PREVIEWING THE SEC: Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt and the Razorback coaching staff will have plenty to improve in 2006, hoping to bounce back from last season's disappointing 4-7 finish, where they finished ninth in the Southeastern Conference with a SEC mark of 2-6.

The season's schedule looks to be another hard for the hogs, hosting last year's national runner-up USC out of the gate on Sept. 2 prior to a meaty conference schedule that includes match ups with Vanderbilt, Auburn and South Carolina on the road, Tennessee and Alabama in Fayetteville and LSU in Little Rock to close out the year. With the exception of Tennessee, whom they did not face, the Razorbacks lost to each of those squads in 2005.


This year's Razorback offense returns 10 players with experience on offense, with the lone gap to fill being found at right tackle.


Two of the key returnees to the Arkansas offense this year are the rushing tandem of fullback Peyton Hillis (6-2, 233, Jr.) and tailback Darren McFadden (6.-2, 210, So.). Hillis rushed for 315 yards and three touchdowns in the fullback role last season, while McFadden was the team ground leader with 1,113 yards and 11 touchdowns.


Hillis was also led the hogs in receptions last season with 38, which he took for 402 yards and four touchdowns.


The Hogs return another 2005 receiving leader this season in split end Marcus Monk (6-6, 227, Jr.), who led the team with 476 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches last year.


Cedrick Washington (6-0, 200, Sr.), who had 365 yards on 27 receptions as a junior, will also be returning at flanker.


This off-season, Arkansas signed two big recruits at wide out in Damian Williams (6-0, 177) and London Crawford (6-2, 186), both of whom could potential play a role for the Razorbacks in the fall.


Leading the offense will be Casey Dick (6-2, 211, So.) at quarterback. Dick started in the final four games of the 2005 season, where he threw for 584 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions.


The hogs landed the nation's top quarterback prospect this year in Mitch Mustain (6-3, 200), who will be under the guidance of his former high school coach, Gus Malzahn, the new Arkansas offensive coordinator. Mustain originally planned on red shirting his freshmen season, but could may play a potential role this season should Dick need help at quarterback.


Returning to spearhead the offensive line is left guard Stephen Parker (6-4, 310, Sr.), who started off as a walk-on prior to the 2004 season and since then has started in 21 consecutive games before missing last years LSU meeting.


Joining Parker on the offensive line will be returning Razorbacks Jonathan Luigs (6-4, 305, So.) at center, Robert Felton (6-4, 319, Jr.) at right guard and Tony Ugoh (6-5, 304, Sr.) at left tackle.


Zac Tubbs (6-6, 335, Sr.) looks be entering in to the right tackle position this season, after missing much of the past two seasons due to injury.


At tight end, the hogs bring back Wes Murphy (6-3, 265, Sr.), who started in five games, including the final three, last season but hauled in just one reception.


Arkansas brings back several experienced players to the table defensively, with ten starters returning from last years' squad, which allowed 24.6 points and 341.9 yards per game in 2005.


On the defensive front line, the hogs will bring back starters at all four positions, with Marcus Harrison (6-3, 315, Jr.) and Keith Jackson (6-0, 300, Sr.) at the tackles, and Jamaal Anderson (6-6, 268, Jr.) and Anthony Brown (6-6, 235, Sr.) playing end. Harrison, Jackson and Anderson were all starters at the close of last season, while Brown started in the first six games in 2005 before being sidelined against Auburn.


The Razorbacks will also return three linebackers from last year's team, including Sam Olajabutu (5-9, 229, Sr.), who lead the defense in tackles with 118, and Desmond Sims (6-3, 226, Sr.), with a team high 5.5 sacks this past season.


Chris Houston (5-11, 178, Jr.) and Matterral Richardson (6-0, 193, Jr.) will return at cornerback to anchor the pass defense in 2006, along with returner Randy Kelly (6-0, 194, Sr.) at strong safety. Michael Grant is the likely candidate to fill in at free safety. Although he did not start, Grant saw action in all 11 games for the hogs last season.


On special teams, kicker Brian Vavra will be back to kickoff for Arkansas, while Jeremy Davis is the likely replacement for departed place kicker Chris Balseiro.


Veteran Jacob Skinner will return at punter this fall. Skinner averaged 31.8 yards per punt last season.


Returning kicks will be Felix Jones (6-0, 202, So.), who returned 17 kickoffs last year with one touchdown. Starting fullback Peyton Hillis is slated to be the hogs punt return man, averaging 10.3 yards per return last year.




QUICK FACTS: Arkansas Razorbacks


All-Time Series: 32-17-2


Stadium: Fayetteville - Reynolds Razorback (72,000);

    Little Rock - War Memorial (53,727)


First Meeting: 1901, LSU 15, Arkansas 0


Last Meeting: 2005, LSU 19, Arkansas 17


Head Coach: Houston Nutt, 57-40 8 year at UA

          93-62 overall, 13 years


2005 in Review: 4-7, 2-6 SEC


Final '05 Ranking: Not ranked


Off. / Def. Systems: Multiple / 4-3


Returning Starters: 20; 10 offense, 9 defense, punter


Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Independence Bowl


Last Conference Championship: 1989, Southwest Conference





Total Offense: 360.6 (6th - SEC / 66th - NCAA)


Rushing Offense: 216.9 (1st - SEC / 12th - NCAA)


Passing Offense: 143.7 (11th - SEC / 108th - NCAA)


Scoring Offense: 25.7 (6th - SEC / 65th - NCAA)


Total Defense: 341.9 (9th - SEC / 34th - NCAA)


Rushing Defense: 132.5 (6th - SEC / 35th - NCAA)


Passing Defense: 209.4 (9th - SEC / 45th - NCAA)


Scoring Defense: 24.6 (10th - SEC / 54th - NCAA)


Turnover Margin: -1 (6th - SEC / 65th - NCAA)





Rushing: Darren McFadden – 176 rushes, 1113 yards, 11 TD


Passing: Robert Johnson – 158-89-6, 876 yards, 5 TD


Receiving: Peyton Hillis – 38 catches, 402 yards, 4 TD


Tackles: Sam Olajubutu – 110 tackles (67 S, 43 A)





Date                 Opponent                     '05 Result


S-2                  USC                            L, 70-17


S-9                  Utah State                    ---


S-16                at Vanderbilt                 L, 28-24


S-23                Alabama                       L, 24-13


O-7                  at Auburn                     L, 34-17


O-14                S.E. Missouri State        ---


O-21                Ole Miss                      W, 28-17


O-28                Louisiana-Monroe          W, 44-14


N-4                  at South Carolina          L, 14-10


N-11                Tennessee                    ---


N-18                at Mississippi State       W, 44-10


N – 25             LSU                             L, 19-17





Arkansas returns 19 starters, as well as several others who could have been described as starters last year, and has perhaps the SEC's best group of running backs led by Darren McFadden. McFadden, however will miss the season opener with a broken toe.


The question centers around quarterback, where true freshman Mitch Mustain, the consensus national prep player of the year, will battle returnees Casey Dick and Robert Johnson, both starters for stretches last season.


End Jamaal Anderson, tackle Marcus Harrison and linebacker Sam Olajubutu lead the defense, perhaps UA's best since coach Houston Nutt's first season. There are eight home games on a favorable schedule, but the Hogs better be ready early. Southern Cal plays in the Ozarks to open the season on Sept. 2.


One of the mysteries this year will be the Hogs' offensive style of play. Will the plays be akin to what Nutt called the last few years with a heavy emphasis on the run, or will the Hogs gravitate to the no-huddle system favored by new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn? Either way, the Hogs should be better and finish with a winning season after 4-7 and 5-6 campaigns the last two years.


- Clay Henry,

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