term contract should the Hogs play well under Smith and reach SEC Championship goals. However, Smith served his purpose to keep everything intact and keep the program from meltdown mode, even in the midst of posting a 4-8 record.

Ranked preseason #10 and jumping up to #8 in week two, there were high aspirations for Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis, Cobi Hamilton and company. Wilson was returning for his senior season, and it looked like a beautiful story for the seniors. That story ended up turning into a nightmare for the Hogs.

After losing to Louisiana-Monroe in week two, Arkansas followed it up by losing three straight to Alabama, Rutgers and rival Texas A&M. The Hogs ended up winning their next two games against the two worst teams in the SEC – Auburn and Kentucky – but lost four of their last five, including a nail biter to LSU.

Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton leave Arkansas as record setters. Wilson broke Ryan Mallett’s career passing record with 7,495 passing yards. Hamilton broke Arkansas’ single-season reception record and single-season receiving record, both held by former wide receiver Jarius Wright. Hamilton also broke Arkansas’ single-game receiving mark with 303 yards in a loss against Rutgers. Unfortunately for Arkansas, Knile Davis never got going on the ground, and senior Dennis Johnson stepped up in his lack of production.

Defensively, Arkansas was better against the run, but overall, it was a dismal season. They finished 12th in the SEC in total defense, allowing over 400 yards per game on defense. The run defense, however, was a bright spot. Paul Haynes’ group only allowed 124 yards on the ground per game, good for 5th best in the SEC. But the black eye was defending the pass. The Hogs were the worst in the SEC, allowing quarterbacks to throw for over 285 yards per game.

Offensive Stud: The offensive MVP was quarterback Tyler Wilson. Wilson was the only offense the Hogs could depend on to even stay in football games. He missed 1.5 games, but he still threw for 3,387 yards and 21 touchdowns. His interceptions were up to 13 from six last season, but he had little to no time to get rid of the football, nor did he have a running game that could help balance the offense. Wilson will be missed not only at Arkansas, but in the SEC, too. He’s a tough, hard-nosed player who isn’t afraid to sit in the pocket and take shots from defenders. That bodes well for quarterbacks at the next level.

Defensive Stud: Before the start of 2012, you might have said Tank Wright or Alonzo Highsmith would be the MVP of the defense, but defensive end Chris Smith was the best player by the end of the season for the Hogs. He was the one guy on Arkansas’ defense who progressively improved throughout the year, and he had a big game against LSU to close it out. Smith finished with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. It was an impressive season for a team that lost the will to live somewhere around week four.

Where To Next: The good news for Arkansas fans is there are better days ahead with new head coach Bret Bielema. He will have a bigger impact on the defensive side of the ball, while it will take some time to replenish the star power lost on offense. Bielema comes with a strong pedigree, having won three straight Big Ten Championships with three Rose Bowl appearances. He needs to hit the ground running, but he does have a good young nucleus of players to build around. It’s an interesting hire and a good hire, but can he build what Nick Saban and Les Miles have built?

Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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