Red-White Top 10 List

The fifth-year senior quarterback will put on a show, but No. 10 on our list -- how will the tackling go at safety -- might be as important as anything that happens Saturday.

The Top 10 List for the Red-White spring game is pretty simple. We are going to say the top item has to do with coaching. How could it now with Bobby Petrino long gone after being fired two weeks ago?

Gone might be putting it mildly. Athletic director Jeff Long announced his termination after the coach had a motorcycle wreck with his girl friend, or at least a recently dumped girl friend. The girl had been dumped on the bike, too. The secrets trickled out over the next week and Long finally set Petrino out.

The coaching search may be close to ending. It may go for a few more days. It won't end this weekend, according to Long's statement Friday. The focus is to be on players and the coaches who have held things together since Petrino's wreck and termination.

It could be that one of the coaches ends up as an interim head coach as soon as Monday, but there is no promise that it could be that quick. Likely candidates are Paul Petrino and Tim Horton, although someone has suggested that Seve Caldwell is also hugely qualified for that role.

I could give you a long list of coaches out of work who might be candidates to take the job on a fulltime basis. The one that seems to have gotten the most play is former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer. Butch Davis, most recently at North Carolina, is another. Skip Holtz also has been mentioned, although he has a job and it is tough to make a move after spring drills. Jon Gruden is working in ESPN. Some have hoped for Steve Sarkisian, head coach at Washington. Most of these don't see real willing to make a move, although Fulmer might be an exception.

I'd rather write about football. With the top thing on our list coaching, we'll move on to football stuff for No.s 2-10.

2. Tyler Wilson. He's had an All-American spring to go with his All-SEC season. He's had everything clicking, including the running game. He's a fine player who is taking charge of his team during a period of adversity. No one has ever been in better shape to do that. He has the respect of his team as a player and person. He's going to put on a show Saturday.

3. The wide receivers. So much was lost with Jarius Wright and Joe Adams, but so much is still there with Cobi Hamilton, Marquel Wade, Julian Horton and Keante Minor. There's more than that, but those four have been special and made Wilson's job easy.

4. Tight ends. Chris Gragg Austin Tate, Brett Weir and Demetrius Dean make this the best and deepest area on the team. Tate has an injury is not likely to play. That should give more time to Dean, a beast of a tight end. He's in his first semester with the Hogs and is going to be a great one. He has the ability to run fluid patterns and has awesome, soft hands. Gragg is an All-SEC type.

5. Defensive line. It's fun to watch if you only focus on the D-line. Guys like Robert Thomas, Byran Jones, Alfred Davis, Dede Jones give you plenty of weapons inside. Trey Flowers, Austin Flynn, Chris Smith and Colton Miles-Nash are fine ends. Horace Arkadie might can play both. It might be worth finding No. 95 Satuday.

6. Offensive line. Deep, talented and more athletic than any offensive line I've seen at Arkansas in years. This group is two deep at all positions and three deep at some. Travis Swanson is having a dynamite spring, as is Brey Cook and David Hurd, the two tackles. Alvin Bailey was demoted to the second team after some academic troubles, but he's stepped up with a fine spring. Luke Charpentier, Mitch Smothers and Marcus Danenhauer look good, too. Tyler Deacon is very capable as well. Jason Peacock is five times better now than he was last spring after dropping 35 pounds to 297.

7. Running backs. Knile Davis won't scrimmage, but he's fine. The other backs are top shelf. Ronnie Wingo, Dennis Johnson, Kody Walker and Keiro Small provide depth and ability. They have all of the tools and are utilized in all ways by a crafty quarterback. Small has shown some ability to run the ball.

8. Linebacker question marks. The defense has a bunch of questions although the ability to run and play with effort is erasing some of them. I worried about linebacker before I saw Tenarius Wright step in there at the start of the spring. He's getting better, as is Terrell Williams behind him. Jarrett Lake and Austin Jones have rotated at the other inside spot, likely to be Alonzo Highsmith's when he gets well from a torn pectoral tendon. Matt Marshall and Ross Rasner figure in certain schemes, too.

9. Cornerback. It's improving, but the wideouts have made a bunch of plays. Hard to measure them against Cobi Hamilton and Marquel Wade. But there is better size there with Tevin Mitchel. Kelvin Fisher doesn't have the size, but he has much needed playmaking ability. Darius Winston has had his best spring.

10. Safety. Again, it's hard to measure this group with the way Tyler Wilson has cut them up in scrimmages. But the tackling is better. Jerry Mitchell has gotten better each day at safety. He looks like an SEC safety with a big body and he runs better and quicker than he did last spring when he was at corner. If this experiment takes, it might be the missing link for this defense, a 210-pound safety who can rock heads. But he's got to keep improving on pass defense.Eric Bennett is solid at the other safety. And these guys do what you want from a safety, they support the run and don't miss tackles. I have not seen a lot of missed tackles this spring and that might be the final thing to watch in our top 10 for the spring game.

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