State of the Hogs: Bullets

Arkansas has ammo for the SEC as fall practice begins in just a few days. Here's also some Penn State thoughts and an end-of-the-summer option for the grill.

There wasn't much golf played Thursday at the media event John L. Smith hosted at Paradise Valley Golf Club in Fayetteville. Much needed rain hit after eight holes. Most were glad to trade golf for rain with the weather that has hung around the Ozarks the last six weeks.

There was some time sitting in golf carts in the storage area under the clubhouse as the storms rolled through Fayetteville watering areas that haven't seen moisture since May. And the talk in what I'll call the bat cave spilled into a lot of areas.

There was discussion among media and coaches about what will happen with Penn State football. And there was talk about summer barbecue recipes, Tyler Wilson's golf game and just the general condition of the Arkansas football program.

That last part probably holds the greatest interest, so I'll start there. It comes from Tim Horton, recruiting coordinator and running backs coach for the Razorbacks. It was the most relaxed and excited I've ever seen Horton. I think he knows the Hogs are going to be good.

"We have bullets and plenty of them," Horton said. "I think our players know they have ability and experience. They are very excited about getting started. It's as excited as I've seen them. We have good kids and they are going to play hard. They are together and ready for this season. That excites us as coaches.

"It's never easy in the SEC, but we are in a good position starting out for fall camp. Like I said, we have bullets and that gives you a chance."

Obviously, Horton has been places where there were no bullets. After his playing career at Arkansas, he coached at Appalachian State, Air Force and Kansas State. Those places never had the kind of talent it takes to compete at the highest level of Division I. It's clear that Horton believes the Hogs have that now.

There are some holes as far as depth, but that isn't at running back where this may be the deepest overall group. Horton starts camp with talent, experience and some youngsters that will be ready to carry the torch soon. Redshirt freshman Kody Walker and incoming stars Donovan Roberts and Jonathan Williams have speed and toughness.

Don't underestimate the toughness in this group of backs. Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Wingo and Kiero Small are the senior leaders and they ooze toughness. I can't name another group of Arkansas backs -- counting the young ones like Walker -- that compares to this one as far as pure numbers and talent. Yes, the Hogs once had Felix Jones, Darren McFadden and Peyton Hillis together, but they weren't all four-year guys like Davis, Johnson, Wingo and Small.

The key in the SEC is line play, both sides of the ball. Arkansas starts in a great position on both sides. There is healthy competition, too. That's something that made it togh for offensive coordinator Paul Petrino to name the starters at the golf outing on Thursday. He probably could have done that, but he knows that's not necessary. The first two weeks of August camp will take care of that for him.

I love a team that is strong up the middle. With Travis Swanson at center, Tyler Wilson at quarterback and all of those talented backs, Arkansas has that. I think they'll be fine on defense in that same respect with Byran Jones, Robert Thomas, Dede Jones, Alfred Davis, Tenaris Wright, Alonzo Highsmith, Eric Bennett and Ross Rasner. All of those have played plenty.

So what about Penn State? At least two that understand college football told me that the Nittany Lions may be alright for one season, or even two because of the number of upperclassmen on the roster. It'll be 2014 and 2015 that is bad -- maybe really bad.

One expert with knowledge of that part of the country said the Lions will be able to lure a few legacy recruits from their backyard to fill their offensive line needs, perhaps as walk-ons. That's just the nature of Pennsylvania football. But he expects Pitt, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and even Rutgers to make hay in the traditional Penn State recruiting grounds. And it could get ugly fast if Penn State loses the cream of the last two classes to the liberal transfer rule put into play by the NCAA.

Do you care about barbecue? There were some new recipes thrown about, including mine of cooking steaks after a brief marinade with grape jelly and worcestershire sauce. Just throw it in a freezer bag for about 30 minutes and mash it around. Of course, start with a good ribeye steak.

Grape jelly? Seriously, grape jelly is to steaks what it is to peanut butter. And I'm one that loves my PB&J.

That's what I'll be doing this weekend as I'm licking my chops for the start of football season. Try it as you are salivating over the thought of Arkansas football heading into the SEC with plenty of bullets. That's not overcooking the steak, either. It shapes up to be a delicious season -- even without the grape jelly.

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