Five Arkansas players who are ready for bigger roles in 2014

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Arkansas started spring practice over a week ago, and things are well underway around the SEC. Thirteen of 14 teams have started spring practice, with Kentucky bringing up the rear in starting Friday.

RELATED: Arkansas spring football forecast

One of the most intriguing teams of the spring is Arkansas. With a nine-game losing streak to finish 2013, progress has to be made this spring to build a winning program again.

Here are five players who will help them get there in 2014:

Brooks Ellis, LB (SO)
2013 stats: 33 tackles, 2 TFL
Buzz: One player who had Bret Bielema and his staff buzzing towards the end of 2013 was Brooks Ellis. The Fayetteville native played well during his last four starts of the season, and he can play a bigger role by being a key cog in an improved run defense. Arkansas needs bigger linebackers; Ellis is 230-plus, and he’s ready for a big year.

Trey Flowers, DE (SR)
2013 stats: 44 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 FF
Buzz: With fellow end Chris Smith gone, Trey Flowers will be the leader of the defense. Not only will he be the best defensive player, he’ll be the best player on the team and a leader Bret Bielema will lean on. Bielema talked Flowers into returning for his senior season, and that was the best prospect Arkansas signed during the offseason. He’s talented and has an NFL future.

RELATED: Arkansas has the SEC’s No. 1 QB commit

Hunter Henry, TE (SO)
2013 stats: 28 catches, 409 yards, 4 TDs
Buzz: Hunter Henry is one of the best prospects nobody knows about. He finished second on the team with 28 catches, and he’ll play a much larger, everyday role for the Hogs. Arkansas is desperately seeking players who are mismatches in the passing game, and Henry can be a huge asset. He’ll be a main focal point for the offense in 2014.

Darius Philon, DT (rSO)
2013 stats: 46 tackles, 9 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 FF
Buzz: Darius Philon was just getting his feet wet as a redshirt freshman last season, and he’ll take on a full-fledged veteran role this year. And he played like one last year. He’s raw; he’s talented, and with another offseason of development, he’ll have to be a bigger difference maker along the line of scrimmage.

Dan Skipper, OL (SO)
Buzz: The 6-10, 315-pound mammoth played the final eight games of the season at offensive guard, but he’ll have a bigger role next season at offensive tackle, where it’s a more natural fit for Skipper. Bret Bielema confirmed they moved Grady Ollison to guard so Skipper could own the tackle position. So far, he is, and he will next season, too.

Photo Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

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  • Arkansas must have better play at QB, too. It is obvious now that Brandon Allen was never 100% after injuring his shoulder in Game 3 last season, but he still started 11 of the 12 games. BA has been sharp in spring drills so far, and it is his job to lose, but he will be relentlessly pushed by little brother Austin Allen, and Damon Mitchell, both redshirt freshmen, and especially by true frosh Rafe Peavey.
    If the Hogs are going to be effective on offense, the QB must be better!

    Receiver is another position that lacked in production in 2013, but with the emergence of Keon Hatcher, and the return of Demetrius Wilson (who missed all of last year with a knee injury), things are looking up at that position. Throw in playmaker and 4* signee Jojo Robinson, 6’4″ Juco transfer Cody Hollister, and 6’6″ Kendrick Edwards, and Arkansas’ receiving corps should be drastically improved.