Hog heaven

Arkansas's 2010 offense sounds like an arms dealer's inventory - featuring a shotgun, a cannon and a pistol.

The shotgun is a formation Razorbacks head man Bobby Petrino often uses. The cannon is the right arm of quarterback Ryan Mallett, who threw for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns as a sophomore last fall. "The Pistol" is a new wrinkle Arkansas is adding this fall.

First-year Razorback offensive line coach Chris Klenakis ran the pistol - which features some option plays - as offensive coordinator last season at Nevada, which led the NCAA in rushing last fall at 344.9 yards per game.

Obviously, the 6-7, 238-pound Mallett is too gangly and too valuable to risk life and limb running a bunch of option keepers. But his backups appear to be ideally suited for "The Pistol." Redshirt freshman Brandon Mitchell broke an 88-yard run in the Red & White Game and mid-term freshman Jacoby Walker had a 24-yard burst in the same outing.

Although Mallett was held out of spring practice to give a broken foot extra time to heal, he reportedly is as good as new. That makes the Hogs a threat to win the SEC West because their QB might be the NCAA's finest pure passer. He broke or tied 16 school records as a sophomore last season en route to leading the conference in passing yards per game, total offense and passing touchdowns. His passer-efficiency rating of 152.5 ranked among the top 10 nationally.

Mallett should be even more effective this fall. His top five receivers from 2009 return, led by wideouts Greg Childs (48 receptions, 18.6 yards per catch) and Jarius Wright (41 receptions, 16.6 yards per catch). Also back is standout tight end D.J. Williams, who caught 32 balls last season. Named to the Lombardi and Mackey Award watch lists last preseason, Williams was voted second-team All-SEC by league coaches following the '09 season.

Four of the top five rushers from 2009 return in Dennis Johnson, Knile Davis, Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo. Johnson rushed six times for 38 yards in the spring game, Davis six times for 49 yards, Green eight times for 53 yards and Wingo 18 times for 88 yards.

All told, Arkansas returns nine of 11 starters on offense and seven starters on defense. One of the new faces on the defensive side of the ball is ends coach Steve Caldwell, who filled that position at Tennessee from 1995-2008.

The Hogs' defense was horrendous last September, being gashed in a 52-41 Game 2 loss to Georgia and a 35-7 Game 3 loss to Alabama. Arkansas improved steadily as the season progressed, however, and should be a little sturdier stop unit in 2010. One spring change that could help saw Rudell Crim, who started all 13 games at cornerback in 2009, move to safety to provide more speed at that position.

Alex Tejada returns to handle the Hogs' kicking chores after connecting on 16 of 22 field goal tries in 2009, with a long of 47 yards.

The Razorbacks went 8-5 last season, including a Liberty Bowl defeat of East Carolina. They were 6-1 at home and 2-0 at neutral sites but 0-4 on the road. Two of the road losses, however, were squeakers at Florida (23-20) and LSU (33-30 in overtime). In other words, Arkansas was close to being a 10-win team.

With a little more help from the ground attack and the defense, Mallett just might make the Hogs the surprise team of the SEC for 2010.

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