Arkansas football: 10 things I'll remember most about 2018
It’s finally over, Arkansas fans. You’ve survived what has very likely been the most painful Razorbacks’ football season in your lifetime. The Hogs finished 2018 on Black Friday with a 38-0 loss at Missouri.
Arkansas (2-10, 0-8 SEC) had its first 10-loss season in school history, the first season under coach Chad Morris. The Razorbacks now have 280 days before the 2019 season begins. Before we close the book entirely in 2018, here are 10 things I’ll remember from this season:
There isn’t a better word to describe Arkansas’ season. Everyone — the players, the coaches, the fans — has been frustrated for months as the losses have piled up. It’s partly just the product of transition under a new coaching staff. But there have also been plenty head-scratching things — several of which we’ll get into later in this article — that have amplified this season of frustration.
As bad as this Arkansas team ended up being, the Hogs were competitive in some games most people thought they had no chance. They played Texas A&M and LSU to a 7-point difference. Without injuries to quarterback Ty Storey and running back Rakeem Boyd, they probably beat Ole Miss in what was a 37-33 loss. In total, Arkansas had four 1-score games this season. It lost them all. Flip those outcomes and the Hogs are heading to a bowl game.
3. Rakeem Boyd tackles Jordan Jones
Rakeem Boyd delivered a big hit on Jordan Jones during Arkansas’ loss to LSU. The problem with that is Boyd and Jones both play for the Razorbacks. If you had to use one play to describe Arkansas’ season, this backfield collision of teammates is the one.
Arkansas is a season-long reminder that football is hard
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) November 11, 2018
4. Ty Storey’s toughness
Storey is far from being a special talent at quarterback. He just doesn’t have the physical tools to be the player Morris needs running his offense effectively. All that said, it was very clear no one on the roster cares more than Storey. He clearly loves being a Razorback and having his opportunity to be the starter. Storey proved that with his toughness. While playing behind a bad offensive line, he was often left vulnerable to pass rushers and took some huge hits while trying to make something happen. His toughness was second to none and is something all Arkansas fans should be thankful for.
There wasn’t much on-the-field success to be excited about in 2018, but there was plenty off the field. Arkansas’ recruiting efforts with the 2019 class have been outstanding. The Hogs have 24 commitments in the group with 7 rated as 4-star prospects according to the 247Sports composite. The class ranks No. 16 nationally and has a chance to be the best the Razorbacks have signed in the era of recruiting rankings.
6. Rakeem Boyd’s ability
That collision with Jones aside, Boyd was Arkansas’ most impressive player in 2018. He rushed for at least 100 yards in three SEC games with one of those being Alabama. If the Hogs can put some improved pieces around him — particularly on the offensive line — Boyd has shown he has the ability to be an All-SEC back before his career is over.
7. Cheerleader fiasco
Defensive backs Ryan Pulley and Kamren Curl did not play against Missouri. Morris suspended both players after they were spotted conversing with Mississippi State cheerleaders before Arkansas’ loss to the Bulldogs last week. This was definitely a bad look for a team that was 2-8 at the time and lost that game 52-6.
But the reaction to what Pulley and Curl did has been very much overblown. That’s not meant to be a criticism of Morris. He has to do what he has to do in order to run the program the way he feels is right. It’s just that what Pulley and Curl did really isn’t that big of a deal, and it’s certainly not the reason the Hogs lost or that this program is in such bad shape despite what some people are suggesting.
8. Connor Noland’s first win
The Razorbacks’ lone victory over an FBS team — 23-0 against Tulsa — came with true freshman Connor Noland starting at quarterback. Noland didn’t do anything overly impressive. That victory was obviously far more about the defense and Tulsa’s ineptitude than anything else. Still, it was win No. 1 as a starter of what Arkansas fans are hoping will be many more for the promising former 4-star recruit.
Arkansas linebacker Derrick Munson announced earlier this week he will transfer. He’s the latest in what has been a large number of players exiting since Morris took over. He also will not be the last. This roster needed to be overhauled and the transfers are making that much easier. It won’t be long before this team has almost no recognizable players from the squad Morris inherited.
10. Worst-team-ever debate
I wrote last week proclaiming this to be worst Arkansas team ever. A local TV station took exception to that, saying that “an Internet website covering SEC football” could not possibly be correct making such a statement. Still, the TV station came to the conclusion the 1905 Arkansas team is actually the worst in program history. Is it 2018, is it 1905 or it is some other year? It’s quite an unfortunate debate to be having, but here we are. I think a lot of people will continue to say this team is the worst in Razorbacks’ history. I know I’m sticking with that.