5 ways Arkansas will be better in 2020 than 2019
The way things are going, it seems hard to believe that anything in 2020 could be better than 2019.
But that’s just because there hasn’t been football yet. For Arkansas fans at least, it certainly doesn’t seem like it can get any worse than 2019 when it comes to football. The Razorbacks broke a school record for the longest SEC losing streak last season, which is still active at 19 games. They fired coach Chad Morris before his second season even ended.
So, even in a year where everything seems to be getting worse, it feels impossible for Arkansas football to fall any lower. The only way from where it’s at now is up. Here are 5 specific ways the Hogs will be better in 2020.
1. More SEC wins
It’s a bold thing to say, but I think Arkansas wins an SEC game this season. Maybe more than one. Maybe.
The Razorbacks have failed to do so in their past 2 seasons, but this feels like the year the streak is broken. The college football gods wouldn’t be so cruel as to force Arkansas to endure a 3rd consecutive year without an SEC win, would they?
Fresh faces in coach Sam Pittman and grad transfer QB Feleipe Franks should add extra energy to a team that already has its star in Rakeem Boyd and emerging threats on the outside. The youth on both sides, particularly at receiver, has breakout potential.
Arkansas is still almost guaranteed to finish in the bottom half of the conference this year. If it somehow doesn’t, Pittman should garner coach of the year consideration in his inaugural season. But to predict the Razorbacks to go winless yet again is almost as daring.
2. Better offensive numbers
Arkansas ranked 111th of the 130 FBS teams in total offense last season. Somehow, it wasn’t last in the SEC (Vanderbilt took that crown), but it might as well have been. The Razorbacks managed just over 21 points per game in 2019.
The additions of Pittman, Franks and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles should be more than enough to boost the offense. Briles alone has made massive improvements in each of his first-year stops, and has 4 finishes in the top 25 of total offense in the past 5 seasons.
Pair him with Pittman, who as a former offensive line coach should get the most out of that group, and all signs point to an improved Razorbacks offense this fall.
3. Fewer turnovers
The Razorbacks were last in the SEC in 2019 in turnovers per game with 1.8. A lot of that had to do with inconsistent quarterback play, as they averaged more interceptions (1.3) than passing touchdowns (1.2). Hogs QBs threw an SEC-worst 15 interceptions. Nationally, only 7 FBS teams threw more.
Arkansas is hopeful Franks will provide stability to the passing game this season. In his sophomore season at Florida, he had a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, in the 4 games he played last year, he had only 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. Arkansas knows all too well from the Nick Starkel experiment that transfers don’t always work out.
Still, Franks looks better than Starkel on paper. At the very least, he should be able to minimize the turnovers that proved so costly to Arkansas last season.
4. Rakeem Boyd
Boyd could have bolted for the NFL after his junior season. He would have been selected probably as a mid-to-late round pick. But he chose to come back, citing improving his draft stock as a key motivation.
He has the chance to play himself into the first round, realizing the potential that people have seen in him since his days at Independence Community College. That motivation, along with the aforementioned improvements to the offense bodes well for Boyd increasing his production from a season ago.
He’ll see more touches after the graduation of Devwah Whaley and thanks to the up-tempo nature of Briles’ offense. If Arkansas decides it wants to run its offense through Boyd, he has the chance for a monster season. Even with 2 fewer games on the schedule, he could surpass his yardage total of 1,133 from last year.
5. Chad Morris won’t be the coach
This is perhaps the most prevailing reason that the 2020 season will be better than 2019 for Arkansas.
Chad Morris forced Hogs fans to endure one of the worst 2-year stretches in program history. He failed to win an SEC game. He failed to develop the players he had. The games lost their joy under Morris and the outcome seemed predetermined.
This year, that won’t be the case.
Fans should be able to look forward to games every week, even if they don’t necessarily expect to win. As long Pittman can get the team to show weekly progress, the games should stay interesting enough to be watchable. With expectations at an all-time low, there will be little disappointment for a losing season. If the Razorbacks manage to win a few, it will only provide more optimism for the Pittman era going forward.