2010 Arkansas Football Analysis Ryan Mallett

Ryan Mallett of the Arkansas Razorbacks

The Arkansas Razorbacks are an interesting team entering the 2010 college football season. With Heisman hopeful Ryan Mallett and a lot of other talent, they have a high preseason ranking and Bo even ranked them the third team in the SEC and said Arkansas could be the best team. We also put together this Summer Outlook on Arkansas that you may enjoy with the 2009 season statistics. Below are some quotes from a few blogs and other articles that I thought would give a good analysis of Arkansas and their 2010 football season:

Ralph Lee of Tailgate Review gives a concise overview (read full article):

The Arkansas Razorbacks are absolutely the team that could win SEC West this year led by Top 5 QB Ryan Mallet and a strong offensive unit. Bobby Petrino was brought in to lead Arkansas to the top of the SEC and he has come in with a “gung-ho” mentality. This offense is very reminiscent of the one he put together in the early to mid 2000’s while coaching the Louisville Cardinals. The Razorbacks must somehow learn to win in hostile territory as they were 0-4 in true road games in 2009. However, two of those losses were by 3pts. so they could have easily finished 2-2 on the road. It is time to breakdown the “Hogs” to see just what we can expect from them this year.

OFFENSE: Offensively it all starts with the 6’6” 250 lb. Ryan Mallet and the cannon he has for a right arm. Mallet was absolutely lights out for the most part (3,600+ yds, 30 TDs and only 7 Ints.); the one problem Mallet had came in games (mostly road games) in which he missed open receivers and running backs because he tried to hard to force the ball in tight spots or he just plain missed them. Mallet will have a trio of receivers to play catch with (Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs) along with athletic TE D.J. Williams who can stretch a defense down the middle of the field. However, where the “Air Raid” is great, the ground game needs a little help. Ronnie Wingo and Knile Davis will probably get the majority of the carries but Petrino will not hesitate to use as many as four backs this season. The offensive line should be solid and provide Mallet lots of time to throw downfield.

DEFENSE: Well as good as the offense was last year that is how bad this unit was. The “Hogs” were absolutely dreadful last year, especially in pass defense. The Razorbacks were dead last in the SEC in defense (no surprise there) and were ravaged by air for about 300 yds / game. There are no superstars on this side of the ball at all; LB Jerry Franklin may be about the closest. He is looking to lead them in tackles for 3 straight years and barring injury, he should do that. DE Jake Bequette registered 5.5 sacks last year but unless someone steps up, he will see his share of double-teams this year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Alex Tejada must improve his consistency this year as the Razorbacks will probably have 2 or 3 games that could be decided by FGs. He missed big game kicks last year against Florida and LSU (both 3pt. losses) and several other games where he was erratic. But he did manage to hit the game winner against E. Carolina in their bowl game. The punter is back after averaging about 38 yds a kick so he will need to upgrade that to around 45 yds or so to help change the field positions against good teams.

SCHEDULE: Arkansas’s schedule is one that only Texas A&M threatens them in non-conference play (neutral site game). Last year the “Hogs” lambasted the Aggies 47-19 but this year’s game should be a little more competitive. But Razorback fans already have Sept. 25th circled on the calendar as the Defending Champs, the Alabama Crimson Tide come to town. This could be the signature win this program needs to propel them to SEC West crown. However, a week before this game is the proverbial trap game when Arkansas visits Athens, GA to take on the Bulldogs; last year these teams combined for 93 points with Georgia winning 52-41. Road games against Auburn and S. Carolina could prove tricky for Petrino’s club as well; the good news is LSU has to come to Fayetteville.

2010 OUTLOOK: The Razorbacks can and will compete for the SEC West crown and they have a good shot at winning it. The back-to-back games against Georgia and Alabama will say a lot about how far this team can go. The rest of the schedule is not unbearable but they will have to pick up at least one other win on the road to stay in the thick of the race. The defense will determine how far this team can make it because the offense will score points in bunches. I see the “Hogs” going 10-2 overall, but both losses should be in conference.

Garnet And Black Attack talk about their Arkansas Matchup (read full article):

Offense: You probably know the story about Arkansas’s offense. You may even remember that they ran hog-wild over us late last fall. The Hogs are going into reputed offensive mind Petrino’s third year, and they’ve improved each year under his tutelage. (Check this out for an informative but somewhat dated run-down on Petrino’s “power-spread” philosophy; Petrino is expected to make use of the pistol this year to spice up his running game.) The Hogs also return most of their key players from a year ago, including Mallett, Greg Childs, and D.J. Williams. By all accounts, this should be one of the country’s best offenses.

Defense: Defensively, Arkansas is a bit more of a question mark. The Hogs return seven starters, including some talented players on the front. However, the secondary was a huge liability last year and doesn’t appear to be poised to do much better this year. (Many of you may remember that we were moving the ball with ease against these guys last year until whoever was calling plays apparently decided that going deep to Alshon Jeffery was the only play we were going to run.) Depth is also going to be a major issue here, as it has been for the last couple of seasons. Don’t expect the Hogs to be great on this side of the ball.

Player Whose Name You Should Remember: Jerry Franklin, LB. Mallett is the obvious choice here, but since everyone knows who he is, I’m going with Franklin. Arkansas had a shaky defense last year, but when things were going well, Franklin was usually the cause. He led the team in tackles, had three INTs, and returned a fumble over 80 yards for a TD in the Hogs grudge match against former SWC rival Texas A & M. Although he lines up in the middle, isn’t quite as big, and doesn’t get in the backfield as often, Franklin is reminiscent of Eric Norwood in terms of his penchant for the big play.

Athlon Sports Ranks Arkansas Preseason #17 with this description (read full article):

QUARTERBACKS
Mallett, the SEC’s reigning total offense leader, did not dress out for spring drills while recovering from a broken bone in his foot. The junior, who passed for a school-record 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns, had the third-highest efficiency rating in SEC history at 152.5. His spring absence allowed sophomore Tyler Wilson to handle first-team snaps and take on a greater leadership role while also giving more work to underclassmen Brandon Mitchell, Nick Petrino and true freshman Jacoby Walker. Mallett’s numbers at Razorback Stadium were phenomenal, but he showed antsy feet and suspect decision-making on the road against SEC powers Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU. The Razorbacks added nuances to their offensive approach in the spring, adopting some read-option looks for the mobile quarterback crew behind Mallett. The 6’7″ rifleman is expected to have a big year, but his numbers might not be as gaudy, considering Petrino has learned in two excursions through the SEC that he must have a more viable running attack.

RUNNING BACKS
Assistant coach Tim Horton might have to hold weekly lotteries to sort out playing time for his talented tailbacks. Sophomores Ronnie Wingo Jr. and Knile Davis topped the chart to start the spring, but juniors Dennis Johnson and Broderick Green both made big surges during practice. Each of the backs could be an ace. Wingo has sprinter’s speed, size and explosiveness, while Davis and Green have more between-the-tackles power. And Johnson had a 107-yard game at Florida last year, joining Heisman winner Mark Ingram as the only backs to break 100 on the Gators. Green, a short-yardage and goal line guru, had a 99-yard touchdown run against Eastern Michigan and led the club with 442 rushing yards. “We’re still going to see if the cream will rise to the top, and you’d like for one or two to get head and shoulders above the others,” Horton says. “But if they don’t, then we’ll play all four of those guys … and feel great about them. To be honest, you can shake them and roll the dice.”

RECEIVERS
The junior trio of Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright might be the best single class of wideouts in the land. Childs, a 6’3″ strider who has added power, led the group with 894 yards and seven touchdowns. He is excellent on fade routes. Adams missed three games with a mild stroke but still caught seven touchdowns and ranked sixth nationally with 19.6 yards per catch. Wright averaged 16.6 yards per catch and had five scores. The Hog with the most upside might be Cobi Hamilton, a 6’3″ sophomore who has an uncanny ability to catch the deep ball in traffic. Senior D.J. Williams, a Mackey Award semifinalist in 2008, heads a strong tight end crew. Williams has caught 90 passes over the last two seasons.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Strong-side tackle DeMarcus Love is the leader of a unit that also returns starters Seth Oxner at center, Wade Grayson at guard and Ray Dominguez at tackle. New assistant coach Chris Klenakis brings new vigor and has expanded the Razorbacks’ Pistol formation to include more run capabilities. Klenakis is working with what should be a deeper unit. Massive Anthony Oden (6’8″, 328) will push Dominguez, and redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey took a spring full of first-team work while Grayson rested a sprained knee ligament. Grant Cook started half of last season and is working at a starting spot in the guard rotation, which lost standout Mitch Petrus.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Arkansas lost multi-year standouts Malcolm Sheppard and Adrian Davis, yet the Hogs expect to field their deepest front under Petrino. Gritty Zach Stadther leads a defensive tackle rotation that includes rising star D.D. Jones, Patrick Jones, Lavunce Askew, Alfred Davis and signee Byran Jones. D.D. Jones had a two-sack game on Tim Tebow at Florida as a true freshman. Jake Bequette, a junior end, has star potential and a nasty streak. Tenarius Wright, who healed a broken foot in the spring, is slated to start ahead of Caleb Evans at the other end spot, while senior Damario Ambrose is a high-quality reserve. Colton Nash, a 6’6″, 261-pounder with great upside, is back at his natural spot after helping at tight end as a freshman. Signees LaCraig Brown and Chris Smith could crack the rotation.

LINEBACKERS
Freddy Burton and Jerry Franklin are returnees at the outside spots, and Jerico Nelson is a spunky 5’10” hybrid safety/linebacker and a quality blitzer. But there is youth and inexperience all around them. Franklin, the team leader in tackles the last two seasons, got in the doghouse in the spring for not meeting his strength-gain goals and missed extensive scrimmage time. Undersized senior Jermaine Love (5’11”, 230) will get first shot in the middle, and sophomores Austin Moss and Terrell Williams are in the mix. Bret Harris played well enough in the spring to merit increased playing time on the outside.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
The Hogs’ hunt for a true enforcer at safety goes on. Tramain Thomas has showed flashes, but he has been inconsistent despite a great willingness to hit. Big Anthony Leon (6’4″, 227), a prep star in Florida, got first crack at free safety in the spring, but he didn’t capitalize and was pushed to second team. Elton Ford made a remarkable return from broken neck bones in ’09 and he’s a quality hand with 16 career starts. With speed lacking at safety, Rudell Crim, a 13-game starter at corner, moved to strong safety in the spring and it appears he’ll stick there. Arkansas will have plenty of options at corner, but can any of them be shut-down types? Ramon Broadway and Isaac Madison have loads of experience, but Broadway can be erratic and Madison is returning from knee surgery. Andru Stewart was a part-time starter in ’09 who has strong credentials and a nose for turnovers. Sophomores David Gordon and Darius Winston, who rose to first-team corner after Crim’s move to safety, are clearly the future at the spot, and should buck for plenty of action this year.

SPECIALISTS
Johnson is a quality, SEC-proven kickoff returner, and there ends the strength of Arkansas’ special teams units. Kicker Alex Tejada won the Liberty Bowl with an overtime field goal, but his mid-range misses were critical in identical three-point losses at Florida and LSU. His spring performance was not encouraging. Speculation is that one of two signees, Zach Hocker or Eduardo Camara, could seize kicking duties with a good showing in preseason camp. Hocker had an excellent prep record at kicking off for touchbacks, a rare feat for the Hogs in recent years. Sophomore punter Dylan Breeding must improve his average (38.7 yards) and hang time or he could lose his job to Hocker. Arkansas’ punt return unit has been pitiful for several years running, but Petrino has promised major strides there from a group including Wright, Hamilton and Johnson.

SEC Sports Fan gives analysis of Arkansas’ Running Game (read full article):

One area that the Razorbacks will gain momentum in is running back. Four hard runners look to be significant contributors and stat stackers. In the forefront are sophomores Ronnie Wingo and Knile Davis, with Wingo listed as #1 on the depth chart heading into the spring practices. Wingo averaged 6.5 yards a carry last year and Davis at 163 yards/4.9 per carry. Juniors Broderick Green and Dennis Johnson are also in the mix, right now for the #3 spot, but Johnson has shown some attention-grabbing play during practices that may push him forward (in ’09 he accumulated 342 yards/6.0 avg).

Maddux Sports gives Arkansas a preseason ranking of #18 (read full article):

Offense
The Razorbacks have all the pieces in plays for a great offensive year with ten starters returning on offense. Quarterback Ryan Mallett flourished in Bobby Petrino’s system in his sophomore year in 2009. He threw for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns. And he was extremely careful with the ball, throwing only seven picks.
Mallett should be able to improve with another year under his belt and could put up even better numbers in 2010. Almost all of the main pieces of the high flying offense stay intact, and the Razorbacks should click even better. Arkansas loses running back Michael Smith, who was second on the team in rushing last season and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. However, Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo are ready to step in. Green did already get the bulk of the carries last year and scored 11 times. Wingo had 49 carries for 319 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and could take the starting job from Green if he can repeat those numbers. The Razorbacks return their entire receiving corps, which combined for 2,490 yards. Juniors Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs had 19 touchdowns between them in 2009, and made opposing defenses look bad. All three of them combined over 16.5 yards per reception, with Adams leading the way at 19.6. The offensive line will only lose guard Mitch Petrus who was picked by the Giants at 147 in this year’s draft. The offensive linemen have 90 starts between them and should be able to provide the protection and run-blocking to help the offense to another great season.

Defense
The Razorbacks’ defense had some problems last year, but they were dangerous at times. They combined for 13 interceptions last year, and they return seven of their 11 starters. They were prone to give up the big play and need to work on that to give the offense a chance to win. The team loses 2009 co-sack-leader Adrian Davis. However, defensive end Jake Bequette, who shared the team lead with Davis at 5.5 sacks returns, and anchors the line in 2010. Eight defensive linemen who got starts last season return, and this part of the defense should be solid and improve in the pass rush. The linebacking corps is led by Junior Jerry Franklin, who led the team with 94 tackles last season. He had 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss in 2009. The secondary had some problems giving up big plays last season, but also grabbed its share of interceptions. They lose strong safety Matt Harris, who had 71 tackles and one interception in ten starts, and Jerrell Norton, who had 14 tackles in two starts. The Razorbacks return seven players who got starts in the defensive backfield last season, and have more fresh bodies coming in. They are more experienced and look better than last year and should be able to improve.

Special Teams
Kicker Alex Tejada was nearly perfect on his extra points last season, but missed six of 22 field goals. He was perfect from under 29 yards, but missed two each from 30 to 39, 40 to 49, and 50+ yards. Punter Dylan Breeding averaged 38.7 yards per attempt and forced 15 fair catches. He buried the ball within opponents’ 20-yard line 14 times. He had one punt blocked in 2009. Punt returner Jerell Norton won’t be back with the team. He averaged 8.6 yards on only nine attmpts. Kick returner Dennis Johnson returned 40 kicks for over 1,000 yards and scored one touchdown. He is back with the team and poses a dangerous threat on special teams.

Team Speed Kills looks at Arkansas’ 2010 schedule (read full article):

One of the reasons Arkansas has to be favored to at least make a run at the SEC West is its schedule. It’s not exactly easy — no slate in the SEC ever is — but the game with Alabama is in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks don’t play Florida and they also face the two most dangerous non-Alabama SEC West teams at home.

OFFENSE GALORE?

at GEORGIA | Sept. 18
Is the defense fixed and will this game tell us? It depends. If Aaron Murray and Co. light up the scoreboard, chances are it’s not fixed. (The Georgia offense is probably going to be just fine, but not that just fine by the third week in the season.) If Georgia has some trouble scoring, we can withhold judgement barring something truly surprising. Besides, it’s not like it’s going to take that long to actually figure out how good the defense is. It should take roughly one week.

ALABAMA | Sept. 25
This is the game for the Razorbacks this year. If they can put up a few more points that Alabama, it could very well set them on a path for the SEC West championship. Alabama is the most difficult SEC game on the schedule, and a win here would make Arkansas very difficult to catch with the Tide looking at a game with Florida the following week. That also makes this game a dangerous one for Alabama. But the Tide has actually figured out they are allowed to play on offense, too. If the Arkansas defense isn’t ready or Nick Saban figures out how to shut down Bobby Petrino’s offense, then Arkansas will have an early deficit in the division race that could be too big to overcome.

at AUBURN | Oct. 16
Here’s a number that really doesn’t tell you anything: Arkansas is 7-7 against Auburn in televised football games. (Oddly enough, the Arkansas media guide includes the school’s record against other schools when televised but not the overall mark.) It’s a showdown between two of the most anticipated offenses in the SEC this year, one all but guaranteed to be good and the other a slight question mark but expected to be solid. Last year’s combined 67 points could be challenged.

RIVALRIES — REAL AND SORT OF REAL

OLE MISS | Oct. 23
One can only imagine that the Houston Nutt vs. Arkansas story is starting to lose some of its pizazz. After all, he isn’t Nick Saban; it’s not like he won a national title in Fayetteville. But there’s still enough bitterness in some circles at Nutt — just try writing a post suggesting Nutt didn’t really underachieve at Arkansas if you doubt this — to make it somewhat interesting. And with Jeremiah Masoli a likely player for the Rebels, there are more than enough ways for this game to run off the rails.

at SOUTH CAROLINA | Nov. 6
This has actually begun to take on some of the characteristics of a real rivalry after being arranged during SEC expansion as both team’s interdivisional “rivalry” game. The teams are 3-3 against each other over the last six games, sometimes in low-scoring contests and sometimes in offensive bouts. (Darren McFadden tied the record for most rushing yards by an SEC player in the 2007 edition.) Odds favor the latter until Arkansas’ defense proves otherwise or South Carolina proves there are offensive depths it has not yet plumbed.

LSU | Nov. 27
Want a wild game? This is a good bet for one. The last three games have been decided in the final moments or in overtime. In 2006, the Bengals gave Arkansas a loss as the Razorbacks headed to the SEC Championship Game; the Hogs returned the favor the next year by nearly knocking LSU out of the BCS National Championship Game. (This was before West Virginia and Missouri decided to demonstrate what happens when two teams compete for “most spectacular nationally televised self-destruction.”) Even with one half of the craziest coaching couple in SEC history (Les Miles vs. Houston Nutt) leaving this rivalry, something bizarre is almost certain to take place.

OTHER GAMES

9.4.10 | TENNESSEE TECH This is not Tennessee. Nor is it Texas Tech. You may disregard this game unless you are an Arkansas fan.

9.11.10 | LOUISIANA-MONROE Believe it or not, this game will actually be televised on FSN.

10.9.10 | vs. TEXAS A&M Arkansas blasted the Aggies in last year’s renewal of an old SWC rivalry that was almost an SEC rivalry.

10.30.10 | VANDERBILT If it comes down to a single game between the Razorbacks and the Tide, keep in mind that Alabama plays Florida and Arkansas plays Vanderbilt.

11.13.10 | UTEP Another November cupcake.

11.20.10 | at MISSISSIPPI STATE Bobby Petrino’s second trip to Starkville with Arkansas; he lost the last one.

What do you think about Arkansas and their 2010 season?