#34 Arkansas Football 2017 Preview


Arkansas Razorbacks


Overall Rank: #34

#8 SEC

It’s put up or shut up time in Fayetteville for head coach Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorback football program. The 2016 season ended on a two game losing streak with losses to Missouri and Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl. There is no shame in losing to the Hokies but it was the way they lost as Arkansas blew a 24-0 halftime lead. That level of inconsistency is why the Razorbacks are now 25-26 under Bielema and the natives are getting restless in Fayetteville.
2016 Record: 7-6, 3-5
2016 Bowl: Belk Bowl vs. Virginia Tech 24-35 L
Coach: Bret Bielema (25-26 at Arkansas, 93-50 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dan Enos
Defensive Coordinator: Paul Rhoads
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Devwah Whaley, RB, yards
Passing: Austin Allen, QB, 3,430 yards
Receiving: Jared Cornelius, WR, 515 yards
Tackles: Josh Liddell, FS, 63
Sacks: Three players tied with 2.5
Interceptions: Three players tied with 2
Other Key Returnees:  C Frank Ragnow, LG Hjalte Froholdt, FB Kendrick Jackson, RT Brian Wallace, WLB Dre Greenlaw, CB Ryan Pulley, CB Henre Toliver, SS Santos Ramirez, K Cole Hedlund, DE McTelvin Agim, RZR Randy Ramsey, NG Bijhon Jackson
Key Losses:  RB Rawleigh Williams, WR Drew Morgan, WR Keon Hatcher, TE Jeremy Sprinkle,LB Brooks Ellis, DL Deatrich Wise, DL Jeremiah Ledbetter
Austin Allen is back at quarterback, which will give the Razorbacks a chance to compete on a weekly basis against anyone. Allen threw for 3,430 yards last season and in order to take his game up another level he has to get rid of the football quicker. The reason he has to get rid of the football quicker is the offensive line had its issues a year ago as they allowed 35 sacks. That is way too many sacks, especially in the rugged SEC West where the pass rushers are elite. Devah Whaley takes the reins at running back after Rawleigh Williams had to retire from playing football after another neck injury in the spring game. Jared Cornelius will lead the wide receiver group in 2017. He had a solid 2016, catching 32 passes for 515 yards and four touchdowns.
Paul Rhoads takes over as defensive coordinator in 2017 after Robb Smith took the defensive coordinator position at Minnesota for new head coach P.J. Fleck. Rhoads will have his work cut out for him as Arkansas allowed 39 rushing touchdowns, which set a school record. There is going to be a scheme change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 to try and mitigate some of the rushing defense issues. However, it is still going to be up to the players to make plays and that is going to be challenge because this defense will be younger in 2017. The defensive line will be a big key to a turnaround for the Razorbacks as McTelvin Agim and Armon Watts will need to create more pressure off the edge. Austin Capps and Bijhon Jackson are going to need to hold their own at nose guard. Dre Greenlaw will need to lead the way at linebacker as he is the only returning starter and will need to be fully recovered from foot surgery as soon as possible. Josh Liddell leads an Arkansas secondary that must find a way to create more turnovers and set up shorter fields for the offense this season.
The Bottom Line:
It is going to extremely important for the Razorbacks to hold serve in games that they are expected to win in 2017. Florida A&M and TCU come to Little Rock and Fayetteville, respectively, to start the season. Then, in week three a neutral site game against Texas A&M in Arlington could very well swing the direction of the entire season. If Arkansas can finally knock off the Aggies, it should set them up with a chance to be undefeated heading into the South Carolina and Alabama road trips. Bottom line, this will be a very tough schedule for the Razorbacks but Austin Allen’s play at quarterback and some improvement defensively should result in an eight win regular season for Arkansas in 2017.
Projected Bowl: Liberty Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 164.2 (78th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 264.2 (32, 3)
Total Offense: 428.4 (54, 8)
Scoring Offense: 30.3 (57, 8)
Rushing Defense: 205.5 (94, 10)
Pass Defense: 221.2 (58, 8)
Total Defense: 426.6 (76, 8)
Scoring Defense: 31.1 (85, 10)
Turnover Margin: -0.31 (90, 13)
Sacks: 1.92 (75, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.69 (103, 13)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#155 Chevin Calloway
#212 Chase Hayden