John L. Smith was brought in after Petrino's firing and given a 10-month contract and he is off to a 1-2 start.
It's simple, the Razorbacks have been two different teams this year. There's the one with quarterback Tyler Wilson, the school's first All-SEC quarterback, and the one without him.
He set the school record for an opener with 367 passing yards against Jacksonville State, then sustained a concussion late in the first half in week two against Louisiana-Monroe. The Hogs were up 21-7 then, pushed that to 28-7 early in the second half and haven't scored a touchdown since. ULM rallied to win 34-31 in overtime.
The Hogs fumbled eight times (losing three) and had five total turnovers against Alabama. Wilson was optimistic about playing against Rutgers when he met with the media on Monday. He practiced Tuesday, drawing rave reviews from his teammates. He's a fine passer with an ability to make off-balance throws.
He's the unquestioned face of the program. He has some of weapons around him, led by preseason All-SEC tight end Chris Gragg. Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton is also a big-play threat. Running backs Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson have big-play ability, but an offensive line led by center Travis Swanson and guard Alvin Bailey hasn't blocked many holes in the first three games. Paul Petrino is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
The strength is in the front four where there is a nine-man rotation led by tackle Byran Jones and end Chris Smith. It was believed there was enough depth at end to spare returning starter Tenarius Wright for a move to middle linebacker. But Wright sustained a concussion early in fall camp and missed every scrimmage.
Returning weakside linebacker Alonzo Highsmith also missed most of the fall with an injured hamstring. Highsmith also missed the spring with surgery to repair a pectoral tendon. Those two have yet to reach top form and coaches have shown a reluctance to play anyone else.
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel, another returning starter, sustained a concussion against ULM and won't be back for the second straight game. Ross Rasner has been the best player in the back of the defense. He plays nickel linebacker and safety, based on offensive formations. Cornerback play has been iffy through three games.
Former walk-on Kaelon Kelleybrew and true freshman Will Hines could be the starters this week. To highlight depth issues here, true freshman Nate Holmes was moved from running back to cornerback this week. Holmes is the punt return specialist. Paul Haynes is in his first year as defensive coordinator, although he was on hand for the Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State.
It's hard to say what form Arkansas will play to against Rutgers. Wilson asked to speak to the media after the Alabama game, despite not playing. He said he thought the team "gave up" and said he would do his best to be back to lead the team against Rutgers.
The Hogs have 17 starters back (counting the kicker and punter) but have not been sharp. Can Wilson's return spark them against the Scarlet Knights? That's the question this week.