I was inspired by a discussion about who is the best Arkansas football coach of all-time. I'm guessing the argument had to be that perhaps Bobby Petrino was heading in that direction before he went in the ditch.
Certainly, there shouldn't be much argument over a 21-5 two-year record against what Frank Broyles did in the 1964-65 season when the Hogs won 22 straight (with one game going back to the 1963 campaign). And there were some good two-year runs by teams coached by Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield, too.
Of course, some will say those coaches had it easier with the Southwest Conference than Petrino did in the SEC. But there were times when the SWC was rolling pretty well, too. The main argument for those coaches against Petrino comes out in championships won, instead of just won-loss totals. Petrino hadn't won any titles when he wrecked.
There is no way to decide those type of discussions. Each is welcome to their own opinion and I won't say they are wrong. It's my opinion that the 1964 team was the best since it has a national title in the trophy case after winning five straight games by shutout to end the regular season. In a similar way, it will be hard to argue that any Arkansas basketball team is worth comparing to the 1994 squad -- until it has a national title.
There are other interesting "best" discussions out there worth tackling. Who was the best at each position? It's hard to compare different eras and you'd have to define rules for the contest that I'm not going to bother with just to keep things wide open. Each person has to decide what makes a player the best in their mind.
But here are some thoughts to get it going. I'm going to provide zero rules or qualifications. You'll have to do that along with deciding who wins. It is a neat discussion no matter when you decide to do it.
It's kind of like trying to decide whether or not you prefer the Razorbacks playing the LSU Tigers to end the season or the Mizzou Tigers at season's end. It appears the latter is the route the SEC has decided is best for the Hogs. I don't have a lot of argument for or against either one. Others do and that's an interesting debate, too.
Here are some of my bests and there is nothing set in stone. In another week I might come up with something entirely different. Most likely, I've left some off that you think are better. And you are welcome to mark this up with a red pen. Just know that this is just one man's thoughts, right or wrong. Consider:
Best Quarterback -- Fred Marshall, because he has a national title and none of the others do. You can also make an argument for Billy Moore, the only All-America quarterback at the UA. Or, for Tyler Wilson, the only first team All-SEC quarterback. Or for Quinn Grovey, who took the Hogs to two Cotton Bowls. Ryan Mallett and Matt Jones were both electric in their own way and I'm not going to argue with anyone if that's their choice. Joe Ferguson had the best NFL career. I won't argue that he was the best.
Best Wide Receiver -- Lance Alworth, because he was a Hall of Famer there in the NFL. Alworth was a tailback/wingback at Arkansas but ever dangerous as a receiver and in kick returns. If he had played wide receiver at Arkansas, no one would compare. You can make a case for Chuck Dicus, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Anthony Lucas, Marcus Monk, Bobby Crockett and others. And you might be right.
Best Running Back -- Darren McFadden is my choice, perhaps because he's the most recent great one. Ben Cowins was fantastic, too. You can put Dickey Morton, Bill Burnett and Bobby Burnett on the list, too. But most of us would take McFadden first and be happy. Clyde Scott and Lance Alworth were electric at running back, too. Knile Davis could make a run at this spot. He's that good.
Best Offensive Lineman -- Shawn Andrews was the most dominant offensive lineman I've seen in my lifetime. I don't think it's really very close. Leotis Harris and Freddie Childress would be tops in the the next group that might be very large.
Best Tight End -- D. J. Williams was the nation's best. After you win the John Mackey Award, there isn't much debating. Anyway, he's one of my favorites off the field so I'm biased and admit it. Joe Dean Davenport might have been the best big man to play the position. Preston Carpenter played in the backfield and at tight end. He was a great one for a long time in the NFL.
Best Defensive Lineman -- Loyd Phillips won the Outland and a national title. That's enough for me. There's been some other great ones like Dan Hampton, Billy Ray Smith and Wayne Martin. But the only one I could watch for a whole game with never a look for the ball (he'd arrive there eventually) was Phillips.
Best Linebackers -- This one is a tie. Wayne Harris earned the nickname The Thumper and he was all of that and more. Faster than most defenders of his era, he punished the men he hit. He struck as fast as a cottonmouth moccasin. Cliff Powell earns a spot here for the way he played against Texas in the Great Shootout. I was mesmerized with the way he played against the Texas wishbone that day. He made 367 tackles in an era where the clock didn't stop much and there were fewer plays.
Best Cornerbacks -- This is a tough one. There isn't just one that stands out in my mind, perhaps because this hasn't been a great position for Arkansas through the years. I would probably start with Chris Houston, but I admit that there isn't much difference in my mind with David Barrett, Orlando Watters and Louis Campbell. All were on all-decade teams from their era. And I won't argue if you put Ken Hatfield here. He made the All-Century team, but was not on his all-decade team. He was a halfback/punt returner.
Best Safeties -- This one is tough, too, but because there are so many great choices. Steve Atwater, Ken Hamlin,Kenoy Kennedy and Greg Lasker. There were others that were fine safeties, too, like Tony Bua. Harry Jones was known more for being an offensive player but he was a fine safety, too. George McKinney was a good one from the early 1960s, too. George Wilson has earned a lot of money in the NFL as a fine safety, but he was a wide receiver in college.
Best Special Teams -- Ken Hatfield, Joe Adams, Lance Alworth, Felix Jones and Dennis Johnson all should receive credit for their dynamic ability as kick returners. Take any of them and you'd be set. Steve Little probably was the best as far as a combination kicker/punter, but I might take Kendall Trainor first. Or Todd Wright. Or Bill McClard. You get the picture. All were very good. And others could slide in here, too.
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