2013 AU Football Opponent Preview: Arkansas

The Razorbacks will have a new look with Bret Bielema taking over for the 2013 football season.

Bret Bielema and the rest of the new Arkansas coaching staff are bringing their Big 10 style three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football to the SEC. Whether or not he has the right personnel to make that transition work this year is a major question for the Razorbacks heading into the 2013 season.

The days of Bobby Petrino's pass-oriented style of play are gone in Fayetteville where former Wisconsin head coach Bielema inherits five returning starters on offense and eight on defense from a team that finished 4-8 overall last year and 2-6 in the SEC.

Bielema allocated a significant portion of his spring practice full pads days to 11 on 11, full contact work and came out of the drills saying that he saw progress, but may be forced to rely on the pass more than he normally does. That could be a good thing or not so good thing for the 2013 team.

What is not good for Arkansas is that quarterback Tyler Wilson is gone and so is talented wide receiver Cobi Hamilton. However, the Razorbacks had stocked up on receiving talent so there are still plenty of athletic receivers to throw to this fall. That group includes Demetrius Wilson, Julian Horton, Keon Hatcher, MeKale McKay, Jevontee Herndon and D'Arthur Cowan.

The leading candidate to throw passes, hometown redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen, threw for just 186 yards last season, a total that Wilson would normally reach in about two quarters of playing time.

Brandon Allen throws a pass in the 2013 spring game.

The Razorbacks also lost their top running backs, a trio that includes Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo. Jonathan Williams, a 6-0, 220 sophomore, could be the main man this year. Another possibility is bluechip recruit Alex "Buddah" Collins.

Whoever is carrying the pigskin will like the fact that center Travis Swanson has all-league potential plus three years of starting experience for the Razorbacks.

Defensively, the Razorbacks will be counting on an experienced front four led by Chris Smith and Trey Flowers at end and Byron Jones and Robert Thomas at tackle.

The linebacker play is an area of concern. Former University of Miami head coach Randy Shannon has the assignment of getting that group up to speed.

The defensive backs had their struggles last year, but both of the starting cornerbacks (Will Hines and Tevin Mitchell) and both of the starting safeties (Eric Bennett and Rohan Gaines) are back so there is hope for improvement.

Zach Hocker, who made 11-18 field goals, returns and may add the punting duties this season.

Top Offensive Player:

Travis Swanson, a 6-5, 314 senior, will be a key player as the Razorbacks try to win with a power running game that he will be leading as the starting center.

Travis Swanson is the most experienced player on the Arkansas offense.

Top Defensive Player:

Chris Smith, a 6-3, 266 defensive end, is a productive pass rusher who heads into his senior season with 13 career quarterback sacks.

Schedule Tough Stretch:

Bielema's welcome to the SEC will be an interesting one. Beginning on Sept. 28th when Johnny Football and the Texas A&M?Aggies visit Fayetteville the Razorbacks will play a four-game stretch with contests at Florida, at home vs. South Carolina and at Alabama before getting a week off prior to Auburn's visit to Reynolds-Razorback Stadium.

Newcomer to Watch:

Five star running back Alex Collins from South Plantation High in Florida could be in the right place at the with his combination of size (5-11, 207) and speed.

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Arkansas State Preview

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