Arkansas preview

There's an old saying in college football that "You can never have enough good running backs." The University of Arkansas Razorbacks appear determined to test that theory this season.

The Hogs boasted the NCAA's best running back last fall in Heisman Trophy runnerup Darren McFadden, who rushed for 1,647 yards and 14 touchdowns. They also featured a superb backup in Felix Jones, who chipped in 1,186 yards and six TDs.

So along comes sophomore Michael Smith, who ran for 143 yards in one spring scrimmage on just eight carries, giving every indication that he is ready to make the dynamic duo a terrific trio.

Given the glut of star-caliber rushers on hand, it's little wonder that head coach Houston Nutt and new offensive coordinator David Lee are dumping the spread offense the Hogs used in 2006 in favor of a more basic, run-oriented attack.

Another reason for the ground-hugging offense is the Razorbacks' suspect passing game. Now that heralded quarterback Mitch Mustain and ballyhooed receiver Damian Williams have transferred to Southern Cal, Arkansas is left with one scholarship quarterback (Casey Dick) and one proven pass catcher (Marcus Monk).

Dick's backups in 2007 will be two incoming freshmen who are scheduled to join the program in August. Meanwhile, the best target after Monk (50 catches, 962 yards, 11 TDs in 2006) projects to be Robert Johnson, a converted quarterback who might wind up playing the dual role of first-team receiver/second-team QB.

Arkansas returns three starters in its offensive line but one of the losses was standout left tackle Tony Ugoh, a second-round pick in the recent National Football League Draft.

Defensively, the Hogs' line appears a little shaky. Gone are pass-rushing end Jamaal Anderson, a first-round NFL Draft pick, and run-stuffing tackle Keith Jackson, Jr. Meanwhile, the two returning starters – end Antwain Robinson and tackle Marcus Harrison – are coming off hip and ACL injuries, respectively, that cloud their status for 2007.

In addition, Arkansas must find replacements for super-productive linebacker Sam Olajubutu and cover corner Chris Houston, a second-round NFL Draft pick.

Kicker Jeremy Davis, who made less than 50 percent of his field-goal tries (6 of 13) last season, lost the first-team job to Brian Vavra in the spring. Davis is now bidding to be the team's punter.


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