10 things we'll remember most about Arkansas' 2017 season
This was a season to forget for Arkansas Razorbacks fans.
There is a long list of things that went wrong, creating a snowball effect that was too much to overcome. Week after week brought another form of misery to the Razorbacks’ faithful.
A 4-8 season tends to bring out the cons rather than the pros. As you could have guessed, there aren’t a lot of positives on this list.
Here are the 10 things we’ll remember most about Arkansas’ 2017 season.
10. The hot seat got to Bret Bielema
Jeff Long and Bret Bielema are no longer employees of the University of Arkansas. There was pressure on both before the season began, and it took its toll.
The Razorbacks were embarrassed at home by TCU and Auburn, and they didn’t look prepared at all for either game. Arkansas barely escaped at home against Coastal Carolina, a team that finished well below .500. The Razorbacks gave away games to Mississippi State and Missouri as rumors swirled that Bielema wasn’t going to survive the season.
He looked physically worn out on the sidelines and during press conferences. The pressure is off is his back with a couple of million heading his way.
9. 2017 hurt recruiting
Arkansas hits the recruiting season with no athletic director, no coach and an unsure future. Current players should not be the only ones concerned about what happens next. Besides the current Razorbacks, recruits are curious to see what becomes of the program.
Going 7-6 in 2016 was a slight step-back from the 8-5 season in 2015. Firing the athletic director and coach on top of going 4-8 is a massive movement in the wrong direction.
Recruits who watched the Razorbacks in big games can’t be pleased with what they saw. It’s already hard enough to recruit athletes to “The Hill.” These circumstances make the task even more difficult.
8. No 1,000-yard rusher
For the first time under Bret Bielema, the Razorbacks didn’t have a running back go over 1,000 yards. In fact, no running back surpassed 700 yards. Arkansas averaged 145.25 rushing yards in its eight conference games. T.J. Hammonds should have received more than 32 carries over nine games, given that he averaged 8.2 yards per rushing attempt.
Rawleigh Williams III had over 1,300 yards in 2016. Alex Collins had over 1,500 yards in 2015. Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins both passed the 1,000 mark in 2014. Collins also passed it in his freshman year, the 2013 season.
7. Didn’t see Allen’s full potential
Austin Allen is a better quarterback than Brandon Allen. I’ll take that to my grave even though his stats and wins don’t help prove my point.
Brandon had the better weapons and a solid offensive line. Austin was left with virtually no protection through the course of his starting career and had no playmakers in 2017.
Brandon Allen was sacked 33 times combined in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Austin Allen was sacked 34 times. In 2017, the Razorbacks gave up 35 sacks.
6. Dan Enos deserves some heat
Paul Rhoads and the Arkansas defense were criticized often in 2017, but Dan Enos should shoulder some of the blame. He had all offseason to get the new wide receivers and tight ends ready for Austin Allen. Many times this season, they failed miserably.
Constantly, you saw Allen and Cole Kelley mad at their receivers for not being on the same page. Against conference opponents, the Razorbacks offense averaged only 26.0 points per game, 77th in the nation. They were also outside the top 80 in passing yards.
5. Why didn’t Connor Limpert start sooner?
Cole Hedlund had the experience, but come on. Connor Limpert came in and tore it up, hitting 7 of 8 field goals and 27 of 28 extra points. Think about where Arkansas would be if Limpert had started the season and kicked like that all year. The TCU game might have turned out differently.
The game-winning field goal against Ole Miss was clutch after he missed one earlier in the game. Limpert also drilled a 48-yarder on the road at South Carolina — before the game turned into a rout. Whoever the new coach is, field goals should be one of his least concerns.
4. Injuries killed them
It’s the SEC and there will always be injury issues, but Arkansas was hit hard this season. The Razorbacks lost Jared Cornelius, Ryan Pulley and Frank Ragnow to season-ending injuries. That’s three of their best players. Chase Hayden and Austin Allen also missed extended periods of time.
Rawleigh Williams III’s injury and retirement before the season should not be overlooked. It became apparent Devwah Whaley wasn’t ready to carry the full-time load with his subpar season.
3. Found a way to beat Ole Miss again
Even in an awful season, the Razorbacks found a way to beat Ole Miss. The Rebels had the game well in hand, leading 31-7 at one point. Despite long odds, the Razorbacks rallied to win 38-37. The victory comes after a 30-0 blowout in 2014, the “Swine Intervention” in 2015 and a close win in 2016.
2. Got worse rushing the passer
Robb Smith didn’t work out at Arkansas for a number of reasons. Maybe his biggest flaw in his final two seasons was his defense not getting to the quarterback. If you can believe it, Paul Rhoads’ unit was worse in that category during the 2017 season.
The defense finished this season with only 19 sacks in 12 games. In six games, the Hogs recorded one sack or less. Every team in the conference has more than them.
Arkansas actually got pressure on Missouri’s Drew Lock, sacking him three times and forcing two interceptions. The defensive line wasn’t disruptive like that throughout the season, though. For almost the entire year, opposing quarterbacks had all day to throw.
1. Choked away Texas A&M game again
Arkansas let a true freshman (Kellen Mond) beat them in his first conference start. The Razorbacks lost virtually the same way to the Aggies in 2014 and 2015, folding in overtime. Maybe a new coach will help turn the tide in this game.