SEC Preview: Arkansas

On the heels of a tumultuous offseason, the Arkansas Razorbacks are hoping for a return to the basics of what has made them a successful football program: sound defense and running the football. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and his two highly-touted freshmen, Mitch Mustain and Damian Williams, are gone and in their instead is former Dallas Cowboys assistant coach, David Lee.

Lee's philosophy should be much more in keeping with Head Coach Houston Nutt's plans to run the ball early and often. Reggie Herring has made the defense stout but they'll face their share of challenges this season with injuries and early departures to the NFL. The Razorbacks play at Alabama, at Tennessee and at LSU. But the good news is the non-conference is full of pushovers in Troy, North Texas and Florida International.

Staff:
Head Coach:
Houston Nutt, 67-44 in 9 years
Offensive Coordinator: David Lee
Defensive Coordinator: Reggie Herring

Projected Depth Chart (returning starters in bold):
Offense
QB Casey Dick Jr.
Nathan Emert So.

RB Darren McFadden Jr.
Felix Jones Jr.

FB Peyton Hillis Sr.
Farod Jackson Sr.

WR Marcus Monk Sr.
London Crawford So.

WR Robert Johnson Sr.
Reggie Fish Jr.

TE Andrew Davie So.
Ben Cleveland So.

RT Nate Garner Sr.
Cody Green Jr.

RG Robert Felton Sr.
Demarcus Love Fr.

C Jonathan Luigs Jr.
Joey Crossland So.

LG Mitch Petrus Jr.
Michael Aguirre So.

LT Jose Valdez Jr.
Ray Dominquez Fr.

Defense
DE Malcolm Sheppard So.
Chris Wade Sr.

DT Ernest Mitchell Jr.
Cord Gray Jr.

DT Marcus Harrison Sr.
Fred Bledsoe Sr.

DE Antwain Robinson Jr.
Adrian Davis So.

SLB Freddie Fairchild So.
Chip Gregory Fr.

MLB Weston Dacus Sr.
Wendel Davis So.

WLB Ryan Powers Fr.
Desmond Williams Jr.

SS Matt Hewitt Sr.
Dallas Washington Jr.

FS Michael Grant Sr.
Kevin Woods Sr.

LCB Matterral Richardson Sr.
Jamar Love Jr.

RCB Jerell Norton So.
Shedrick Johnson Jr.

Special Teams
K Alex Tejada Fr.

P Jeremy Davis Jr.

KR Felix Jones Jr.

PR Felix Jones Jr.

Offensive Breakdown:

Key Returners: RB Darren McFadden, WR Marcus Monk
Key Losses: RT Zac Tubbs, LT Tony Ugoh
Key Newcomers: 4* TE David Williams, 4* C Seth Oxner

It's almost a foregone conclusion that Darren McFadden will be holding up the jersey of a lucky NFL team next April, rather than return for his senior season. With that in mind, there's a sense of urgency that this is the year to win. But it's not like the Hogs don't have an alternative. Backup Felix Jones is also a tremendous threat out of the backfield and as a returner. The ability to sit one all-SEC caliber back and replace him with another is a luxury held by very few. Casey Dick returns again under center where he'll be asked merely to supplement the ground game. As long as McFadden and Jones are healthy, just the occasional downfield strike to talented wideout Marcus Monk should suffice. But there were many time last season where late in games with the Hogs trailing, more from the passing game was needed. If it can improve this season, the offense will be hard to stop.

The offensive line must replace its tackles, who had a lot to do with opening gaping holes for McFadden last season. However, the Hogs do return standout center Jonathan Luigs, who garnered All-SEC first team standing as only a sophomore. Even with some inexperience, this is a solid group of upperclassmen who should give the running game all the support it needs.

Defensive Breakdown:

Key Returners: DE Antwain Robinson, MLB Weston Dacus
Key Losses: DE Jamaal Anderson, RCB Chris Houston
Key Newcomers: 3* DT Kareem Crowell, 3* WLB Freddy Burton

The defensive line will need a great deal of reconstructing. Star defensive end Jamaal Anderson left early for the NFL draft and defensive tackle Keith Jackson graduated. To make matters worse, defensive tackle Marcus Harrison tore a knee ligament during spring practice and his return in time foe the season is doubtful. Fortunately, the Hogs' lone returning starter is an All-SEC talent in Antwain Robinson. Behind them is a solid but unspectacular group of ‘backers led by senior Weston Dacus. He'll be flanked by two young, but capable players. But the graduation of defensive leader Samuel Olajubutu, who was a crucial contributor both on the field and in the locker room.

The defensive backfield also lost a starter to early NFL draft entry. Chris Houston was a lockdown corner last season for the Hogs and was frequently relied upon to cover the opposition's best receiver. His replacement, sophomore Jerell Norton, is one of the more promising young players but inexperience will take its toll. Matt Hewitt moves to strong safety after starting last season at the strongside linebacker position.

Special Teams Breakdown:

Junior Jeremy Davis will switch from kicker to punter to replace departing starter Jacob Skinner. The Hog faithful have high hopes that incoming freshman kicker Alex Tejada will ease last season's field goal woes.


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