Commentary: Hogs Should Win 8 or 9

Hawgs Illustrated Publisher Clay Henry takes a look at what should be realistic expectations of the Arkansas football team in the 2002 season. He sees good things ahead for the Hogs.

As far as expectations for the Arkansas football team, I think it's good to be optimistic. I tend to be more of a realistic, but I am never too low. I love high expectations because it is good for the mental state of most all Arkansans. They look forward to good things from their Hogs. When they are winning and doing well, life is good. People are happy. Not coincidentally, the economy prospers during good times for the Hogs. And, I'm not just talking about subscriptions to Hawgs Illustrated, although I can make a case for prosperity there, too when the UA teams, mainly football and men's basketball, are doing well.

However, I've learned to be a realistic. I think telling it like it is serves my purpose well. I do get high after victories, but I try not to get too high. I celebrate the good times, but not overly so. The reason? I know it is an uphill struggle for our teams, in most cases. We don't have the resources, and I'm mainly talking about athletes, to dominate in the Southeastern Conference. We must beat the bushes outside of our state to scrounge up some great players to go with the passionate in-state players that we will always be able to sign. There's nothing like a youngster growing up to be a Hog and then putting that Razorback helmet or jersey on to give some real energy to the program. It's been like that forever.

Our coaches will always be up against a wall as far as recruiting. There just aren't enough top players in Arkansas to carry us all by themselves. We'll have to find some out-of-state stars to help out. We can do this and have done this.

However, expectations need to be real. As far as my expectations, and I think they are realistic, I believe we can win eight or nine games next season. I think that's a great season in the SEC. That's being realistic, too. The SEC is the toughest athletic conference in the country. It's not even close. If you look at men's and women's sports across the board, no one can challenge SEC teams for total competitiveness throughout the league.

I'll point to an example that tells you about as much as you need to know, and it came to me just yesterday. I was told by Mark Taylor, the UA equipment manager for baseball, that Clemson, a true SEC power in baseball, would rank 13th as far as facilities if it were in the SEC. They have a great baseball team, but even Vanderbilt's facility is better than Clemson's baseball home.

We have great facilities, but we don't have the athletes in our homestate that some other schools are able to draw into their programs based on passion. That's the bad news. The good news is that we have been able to muster financial resources, through the great work of Frank Broyles, Wilson Matthews, Chuck Dicus, John McDonnell, Harold Horton and Norm DeBriyn, to build the nation's finest facilities to help attract some of that out-of-state talent that we must secure.

So, being a realist, I am positive that we will be able to compete in the SEC, no small chore. We may even be able to compete at a high level. However, it's a tougher challenge than most anyone that sits in our booster sections can imagine.

It's great news and one of the things that makes Arkansans so proud of the Razorback teams and athletes. By outsiders, because of our small stature as a state in resources, most consider us to be longshots in almost every game we play. That's great news because we really aren't longshots because of our facilities and our nature to pull together to battle as one.

I've sat up and visited with my father on this subject for many years. He said this attitude of pulling together as a state is one of the things he played off of in writing his columns for many years. It definitely is a factor in the support that the Hogs get. In so many ways, the UA represents our state the way almost no other university does anywhere else in our nation as far as college athletics. It's a source of pride and joy.

It was interesting to see some displeasure when one of our regular posters on our message board, the infamous Biggus Piggus, when he pointed out the lackings of the team, most of which concerned depth and inexperience, and others became depressed over his writings.

One of the things that I always point out when I discuss our chancces in the coming season with others is that we almost always know too much about our own team because of the wealth of information now available both on-line and in the newspapers, but know almost nothing on the teams we play mainly because we don't investigate their shortcomings the way we check the Hogs' faults and drawbacks. I would tell you here that the teams we play have similar problems, mainly because of the thin numbers at every school caused by the limit of 85 scholarships.

That is why that I summarize that we will win eight or nine games. The list of our shortcomings is becoming shorter every season, and will be considerably shorter when the next recruiting class arrives in the fall. It's a great day to be a Razorback, to quote the former sports information director. And, in saying that, just remember that I'm a realist, not so much an optimist as the man who coined that phrase.

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