Will Football Hogs Be That Taxing?

FAYETTEVILLE - Being Captain Procrastinator, I spent about four hours at a local H&R Block office on Thursday afternoon weeding through mind-numbing tax forms.

Yep, April 14, probably now recalled not especially fondly by those kind folks as D-Day.

After several hours of perplexing problems, we decided to call it quits and get a fresh start Friday morn.

Yep, April 15.

By then, I was looking at a whopping (for yours truly) federal debt.

Fortunately, it turned out, the computer program kept flagging the return while we gritted our teeth.

A couple of hours, McDonald's sodas, colorful words, phone calls for direction, deletions and restarts later, those H&R Block folks - Ron Jones in particular - figured it out.

When the program finally accepted his offering, Ron held both arms aloft like football player after a score.

"If I was Matt Jones, I'd spike something over a goalpost!" said Ron, beaming.

I would've, too.

In the end, the ugly debt was wiped away, replaced by a decent refund.

Touchdown!

This is the long way around the barn, but the point is this: Sometimes when things seem shaky, good things settle into place.

Particularly when expectations aren't exactly lofty.

Which brings us, in a real round-about manner, to this Arkansas football team that mostly has been cloaked in secrecy (like mosts everything on The Hill these days) because of the new policy of closed practices.

Defensive stalwart Jeb Huckeba is gone, graduating, possibly, to the NFL. Ditto for strong tackle Arrion Dixon.

So, too, Jones (Matt, not Ron!), perhaps the most intriguing prospect for next weekend's 2005 NFL Draft, and do-it-all receiver/running back/returner DeCori Birmingham.

Talking candidly with some members of the Arkansas staff, though, has been surprisingly positive.

No kidding.

As they should, the coaches are seriously focusing on the Haves, not the Have Nots.

Haves include running backs De'Arrius Howard (power) and Dedrick Poole (speed), super sophomore tailback/fullback Peyton Hillis, solid tight end Jared Hicks and potential secondary-stretching receivers Cedric Washington and Chris Baker.

And all but Gene Perry return to the offensive line.

Oh, yeah, Marcus Monk, the school's all-time freshman receiver who provides near religious experiences with miracle (immaculate?) receptions, returns.

Defensive linemen still are smallish, but new coordinator Reggie Herring intends to kill with speed, shuffling just about everyone but holder Dowell Loggains to experiments at defensive end.

All but Marcus Whitmore return to the linebacking corps, and Arkansas coaches feel their secondary finally is stacked again.

The giant question, of course, is Who will be the starting quarterback?

Sophomore Robert Johnson entered spring as the heavy favorite. He's the only one of the three candidates with game experience, though that wasn't much and little about it was impressive.

More athletic than freshman Cole Barthel or redshirt freshman Alex Mortensen, Johnson behind center could mean little would change in Arkansas' offensive scheme of things.

If Barthel or Mortensen, both more natural dropbackers, end up in charge, we might see more of a pro-style, pass-oriented approach.

Hard to tell behind the tarps, but during this morning's scrimmage of sorts, we'll get a better idea of where this is going.

Just don't expect to see a Chris Leak-like quarterback floating a half-dozen TD spirals to Florida-caliber receivers.

And we don't expect we'll see Razorback Stadium packed to the brim as The Swamp was for new Florida coach Urban Meyer's first scrimmage.

Urban Renewal, they call it.

After a 5-6 season and the loss of Jones, expectations are hardly great in these parts for next season.

That could be a good thing.

You might be surprised.

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