#30 Arkansas Football 2016 Preview

Arkansas Razorbacks
Overall Rank: #30
#7 SEC
Arkansas took a very nice step in year three under the direction of head coach Bret Bielema. They won eight games in 2015, including five in SEC play. Now it is going to be key for the Razorbacks to build on the momentum gained from last season. They need to get out of the gates stronger in the month of September and not drop games to the likes of Toledo like they did last year in Little Rock.
2015 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2015 Bowl: Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State (W 45-23)
Coach: Bret Bielema (18-20 at Arkansas, 86-44 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dan Enos
Defensive Coordinator: Robb Smith
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kody Walker, RB, 394 yards
Passing: Austin Allen, QB, 35 yards
Receiving: Drew Morgan, WR, 843 yards
Tackles: Brooks Ellis, LB, 102
Sacks: Deatrich Wise, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Josh Liddell, S, 2; D.J. Dean, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Rawleigh Williams, WR Dominique Reed, WR Jared Cornelius, LB Dre Greenlaw, CB Henre’ Toliver, DT Jeremiah Ledbetter, CB Jared Collins
Key Losses: RB Alex Collins, QB Brandon Allen, WR Hunter Henry, OL Denver Kirkland, OL Sebastian Tretola, S Rohan Gaines
Defense should be a strength in 2016 as the Razorbacks return a lot of experience, bringing back nine starters. The defensive line should get more pressure on the quarterback and just cause plenty of havoc as a whole as Deatrich Wise will be looking to improve upon his eight sack performance from 2015. Jeremiah Ledbetter should also be a force to be reckoned with at defensive tackle. Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw were warriors at linebacker last season and they almost never came off of the field. Drew Morgan at wide receiver should help ease the transition for new starting quarterback Austin Allen on the offensive side of the ball. Morgan caught 63 passes for 843 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns. Look for offensive coordinator Dan Enos to try and get this combination going early on to balance out what is always an effective running game for Arkansas.
The offensive line does need to be revamped as only two starters return in 2016. Colton Jackson’s performance at left tackle along with converted defensive tackle Hjalte Froholt is going to be very key to this units’ success this season. Austin Allen is a first-year starter at quarterback so there will probably be some growing pains, but coach Bielema has a lot of confidence in the young quarterback. It will be intriguing to watch Allen’s development. Defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads is going to have to have a big impact with the secondary as that unit struggled last season. Opposing teams threw for 275.2 yards per game against Arkansas, which was the worst in the SEC and 117th in the nation. Senior cornerbacks Jared Collins and D.J. Dean are going to have to step up and lead the secondary in a big way to help take the pressure off of the rest of the defense.
The Bottom Line:
Louisiana Tech visits on September 3rd to open the season and the Bulldogs will provide a very stiff test for the Razorbacks. The following week sends Arkansas off to TCU to play a very talented Horned Frogs squad. Texas A&M and Alabama are on the docket first to start off SEC play and, in order for the Razorbacks to really begin to move forward, they need to find a way to get the job against the Aggies and stop letting games against them slip away. The key here for the Razorbacks will be to get to 1-1 after these two games in conference play heading into another key game on October 15th against Ole Miss. With only three true SEC road games, at Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri, it is going to be very important for Arkansas to defend its home field against a slew of great opponents. This should be another eight win season in Fayetteville, which should further stabilize the Razorbacks as a rock solid top 25 or so type of program.
Projected Bowl: Liberty Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 197.3 (34th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 268.2 (32, 3)
Total Offense: 465.5 (29, 2)
Scoring Offense: 35.9 (27, 2)
Rushing Defense: 116.5 (12, 2)
Pass Defense: 275.4 (116, 14)
Total Defense: 391.6 (58, 11)
Scoring Defense: 27.4 (68, 12)
Turnover Margin: 0.54 (28, 4)
Sacks: 1.54 (102, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (9, 1)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#60 Dan Skipper
#76 Deatrich Wise
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#16 McTelvin Agim
#133 Devwah Whaley
#188 Briston Guidry