2012 Arkansas Razorbacks Football Preview
2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
Head Coach: John L. Smith, first season (132-86 overall)
Projected Returning Starters: 15
Spring Game: April 21st (Red 65 White 0)
Notes: Arkansas football saw much success under Coach Bobby Petrino. He coached the Razorbacks for four season, only having a losing record in his first year. The next three seasons produced three bowl appearances, two which were wins. Arkansas made the Sugar Bowl following the 2010 season. Last year, Arkansas posted their highest ranking under Petrino – fifth in the nation. The off-season cost Petrino his job, though, as he was involved in a motorcycle accident that led to the truth coming out – an affair he had with an athletic department employee. With Petrino’s termination, Arkansas decided to move quickly, hiring John L. Smith to coach Arkansas on the basis of a 10-month contract. The move allows Arkansas to extend Smith beyond this season, if they chose, or to make preparations for a hiring search for the head coaching position. Smith gave up a job as Weber State’s head coach, his alma mater, which he had accepted months earlier. He does have head coaching experience, having coached Louisville and Michigan State at the Division 1-A/FBS level (Idaho and Utah State at the Division 1-AA/FCS level) – he most recently was special teams coach for Arkansas.
BVTSB Take: Arkansas’s offense, specifically the passing game, has been among the best in the nation under Petrino. Despite the offensive success, the defense has struggled at times – Arkansas allowed at least 28 points in six of their 13 games last season. John L. Smith is a defensive minded coach, so expect more emphasis on that side of the ball this year. Arkansas returns quarterback Tyler Wilson for his senior season. Wilson saw time in his sophomore season with an injury to Ryan Mallett; Wilson also started last season. He threw for 3638 yards, completing 63.2% of his passes, and 24 touchdowns last year. Expect those numbers to only get better with a second year of experience, despite the loss of veteran wide receivers. The Hogs return wide receiver Cobi Hamilton (542 yards receiving, 15.9/catch, and 4 touchdowns), but lose leading receivers Jarius Wright (1117 receiving yards, 16.9/catch, and 12 receiving touchdowns) to the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and Joe Adams (652 yards receiving, 12.1/catch, and 4 total touchdowns) to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Expect Marquel Wade and Quinta Funderburk to start along side Hamilton. Don’t expect a receiver to put up numbers like Wright did last year – expect more spread out numbers. After missing last year due to a broken ankle, Knile Davis is expected to start at running back – Davis rushed for 1322 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010. If he can get anywhere near his 2010 numbers, Arkansas will have a vastly upgraded running game, leading to a balanced attack. Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr. figure to share in playing time as well. The duo combined for over half of Arkansas’s rushing attempts in 2011, 1128 yards, and six touchdowns on the ground. The offensive line is much more experienced this year, and should help Wilson to develop a rapport with his receivers – C Travis Swanson, LG Alvin Bailey, and RT Jason Peacock all return. Swanson, Bailey, and Peacock started 39 games between them, last year. RG Mitch Smothers and LT Brey Cook saw playing time last year, but will be starters this year. Outside of the experience at wide receiver, the single biggest loss is Petrino. That loss could be enough to prevent Arkansas from securing a berth in the SEC Title, their first since 2006. Arkansas has never won the SEC Title, going 0-3 in that game. The non-conference schedule is very forgiving, with games against Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, and Tulsa. Having Alabama and LSU at home certainly helps, but Auburn and South Carolina on the road is very dangerous.
2012 Early Projection: 8-4
To see the 2012 SEC composite schedule, click here.
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