Here is my "State of the Hogs: Top 10 Things to Watch" that was written before the game -- with how they looked live and in person Saturday night. Mostly, it turned out as a pleasant view.
Here you go:
Here are the top 10 things to watch as Arkansas plays host to Tennessee Tech in the season opener Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
1 ) Ryan Mallett. 21 of 24 passing for 301 yards. The first quarter was far from antiseptic. There was the botched series that went from fourth-and-1, to fourth-and-6, then a sack. There were a couple of botched checks where Mallett changed the play and should have left it alone. But he's still pretty darn good and was pretty darn clean. We'll give him an A plus.
2) Linebacker. You have to be happy with the Anthony Leon position move, putting him at weakside linebacker and moving Jerry Franklin to the middle. They had too much speed for Tennessee Tech. They gobbled up the Golden Eagles. This was a major home run. Still, it's early.
3) Strong safety. The only scare came when Tramain Thomas went down at free safety, but he only missed a snap or two. That would have stretched the depth at strong safety, perhaps forcing Elton Ford to move to that spot. Ford and Rudell Crim did fine at strong safety. The good news is that the linebackers made enough plays that the safeties didn't have to do much. That's a major development. Again, this was a fun area to watch. It appears the Hogs are improved, but the Golden Eagles don't fly real well. They don't have much of a passing game. This will be further tested as we move along.
4) Center. Travis Swanson started and got the bulk of the snaps. It's not clear if he's won the spot, or Seth Oxner just is hobbled a bit from a foot sprain a week ago in the final scrimmage. I suspect Swanson might be the man in the middle. He didn't have any bad miscues. He was a presence in downfield blocking. His reputation is nasty. I like the idea that the snaps were smooth. He didn't play center until he got to Arkansas, so this might be a sweet move.
5) D. J. Williams. He's quicker and faster than last year. That's what we wanted to see. It was all there. He made yards after the catch and punished the TTU safeties in the process. He had the big hit of the night, plowing over a smaller TTU defensive back in front of the UA students.
6) All aspects of special teams. So far so good. We didn't see Dylan Breeding since the Hogs didn't have to punt. Zach Hocker handled the extra points flawlessly. There were no field goals and we assume Hocker would have gotten the nod there, too. Bobby Petrino said afterwards he was going to rotate Alex Tejada and Hocker in the fourth quarter, letting Tejada kick extra points and Hocker kick off. As it was, Tejada got all of the kickoffs and hit them beautifully, sending most into the end zone.
7) Find Byran Jones. No. 54 showed up. He was easy to find and made some vicious hits. He showed up as advertised, big and mobile. He's as strong as any freshman lineman since perhaps Shawn Andrews. He's going to push Alfred Davis for the nose tackle job. It appears the Hogs are in good shape at that spot.
8) The Operation. Smooth. That's the way a Bobby Petrino team is supposed to look. Garrick McGee, the offensive coordinator was on the sideline, perhaps a surprise to some. He said afterwards that's what works best for this team and he'll stay there. There were no glitches, few timeouts because of substitution problems. No late plays. Timeouts were mostly left on the scoreboard for this game. You couldn't have a better first game as far as this was concerned.
9) Defensive end Damario Ambrose. He's a player. He's quicker and lighter and looked it during the game. He can run down backside plays. End appears to be a strength. Tenarius Wright made one of the big plays in the game, getting penetration on the goal line to force the back outside and an eventual safety. Ambrose had a scoop on what he thought was a fumble. The big man was rolling when the refs ruled incomplete.
10) Cornerbacks Isaac Madison and Darius Winston. Not a bad first game here. Madison lost his man on a quarterback scramble on what should have been a sack. It was a nice first game for Winston who made a few tackles.
Those were the top 10 things to watch. We'll keep finding more questions and give you the answers as we watch the season unfold.
One of the most interesting developments and something to watch as we move along is the competition at guard. Wade Grayson started ahead of Grant Cook and Alvin Bailey got the nod ahead of Zhamal Thomas, but Cook and Thomas played early and did well. Bobby Petrino said this was a pair of fairly even battles that were decided late in camp and will get further looks. It's something that will bear watching over the next couple of weeks. That's good depth at guard.
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