Remember 1979!

FAYETTEVILLE -- Former Arkansas quarterback Kevin Scanlon has heard about the challenges coach Houston Nutt and the Razorbacks face this season.

First, there's the loss of 18 starters from back-to-back nine- win teams. Then there's difficulties in relying on true freshmen to play key positions. Finally, there's the schedule, which is regarded as the toughest in school history.

But the more Scanlon hears about it, the more he thinks about his senior season.

"That's what happened to us our senior year," Scanlon said. "They didn't expect us to do well."

In 1979 the Hogs were coming off a nine-win season and graduated talented players like defensive lineman Dan Hampton, quarterback Ron Calcagni and running backs Ben Cowens and Jerry Eckwood. Scanlon said there were 13 seniors on the 1979 roster and prognosticators predicted the Razorbacks would finish in the middle of the SWC pack after two consecutive second-place finishes.

On top of that, it played four opponents ranked 11th or higher in Tulsa (No. 11), Texas (No. 2), Houston (No. 6) and Alabama (No. 2).

The Hogs started the season ranked 17th, finished 10-2, won a share of the SWC championship but lost to the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.

"I think it was a combination of two things," Scanlon said. "The seniors, those 13 seniors, playing their best football. And then a great freshman class that came in with contributors like (running back) Gary Anderson and (linebacker) Billy Ray Smith Jr. that really helped us."

And he thinks the same can be true for Arkansas in 2004.

"When you look at this year's team, there's nine seniors, not ranked very high, not expecting much," Scanlon said. "They do have a senior quarterback and can sprinkle in talented freshmen like (receiver) Marcus Monk or (running back Peyton) Hillis, who might be able to contribute and do great things.

"I just think this could be a year that fools everybody."

Scanlon and members of the 1979 team will get a chance to watch the 2004 team in person, when the 25th anniversary of that SWC championship is commemorated at halftime of the Georgia game on Oct. 23. Scanlon said several members of the 1979 team are planning to attend.



FAMILIAR FOE

Freshman linebacker Zach Snider -- who's been told he's redshirting -- has given the scout team helpful hints about Aggies' nose tackle Jared Naylor. Naylor and Snider played together at Tulsa Union High in 2002, leading their team to a 14-0 record and Oklahoma's Class 6A state title.

"His nickname is, 'Bear,'" Snider said. "Basically, because he looks like a bear and plays like a bear. He's real aggressive and he's a great team player. He may look like he can't run, but that boy can really move, too."

Naylor, a 6-foot-2, 278-pound sophomore, started the first game of his collegiate career at Texas last September. He was injured in the first quarter and missed the next two games, but finished with 13 tackles in eight starts.

Another Aggie, true freshman cornerback Mitchell Cato, also played in high school with Snider.



TRICKY, TRICKY

Nutt said the Razorbacks defense and special teams will be on guard for trick plays during Saturday's opener. Arkansas spent part of Wednesday's practice breaking down situations in which New Mexico State might try to surprise the Hogs.

"Last year, the opening game, there was a lot of fake punts, lot of trickery," Nutt said. "We expect that. They do a lot of trick plays."

Aside from that, Nutt said Wednesday's practice was marred by fumbles, which must be corrected before the opener.

"We put the ball on the ground too much today," Nutt said. "We can't do that, can't have that. Got to take care of the ball."



SUN BELT VS. SEC

New Mexico State is staring at a daunting task when it faces a Southeastern Conference opponent Saturday night. But the Aggies are one of four Sun Belt Conference teams that'll open the season in SEC stadiums this weekend.

In addition to New Mexico State's opener against Arkansas, Louisiana-Monroe (at Auburn), Middle Tennessee State (at Florida) and Utah State (at Alabama) will try to improve the conference's 2-24 record against the SEC in regular season contests. So far, Middle Tennessee State is the only Sun Belt team with a win against an SEC opponent, knocking off Vanderbilt in 2001 (37-28) and 2002 (21-20).

Staff writer Mike Capshaw contributed to this report.

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