State of the Hogs: Weapons

What's going to hold back this Arkansas team? Nothing.

The eyes will be on the quarterback battle all spring, but I saw enough of Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell in just one practice Tuesday to know that's not going to be the area that holds back the next Arkansas football team.

So what will keep the Hogs from going back to a BCS game? Absolutely nothing.

Barry Switzer once told me that the key to a good offensive line has always been great backs. Maybe football has changed a little since that interview. The forward pass has emerged since the Oklahoma coach preached that during the height of the wishbone.

Switzer was talking privately about a fine offensive line at Colorado that didn't have anything but plodders behind it. Defenders crowded the line and the Buffs didn't make any yards.

What we are talking about here is an Arkansas offense that has great coaching (yes, great) along with more experience skilled position stars than I've seen in my lifetime. Never has Arkansas had a collection of backs and wide receivers with this much speed and experience.

The offensive line has to be rebuilt. But I spent an hour Tuesday studying the tools line coach Chris Klenakis has and it was amazing stuff. There were three candidates at tackle that weren't around at the end of last season that anyone in the SEC would love. Heck, there's probably one school that would pay top dollar for them. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Anthony Oden, Brey Cook and Jason Peacock join senior Grant Freeman as the top four candidates to replace Ray Dominguez and DeMarcus Love as the tackles. Cook and Peacock are lined up on the weakside, Freeman and Oden on the strong. Oden, Cook and Freeman -- all 6-7 or taller -- have that long, lean, big look that pass protection teams covet at tackle. Peacock is more tank-like at 6-4, 330 and could eventually find a home at guard. All four have quick feet and ooze talent.

They bend and move like athletes. There is a wow factor to all of them.

Oden's first day of spring earned praise from head coach Bobby Petrino for the maturity he showed when a linebacker popped him in the face after the whistle. Oden laughed and went back to the huddle. In the past, that kind of shot would have resulted in a throw down. The 6-8, 320-pound Oden would have won, too. Petrino said Oden has been focused in everything he's done this semester, from offseason workouts, to academics, to playbook detail.

Klenakis will tell you his group has a long way to go. He's correct, of course. But he's an outstanding teacher of technique. He'll get his best five linemen identified and then begin the long process of polishing them for SEC play. Oh, they should have fun blocking for these backs.

Knile Davis could be the next great one for the Hogs. He dashed for 1,322 yards last season en route to first team All-SEC honors as a sophomore. He's bigger and faster for his third spring with the Hogs. Remember, he was a mid-term enrollee as a true freshman. The junior-to-be is a 6-0, 230-pound chiseled flash. He bench presses over 400 pounds on a consistent basis and was clocked at 4.29 in the 40-yard dash one week ago.

Running backs coach Tim Horton just shakes his head over what he sees from Davis on a daily basis. From film study, to dedication in the weight room, to leadership in the locker room and on the field, Davis hits the max in every category.

"This is a guy that football is very important to," he said. "He loves the game. He wants to come in and see video of the pro backs. He has an awful lot of maturity in him.

"He was good last year, very good. But he's thicker, faster and stronger now. He's 230. He's had a great offseason. His numbers are really amazing.

"I had Darren McFadden and he was amazing in his numbers, too, but he wasn't thick like this. His back end was little. The strength that Knile has in his legs is amazing.

"And this is a person who is not going to rest on his laurels. He wants to keep getting better. He will, too."

Now that's scary.


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