7 way-too-early predictions for Arkansas’ offense in 2022
Arkansas had one of the more exciting offenses in the SEC last season, mostly because of how effectively the Hogs were able to run the football. They led the SEC with 2,961 yards. That ranks 10th all-time in program history. It was the most yards piled up on the ground since the 2007 team that ran for a program-best 3,725.
That’s not to say that the passing game was not effective. Sophomore KJ Jefferson was only 9th in the SEC in passing yardage (2,676) but threw for 21 TDs and just 4 interceptions. Of course, the passing game will need to come up with a new go-to receiver now that Treylon Burks (3rd in the SEC with a 92.0-yard average per game, and 7th with 12 TDs) is in the NFL, the 18th overall pick by the Tennessee Titans.
So, though it’s only May, it’s never too early to look forward to the 2022 season and what could be. Here are a group of ridiculously early predictions for the Arkansas offense.
1. Fewer points scored than last year
The Razorbacks ranked 6th in the SEC last season, scoring an average of 30.9 points (49 TDs) per game. That seems like a lot of points, 402 in all, a total that is tied for 9th all-time in program history.
Maybe it’s not so much when considering the general state of the game, but replicating that amount of production would appear to be difficult to accomplish especially with a beefed-up schedule.
2. Jefferson becomes top QB rusher in the SEC
Building on his breakout season of 2021, the Arkansas quarterback will become the SEC’s leading rusher at his position. He nearly did it last season, rushing for a team-high 664 yards, Jefferson ranked 2nd in the conference among quarterbacks. Only Florida’s Emory Jones rushed for more yardage (758) last season. Jones is headed for greener pastures and, unless Florida’s Anthony Richardson picks up where Jones left off, there doesn’t seem to be any other SEC QB who could compete with the Razorbacks’ playmaker.
3. Jefferson doesn’t lead the team in rushing
He may lead SEC QBs in total yards rushing, but Jefferson won’t lead the Hogs in 2022, like he did last season. Oh, he’ll get his yards on the ground, plenty of them. But 1 of 2 running backs (if not both) will have more. If Dominique Johnson comes to fall camp healthy from offseason surgery, he could be that guy. He averaged nearly 6 yards per carry last season. If not Johnson, then Rocket Sanders is certainly capable. He rushed for 578 yards as a freshman last season, 3 more yards than Johnson (575).
4. Jadon Haselwood becomes the go-to receiver
Is this a prediction or necessity? The Oklahoma transfer steps into an ideal situation at Arkansas. With Burks now making the big bucks, Haselwood should step right in and shine in the Hogs’ passing game. Can he double his 39 catches last season with the Sooners? Probably not, but approaching 60 receptions isn’t out of the question. Somebody has to make up for Burks’ 66 catches last season.
5. Thompson doubles his TD totals
Warren Thompson has 3 TDs total in 3 years at Arkansas. But the presence of Haselwood should open things up for Thompson on the deep routes. I’m expecting him to run a lot of them and come up with 6 TD catches in 2022. Just like someone must pick up the slack of Burks’ 66 receptions from a year ago, so too must someone make up the 12 TDs. Thompson will grab a chunk of them.
6. Passing game catches up with run game
This seems inevitable as Jefferson develops and both Haselwood and Thompson become bigger targets – not to mention the emergence of pass-catching tight ends Henry Hudson and Trey Knox. The Hogs ranked 11th in the SEC in passing yards (214) per game last season. They should improve on that and surpass the run game, which totaled 180 yards more than the passing game in 2021. Arkansas hasn’t thrown for 3,000 yards since the 2016 season. Heck, last season was the first time since then that they topped 2,700.
7. Ketron Jackson Jr. has breakout year
Although he appeared in all 13 games last season as a freshman, Jackson didn’t accumulate much in the way of stats. Just 5 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, Jackson was overshadowed by Burks and Co. But 2022 will be a new year and a new beginning for Jackson as he becomes a weapon. Look for Jackson to be among the Hogs’ leading receivers with 20 catches.