Here's a review of the Top 10 List. It's a commentary of what I suggested would be good to watch and how it actually turned out:
There weren't a lot of surprises in Arkansas' 51-7 victory over Missouri State in the season opener. It went about the way most suspected.
The Bears were outmanned at every spot and Arkansas won easily. I like to go back to the Top 10 List that I write on Fridays during the season and work through it item by item on Sunday.
But one of the first things that needs to be mentioned is the crowd. It was listed at 70,607, pretty good for a Labor Day weekend for a lackluster foe. I made the comment during the first quarter that it might be the most ever to see the Hogs play on a Labor Day weekend for that kind of an opponent. It was a big indicator of how hungry these Arkansas fans are for the Bobby Petrino product. The Arkansas head coach has them in his hands right now.
Here's the Top 10 List from Friday, with a review:
Tyler Wilson lived up to advance billing. The junior from Greenwood made his first career start and accounted for himself pretty well. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 260 yards. There were two touchdowns and no interceptions. My favorite throw was the strike for the first touchdown catch by Jarius Wright. It was delivered on time to a tight spot. I liked Wilson's reaction when a Missouri State defender got to the receiver early and a pass interference was missed. Wilson was quick to defend his receiver with a downfield move to the officials. That's a nice competitive reaction. I also think it was good for fans to see Wilson try to score on a scramble, but the head coach was correct in his assertion that Wilson needs to protect his head from those kinds of shots in the future. Brandon Mitchell had a decent first game, but he has some errors to clean up. He's going to be an adequate backup.
2, Wide receivers.
Wow. Jarius Wright and Joe Adams made some electric plays. But the Hogs have a fine group, as advertised. Marquel Wade, Cobi Hamilton, Julian Horton, Greg Childs, Javontee Herndon and Keante Minor give the Hogs the best group in the country. Childs drew big applause after both of his catches. The big flyer is coming back from knee surgery and looked good. But make no mistake, Wright is the leader of this bunch. He sets the tone in practice and he did in this game with six catches for 108 yards and two awesome TD catches. Adams did his stuff in the return game. He had six punt returns for 174 yards. The bad news here is that everyone will punt it out of bounds after seeing this video.
The front seven strutted its stuff. The starting front included Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright at end with three tackles inside -- Byran Jones, Robert Thomas and Dede Jones. I love that front and it will be valuable against running teams like Alabama. Missouri State's offensive line isn't much, but this is still a defensive front that is vastly improved over recent seasons. Linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Jerry Franklin will be better players this season because of this front. If it takes two blockers to occupy Byran Jones and Robert Thomas, there's not anyone left to go after the inside linebackers. That's a big difference.
4. De'Anthony Curtis.
Converted from cornerback in fall camp, Curtis looked at home and comfortable at running back. He had five carries for 37 yards and all of them were inside plays. He's got the quicks to go outside. No one has ever doubted that. But he looks like an SEC back. That's what everyone predicted when he was the No. 1 recruit in the state out of Camden four years ago. He's a welcome sight after the Hogs lost Knile Davis in August camp.
5. Robert Thomas.
The big defensive tackle wasn't a surprise to the Bears. They put two and three blockers on Thomas throughout the night. That limited his tackle total to two assists, including sharing a tackle for a 1-yard loss. That's not the kind of production that will come later. But he moved the blockers into the backfield and gave linebackers an easy angle to the ball carrier. He did wreak some havoc, just as coaches predicted. It was a good first game for Thomas. He is a pure talent and belongs on the list of the best defensive tackles in the SEC.
6. Tramian Thomas.
It was an easy night for the UA free safety. It started great when his mother organized a bus trip for family and fans from Winnie, Texas. Thomas was greeted in the player walk before the game by 50 fans in the same T-shirts printed by mom. Thomas didn't have to do much because the front gobbled up everything and Missouri State was so scared of the UA rush that it didn't offer a dropback passing game. It's a nice night when the free safety only has to make two tackles. Thomas was perfect on both chances.
7. Marquel Wade.
He's a player. He's listed as a true freshman, but that hardly seems fair. He was in camp last August for a few days before moving to prep school because of an academic issue. He returned for the winter semester and was a star in the spring. He has some of the same attributes as Joe Adams. He's also an intense competitor, like Adams. He is the twin deep man with Adams on punt returns. He got key blocks in both of the touchdown returns by Adams, including two blocks on one of them. He added two returns for 14 yards.
8. Offensive tackles.
There were some mistakes, but it wasn't a bad first game. Mitch Smothers became the first true freshman to start in the Arkansas offensive line in modern times. There was one sack that came from a man through his area, but he also made some clean plays to help the Arkansas running game, too. Jason Peacock had some errors in relief of Smothers, including a personal foul on a downfield block. Both will improve. Both are talents. Grant Freeman had a fine performance in his first start. The fifth-year senior had a relatively clean night in the opener.
9. Colton Miles-Nash.
This was an interesting starting lineup for the Hogs. With D.J. Williams moved to the Green Bay Packers, the question was who might be on the field for the opening play, Chris Gragg or Colton Miles-Nash. Turns out, it was neither. Petrino started five wideouts -- Joe Adams, Julian Horton, Cobi Hamilton, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. The Hogs were in an empty backfield with Tyler Wilson at quarterback, and no backs behind him. Miles-Nash seemed to have a productive night blocking. He did get plenty of action and didn't appear to have any major errors. Gragg was more involved in the passing game. He had four catches for 18 yards.
The crowd was announced at 70,607, fantastic for opening night. There was a buzz around the stadium all day. The student section filled as soon as the gates opened two hours before kickoff. There were some empty seats in the corner of the east upper deck and in the bleachers above the south end zone expansion. But, not many. It was clear the players were excited to play the opener. For the most part, the excitement stayed in the stadium from start to end. As Bobby Petrino said afterwards, it was mission accomplished in the opener. There was nothing to dampen the spirit. Dennis Johnson didn't suit up because of a sore hamstring. And there were no further injuries. It's clear there is a nice freshmen class, not counting several junior college transfers on the field.
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