Hog hell

Turbulent offseasons seem to be a recurring theme for the University of Arkansas football program.

One year ago head coach Houston Nutt was trying to avert a scandal surrounding hundreds of cell-phone calls to a female TV newscaster. Then there were less-than-amiable partings with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who bolted for Tulsa, and heralded freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain, who bolted for Southern Cal.

Nutt sparked another controversy this offseason by resigning his post and accepting the reins at SEC West rival Ole Miss within 24 hours. Arkansas then hired Bobby Petrino, who created a firestorm of his own by walking out on the Atlanta Falcons mere hours before taking the Razorback reins.

The chaos didn't end there, though. Petrino lured defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson away from Mississippi State on Jan. 4 only to lose him to South Carolina 19 days later. Arkansas also lost its two best underclassmen – the tailback tandem of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones – to the NFL Draft.

Just when it appeared the Razorback program might be ready to implode, however, Petrino managed to steady the ship in time for the spring game.

Casey Dick, who ranked ninth among SEC passers last fall at just 124.8 yards per game, made a few fans forget Mustain by riddling the No. 2 defense for 33 completions in 49 pass attempts for 404 yards as the Red routed the White 45-14 before a crowd of 40,200.

Meanwhile, Michael Smith made a few people remember McFadden by rushing for 157 yards on just 13 carries. Brandon Barnett showed he may be ready to fill a Felix Jones-type second-banana role by rushing for 96 yards and four touchdowns on 17 attempts.

Petrino desperately needed a strong spring game to brighten up an otherwise dreary offseason, and he got his wish. All told, the Red (first-teamers) piled up 601 yards of total offense while limiting the White to just 134 total yards.

Whether the Hogs can carry their new-found momentum into fall, of course, remains to be seen. Regardless, Year One of the Petrino Period promises to be filled with peril and intrigue.

For instance:

Arkansas must face former head coach Nutt when Ole Miss visits Fayetteville on Oct. 25, then must face former offensive coordinator Malzahn a week later (Nov. 1) when Tulsa comes to town.

How interesting will those two weekends be?


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