Arkansas is finishing up spring practice with Saturday’s Red-White Game, and one of the most important springs in program history will have concluded. Improvements are needed at several positions ahead of 2014.
Saturday will give us an indication of the Hogs’ passing game progression and how new defensive coordinator Robb Smith plans to scheme his troops. Here’s what we’ll be watching for Saturday:
Arkansas’ signal caller should be the main reason you watch Saturday’s spring game. How big of step has he taken? Is he finally ready to lead the offense? The coaching staff has liked the way he’s managed the offense this spring, and now that he’s healthy, he seems much more confident. Allen’s biggest issue may be finding receivers who can get open and be difference makers. The running game and offensive line should be more than suitable, and the passing game will be in focus Saturday and beyond. Arkansas’ offensive success will be driven or limited by the passing game. We’ll also get our first looks at backups Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey. The elder Allen threw for 1,552 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 INTs last season.
Tight end tandem
Backup quarterback AJ Derby was moved to tight end this spring, combining forces with one of the best-kept secrets in the country in Hunter Henry. By all accounts, the move has worked out for Arkansas and for Derby, as Bret Bielema has raved about Derby after moving to tight end. Henry caught 28 passes for 409 yards and four touchdowns last season. Could we be looking a nice tight end tandem, which could help the passing game tremendously?
Inconsistencies at linebacker and the secondary were major concerns last season. Bret Bielema has talked up the secondary this spring, saying the unit has improved drastically from last year’s efforts. New defensive coordinator Robb Smith has his hands full improving both units, but statistically, there’s nowhere to go but up. Let’s get a feel for the linebackers and the defensive secondary in Smith’s new defense. Smith has been stressing turnovers and takeaways this spring, and by all accounts, those areas have improved.
Is this team bowl worthy? That question likely won’t get answered Saturday, but we’ll get an overall feel. Following a 3-9 season, it’s so important the Hogs win six this year. We knew this would be a rebuilding project, but aside from Kentucky, it’s the biggest rebuilding project in the conference. The Hogs have to improve, but even if improvement happens, will they still become bowl worthy?
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