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State of the Hogs:
My how things have changed. I remember two years ago after watching the Las Vegas Bowl, and then coming home to a struggling basketball team. Football began to improve that January as Houston Nutt began to make some headway in recruiting and in his offseason methods. Basketball didn't improve so rapidly. It took a coaching change to effect change.
But, I would say at this point, things are looking up in the two headline programs in Razorback athletics, the ones which pay the bills, football and men's basketball.
Both Nutt and hoops coach Stan Heath aren't all the way there yet. Neither has his program in the top 25, and that will always be the goal for those two programs. However, I can see where both can make it to that status and in the not-to-distant future. Nutt might yet achieve that goal this season, while Heath will probably need to plug in Olu Famutimi, Ronnie Brewer, Julius Lamptey and Vincent Hunter before making it into that rare air sometime next season.
Nutt still has some recruiting holes to fill, especially on the defensive line. But, it's obvious that his new defensive line coach, Kacy Rodgers, can flat out coach. We've seen evidence of that this year as he's readied Pervis Osborne, Brandon Holmes, Wes Murphy as this season's progressed. And, we saw him groom Arrion Dixon and Elliott Harris into SEC playmakers last spring and in two-a-days. Given proper tools, Rodgers will give the Hogs what they need up front on defense, and that's sound, solid fundamental play in whatever scheme the Hogs choose.
Can Heath coach? Dad gum right, he can coach. It starts on the defensive end. This bunch of Hogs will guard you. There will be no easy looks. And, when the opponents clang a shot, there is a chance it will land in the middle of the lane as five Hogs block out all opposing rebounders. We've been pointing to the rebounding focus Heath gives to daily practices, and it's now obvious to all who have witnessed a game, either the Red-White, the two exhibitions or Friday night's 81-44 pasting of Jackson State. The Hogs grabbed a school-record 77 rebounds to eclipse a mark that was set in 1956 against Fort Chaffee.
Jackson State might be a similar foe to what Fort Chaffee was in the 50s, just a little blip on the radar. In no ways does a runaway over JSU's Tigers signify that Heath's rebounders are ready to take on Alabama, Kentucky and Florida. But, they may be closer to being a force in the SEC than we anticipated 60 days ago.
These Hogs will be sound fundamentally, and have some weapons on offense, too. Eric Ferguson, Kendrick Davis and Jonathon "Pookie" Modica are better than I first thought, and appear to be equipped to handle SEC heat. And, Dionisio Gomez and Alonzo Lane are much improved over the versions we saw the last three years.
Yes, it's fun to be a fan in the Razorback Nation right now. And, the best is yet to come.