The Arkansas depth chart for the season opener against Southern Cal was released on Thursday. There were few surprises. About the only thing I was looking for anyway was the word on the battle at placekicker where Stephen Arnold has nudged ahead of Dan Bailey.
That's been the bugaboo for Arkansas ever since the day Todd Latourette was disciplined before the Mississippi State game in 1998. I haven't felt good about that position since. There have been some games where it looked like offensive strategy in the red zone was severely impacted by the lack of confidence in a placekicker.
Whether it's Arnold or Bailey, I don't care. I just hope one of them steps forward and makes placekicker a position I don't have to check in pre-game warmups. I want to forget about that spot and I don't want to have to wait until Alex Tejada, the hotshot Springdale kicker, arrives next fall.
I looked at the rest of the depth chart casually because I didn't expect to find any other major changes. And, I was right. Yep, there was Damian Williams listed as an "or" with Cedric Washington at the starting flanker spot. And, just as Mike Markuson had hinted last week, there was Nate Garner listed as an "or" at both right guard with Robert Felton and right tackle with Zac Tubbs.
Everything else looked exactly how it's been for every snap this August and for most of spring drills. In fact, it's going to look a lot like the first units that went on the field against LSU in the finale in Baton Rouge. We've known for a week that Robert Johnson was ahead of Mitch Mustain at quarterback and that Michael Grant has locked down the free safety spot after an early challenge from Matt Hewitt.
It was such a boring depth chart that my mind wandered as I scanned it. I began to play the game my good friend at Alabama, Kirk McNair, showed me earlier this week when he wrote a column on what this Crimson Tide team would look like in one platoon football.
Most of you probably don't know this, but there was a time they didn't divide teams into offense and defense. Players did not leave the field. Fullbacks were linebackers. Split ends were defensive backs. Tailbacks were safeties or linebackers. Tackles were defensive ends, etc.
McNair was once the sports information director for Bear Bryant and has made his living of late as the publisher/editor at Inside Bama Magazine. He's really old -- much older than me -- so his knowledge of one platoon football is fantastic. But I understand the premise and wanted to come up with my 2006 Arkansas One Platoon Lineup.
The first thing you have to do is name your quarterback. I'll go with Robert Johnson because that's who the Hogs have as the starter anyway.
But, even if he was the backup, I might pick Johnson since I think he's more capable of manning a spot in the secondary than Mitch Mustain. Sorry, Mitch, but I think Robert is bigger and faster and can handle defense better. I've seen him tackle folks (after throwing interceptions) and does that like a scorpion stings.
The offensive backfield is easy. I'd have Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis and Sam Olajubutu. Not many know Olajubutu also doubled as a fullback in high school. He'd play there on offense and join Hillis at linebacker in a 5-2 scheme. Jones would play cornerback. I've seen him tackle and don't worry about him making plays on defense, either. I believe Hillis would be a fine linebacker.
The other halfback on defense is Matterral Richardson, a top wideout in high school.
Richardson will be one end on offense with Desmond Sims on the other side as a tight end. That leaves out Marcus Monk, but I had trouble figuring out a defensive spot for him. Sims, who would play strong safety/outside linebacker in my defense, has wonderful hands. I still can't get out of my mind that diving catch Sims made on his first day of practice as a true freshman four years ago when the Hogs were toying with the idea of putting him at wideout. I also remember his high school coach raving about him as a two-way player and the way he caught the ball.
Up front on defense, I'd go with a five-man front. Jamaal Anderson and Marcus Harrison, my offensive tackles because of their athletic ability to pass block, would be ends on defense. The defensive tackles would be Jonathon Luigs and Keith Jackson.
Luigs at DT? Well, you've got to have a center and he'd have to play somewhere. Jackson would be a great pulling guard on offense with his fine quickness and low center of gravity. The other guard would be Stephen Parker. He's got the nasty instincts to play nose guard and will anchor my front.
That's a pretty good 11. Leaving out Monk is an error, I know. But he'd sub in per the wild-card rule. You get one sub per quarter and might be like a Lance Alworth, sitting down when the defense took the field.
In the 50s and for parts of the 60s, college football did not have much specialization. The best went both ways. Guys like George Walker were as good at tailback as they were at safety. Muscles Campbell was ferocious at fullback and linebacker. Fred Williamson, Dave Hanner and Pat Summerall went both ways in the line, as did Bud Brooks, the Outland Trophy winner.
In those days, it was all about finding a great defensive player and then seeing if he could also play enough on offense to get by. You picked your 11 for defense first, as I did mostly for my 2006 Arkansas One Platoon team.
That's the tough part about Monk. I'm not sure about his defensive ability, but I probably should come off of that some. I've seen him do about everything else. He once played some QB and he has a fine arm. He can probably kick, too. I wouldn't be surprised if Monk could punt, too. It probably is not a stretch to figure he could play in the secondary, and perhaps even linebacker. Certainly, he has the size to play linebacker.
There are several others with talent to play both ways on this UA squad. Defensive back Michael Grant was a fine wideout in high school, and could play tailback, too. Rod Coleman and Cedric Washington, both split ends now, were high school quarterbacks, too. Both could double up in the secondary. Indeed, Washington was coveted by Texas A&M as a cornerback candidate.
And, if you look in the freshman class, Ben Cleveland can play wideout or tight end and lay them out at middle linebacker, too. Ryan Powers was coveted by the offensive staff as a tailback and at linebacker by defensive coordinator Reggie Herring. Jerrell Norton can play quarterback, wideout or cornerback.
I'm not saying I want to go back to one platoon football. I like the specialization. It's much more fun to watch and sure provides more offense. You'd hate to watch 11 guys picked primarily because they were great defenders. But just for one afternoon, I wanted to return to another era.
If this wasn't for you, then blame Kirk McNair.
My One Platoon Arkansas Team of 2006
QB/FS Robert Johnson
TB/HB Felix Jones
WB/LB Peyton Hillis
FB/LB Sam Olajubutu
E/SS Desmond Sims
E/HB Matterral Richardson
T/E Jamaal Anderson
G/NG Stephen Parker
C/T Jonathon Luigs
G/T Keith Jackson
T/E Marcus Harrison
State of the Hogs: One Platoon
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