With the Razorbacks closing in on spring football, HawgsDaily is breaking down who we believe Arkansas' starters are at all 22 positions. We'll reveal two each day through March 28, when the Razorbacks begin practice.
Quarterback: Austin Allen
R-Sr. | 6-1 | 209 | Fayetteville (Ark.)
2016 stats: 245 of 401 passing (61.1 percent), 3,430 yards, 25 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 2 rushing touchdowns
Why he'll start in 2017: Allen is the clear No. 1 quarterback for Arkansas heading into his fifth season with the Razorbacks. He played well for most of his first year as a starter in 2016, even displaying clutch, play-making ability early on against Louisiana Tech and TCU. However, as the sacks piled up, Allen began to struggle. He threw nine interceptions to only seven touchdowns over the final six games, compared to 18 touchdowns and six interceptions in the first seven games.
Why this spring is important: One thing Allen benefitted from in his first year as a starter that his brother - Brandon - didn't have in his first year was an experienced group of pass catchers. Drew Morgan, Keon Hatcher and Jeremy Sprinkle have graduated, though. Allen will still have Jared Cornelius, but pretty much everyone else he'll be throwing the ball to will be new. The spring will be big for him to establish timing and chemistry with the new guys, like JUCO transfer Brandon Martin and redshirt freshman Jordan Jones, as well as continue developing it with the young players, like LaMichael Pettway, Deon Stewart, Cheyenne O'Grady and Grayson Gunter. Allen also needs to work on his decision-making and cut down on his interceptions. (His brother cut his interceptions in half between his first and second year as a starter.)
Running back: Rawleigh Williams
Jr. | 5-10 | 223 | Dallas (Texas) Bishop Lynch
2016 stats: 245 carries, 1,360 yards, 12 touchdowns, 15 receptions, 220 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 of 1 passing, 1 yard, 1 touchdown
Why he'll start in 2017: Despite coming off a scary broken neck injury suffered midway through his freshman season, Williams won the SEC's regular-season rushing title in 2016. He struggled in some games, but when he played well, it usually meant good things for the Razorbacks. In Arkansas' seven wins last season, Williams averaged 144.7 yards. Conversely, his average dropped to 57.8 yards in the six losses. Devwah Whaley should relieve some of the pressure, but expect Williams to be the featured back once again in 2017.
Why this spring is important: Because of the aforementioned injury, Williams did not go through full contact drills in the spring or fall. The first time he got hit was in the season-opener against Louisiana Tech. Being able to fully participate in practice is important for all players, but especially running backs. It usually takes time for them to adjust to being hit every play and that can lead to ball-security issues, although it didn't for Williams last season. Still, he will benefit greatly from actually going through practices this offseason. From a position standpoint, this spring is important to see how carries will be distributed between Williams, Whaley and a potential third running back. One of the two 2017 running back signees - Maleek Williams - is already on campus, so it will be good to see how he looks.