State of the Hogs: Wide Receivers
The media guide flopped open, but not in the section I had intended, the lettermen's list. I was going to look up a couple of names and the years they had played for the Arkansas football team.
But something entirely different hit me when last year's media guide opened to page 128, the list of the all-time 100-yard receiving games in Arkansas history. There have been 82, topped by the 12-catch day Mike Reppond had against Rice in 1971. Reppond totaled 204 yards, but not a single TD in that strange 24-24 game in Houston.
No other Arkansas receiver has ever topped 200 yards in a single game. Only two others have caught more passes. Wear Schoonover and James Shibest hold the record with 12.
What's all of this about? Just that it's a safe bet that most of the Arkansas records for receiving are about to be rewritten, now that Bobby and Paul Petrino are running the offense.
Expect it to begin this season. And, new receiving records will be set in following seasons.
I think Arkansas will pass early and often this year. Expect the ratio between run and pass plays to be in the 60-40 range, with the pass ahead.
Early in games, the ratio might be even more top-heavy to the pass.
In the late spring when we were shooting the cover photo for the Hawgs Illustrated summer football preview, a Razorback logo football was made available. It wasn't the exact copy that had been used in the spring, a model Wilson produces with black laces, a non-traditional football.
There was a brief conversation with Bobby Petrino about the football. The summation was that the football he picked from Wilson, the GST model, is easier to throw and easier to catch. There were some details, but they were lost on me. I think it had to do with the way the stripes had grain, or the way the laces were built.
What I can recognize more than the details of the football is that records are going to fall. Some might point to the returning talent at wide receiver and find fault with my forecast. They may be correct. It may be that some of the newcomers -- and there are some true talents in the rookie receivers -- have to play early.
The first time the Arkansas media met with Paul Petrino last winter, among his initial comments was this: "Everywhere we have been we have always had a receiver or receivers who have been tops in the country."
During that same time when the media questioned the talent available at wideout, Bobby Petrino almost predicted breakthroughs when he said, "We'll surprise you with a couple probably that will take off in spring and do really well for us."
In the current wideout group, will there be a George Wilson or Anthony Eubanks? Wilson and Eubanks had only fair athletic ability, but maxed out because of great hands and perfect routes. Between them, they had 16 of those 82 100-yard games.
It could be that the go-to man with the 100-yard games this season is tight end/H-back D. J. Williams. Or, it may be Carlton Salters, solid in the spring as the slot receiver. Or, it might be London Crawford. I'm guessing both Williams and Salters will catch many more passes than Crawford, but the speed of Crawford might put him over the century mark plenty.
The key is the Hogs will have some receivers over 100 yards and might have someone catch fire and do it on a consistent basis. That isn't a stretch, either. It's happened everywhere the Petrino brothers have coached.
I mentioned this to Bill Keopple at a spring practice. Keopple, now the high school coach at Texarkana, Ark., remembers coaching against Petrino years ago. Keopple was at Boise State, Petrino the offensive coordinator at Utah State under John L. Smith.
"They had the best-looking collection of athletes you'll ever want to see at a place like Utah State," Keopple said. "That's what they are fixing to look like here in another year or two. But they will get the ball to the ones they have now and do a nice job of producing."
About that time, Crawford trotted past. Keopple nodded his head and said, "Yes, that's what they all looked like at Utah State. (Petrino) will have a bunch like that here."
They all don't look like London Crawford now. He's tall, strong and fast. He looks like an NFL linebacker playing wide receiver.
I do not know if Crawford's name will fill up the page in the media guide reserved for receivers with 100-yard games. But there will be plenty of new entries over the next few seasons.
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