A year ago, the Arkansas Razorbacks surprised the South Eastern Conference by taking what many thought would be a mediocre year and went on a 10-game win streak.
The Hawgs rose all the way to the top of the SEC West and represented the division in the conference championship game.
Since then, controversy off the field have been frequent around the program, including the conflict between quarterback Mitch Mustain and head coach Houston Nutt that led to the quarterback transferring.
Even with Mustain gone to USC, the
In 2006, the Hogs dropped the
season opener to the USC Trojans 50-14 in
The team then finished the year on
a three-game skid with losses to LSU,
Only two players return to the
Junior center Jonathan Luigs and senior guard Robert Felton will serve as the veterans in the offensive front in 2007, while junior Jose Valdez and senior Nate Garner are probable replacements at the tackles after serving as backups last season.
The running back duo of juniors
McFadden and Felix Jones was one of the most potent running tandems in the
country last season, with McFadden rushing 1,647 yards and 14 touchdowns while
Jones added 1,168 yards and six scores. McFadden finished the season as the
runner up for the Heisman trophy and, with both backs returning this year, he
could bring the trophy home in 2007 as
Also returning to aid in the rushing attack is senior fullback Farod Jackson, who rushed for 24 yards while serving as a blocking back last season.
Coming back to the helm of the offense this year is junior quarterback Casey Dick, who started at QB in five games last season while sharing time with the now departed Mustain. Dick completed 65 of 132 passes for 991 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions in 2006, while Mustain accounted for 894 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Senior receiver Marcus Monk, will be a key returnee in the receiving corps this season after catching 50 passes for 962 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior.
Joining Monk at wide out looks to be senior Robert Johnson, who began last season at quarterback before making the switch and finishing the year as the team's starting flanker, catching four passes for 46 yards to lead all Hog receivers in the Capital One Bowl.
Filling in the vacant spot at tight end will likely be sophomore Andrew Davie, who saw action in every game last season while making two starts.
Defensively, the Razorbacks allowed just 299.6 yards of total offense per game last season, but will need to replace starters at six positions, including defensive end Jamaal Anderson, a first-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons who had 13.5 sacks last season.
Filling in for
Joining Wade on the front line will likely be junior Antowin Robinson, who had 68 tackles and 8.5 sacks last year, at the other end, and junior Ernest Mitchell, who had nine starts last season, at left tackle.
Junior Cord Gray is the top candidate for the job at right tackle, recording 20 tackles in 13 game appearances last year.
The Hog defensive backfield will be
without tackle-leader Randy Kelly at strong safety and pass defense leader Chris Houston this season, but will welcome the return of corner Matteral Richard and
free safety Michael Grant, though they sometimes opted to play without the free
safety last season; adding a third corner. Grant had three interceptions for
Junior Jamar Love will also play an expanded role in the secondary this year after earning one start and playing in every game a year ago.
In the kicking game, junior place kicker Jeremy Davis will once again serve as the starter for the Razorback; making 46 of 48 extra points and going 6-13 on field goals last year with a season-long of 44 yards.
Punter Jacob Skinner, who handled
all 61 punts for the Hogs last year, leaves a void needing to be filled on
Felix Jones and McFadden shared the
kick return responsibilities last season, each returning one kick for a
touchdown, while junior Reggie Fish was
All-Time Series vs. LSU: LSU leads 33-17-2
1901, LSU 15,
2006, LSU 31,
Location: Fayetteville, Ark.
Stadium: Fayetteville/Reynolds Razorback (72,000); Little Rock/War Memorial (53,727)
2006 IN REVIEW
2006 Record: 10-4, 7-1 SEC (1st, West)
Final '06 Ranking: 15th (AP); 16th Coaches; 12th BCS
Returning Starters: 10; 6 offense, 4 defense
Appearance: 2007 Capital One Bowl –
Last Conference Championship: 1989, Southwest Conference
2006 STAT BREAKDOWN (SEC/NCAA)
Total Offense: 378.0 ypg (4/29)
Rushing Offense: 228.5 ypg (1/4)
Passing Offense: 149.5 ypg (11/108)
Scoring Offense: 28.9 ppg (3/31)
Total Defense: 299.6 ypg (4/29)
Rushing Defense: 114.6 (4/33)
Passing Defense: 185.1 ypg (7/36)
Scoring Defense: 18.3 ppg (5/24)
Rushing: Darren McFadden – 284-1647, 14 TD, 5.8 ypc, 117.6 ypg
Passing: Casey Dick – 132-65, 991, 9 TD, 6 Int., 99.1 ypg
Receiving: Marcus Monk – 50-962, 11 TD, 68.7 ypg
Tackles: Weston Dacus – 95
Interceptions: Michael Grant – 3
Sacks: Antwain Robinson – 8.5
Tackle for loss: Antwain Robinson – 14.5
Date Opponent '06 Result
O-20 at Ole Miss W, 38-3
O-27 FLA. INTERNATIONAL ---
N – 23 LSU L, 26-31
The Arkansas Perspective
The Arkansas Perspective
Offense at a glance:
No one in the league can match the offensive backfield the Hogs have with Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Michael Smith and Peyton Hillis.The offensive line must be rebuilt, but there is at least an anchor.
All-SEC center Jonathan Luigs seemed to excel as new offensive coordinator David Lee installed 18 various pass protections he brought from his last gig, the Dallas Cowboys.
The Hogs didn't do much with the running game in the spring. Lee threw out the old passing game playbook in favor of something similar to what the Cowboys and Colts of the NFL ran last year. That doesn't mean the Hogs will be pass happy in ‘07, but they should be improved with Lee's system featuring option routes based on coverage reads.
Casey Dick will be the quarterback. If he is only average, the Hogs could be spectacular on offense. If he is below that, the Hogs might spend more time than last year in what was called the Wildcat Package featuring McFadden as the shotgun quarterback.
Hillis seems to be the key in the
backfield. He was the missing ingredient down the stretch. He sustained a
season-ending thigh bruise against
Back to the tackles. On offense the
replacements are Jose
Defense at a glance:
Defensively, the Hogs were thin at
tackle and started a walk-on at one slot in the spring game.
Elsewhere on defense, the Hogs lost
their key playmakers in
"We do have a nice blend of experience and youthful talent and we will be fine in time," Herring said.
Defensive end Malcolm Sheppard,
nicknamed "The Wood," will take
Young linebackers Ryan Powers, Chip Gregory and Wendell Davis have SEC speed. Herring thinks that group will be solid before the season's end.
- Clay Henry, Hawgs Illustrated