State of the Hogs: Truths

Arkansas is improved over last year. The number you've been waiting for ... you'll have to read further to find out the season prediction from HI.com publisher Clay Henry

Nolan Richardson often borrowed a line from Vince Lombardi when he talked about what his style of basketball did to the opponent. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

I heard it first when the coach arrived in Tulsa. He trotted it out early and often when he got to Arkansas. Obviously, it's a truth. I like to hear coaches talk about truths. Bobby Petrino doesn't dodge it when he lays down his core values. Over the last four years we've heard plenty.

We know that ringing the bell is bringing your peak performance to date. Many times we've heard that leadership is not announced, but demonstrated.

It's been hammered into Arkansas football players so well that they now repeat it when it's their turn at the microphone. It's a sign that the players believe when they begin to sound like their coach. When you follow well, you can then lead.

Petrino went through a hand full of his "truths" before a crowd of more than 700 at the Little Rock Touchdown Club's kickoff meeting this week. There were no surprises. He talked about perseverance, grinding and attitude.

"I believe that dreaming is free, but the journey is not," he said. "The journey takes grinding. I guarantee we will grind on a daily basis." And the Hogs have a goal to out hit the opposition.

"The team that gets hit the hardest becomes the nail," he said. "If you beat the body, the mind will follow.

"Last year in Little Rock, that last drive against LSU we started on our 9-yard line and called a play-action pass to D. J. Williams. Then, we ran it eight straight times. Finally, the mind quit and we won the game."

Petrino knows some of that centers on attitude.

"I think attitude is a key ingredient to do something special," he said. "Attitude is muscle and you have to put forth effort or it will atrophy. It's as much a culture as anything. It's body language."

The body language was obvious to him as the Hogs started overtime last year at Mississippi State.

"We talk about what your body language is about in the fourth quarter," he said. "Last year before the overtime at Mississippi State our players got together in a huddle and talked about toughness. Those guys on the other sideline were dancing. There is a difference."

So the dream possible this year? How many will the Hogs win?

There are still question marks with this team. Depth at running back is an issue. There is a void in experience at weakside offensive tackle.

Yes, that can be dicey when you face one of the toughest schedules ever attempted at Arkansas. But the settled areas far outweigh the risky spots. This is the fastest offensive team of the SEC era, perhaps the deepest defensive line and the kicking game is sound.

If the Hogs won 10 with last year's bunch, they can win 11 with this super collection of quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive linemen. There are great players scattered through the offense. One that will emerge this season as an every-game threat is junior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton.

Quarterbacks? Tyler Wilson will do well. I've been taught that good defensive coordinators attack the weak quarterbacks and defend against the good ones. They will learn they have to defend against Wilson.

Wilson's understudies are capable. Brandon Mitchell is a good one and Brandon Allen will give the Hogs three when Garrick McGee gets through with him.

"Brandon Allen is better than I thought when we signed him," Petrino said. "He's got a quick release, he's accurate and he can throw on the run."

To be honest, there isn't a team on the schedule this team can't beat. Folks in Tuscaloosa, College Station, Columbia and Baton Rouge are saying the same thing. And they could be correct.

It comes down to coaching, as always. When talent is similar, I take the coach. I believe in Petrino the most right now.

I can't tell you where the lone blemish will be, but the schedule is too difficult to say 12-0. I see the body language. I see the grind. I see the toughness. I think it's the truth.

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