#56 Arkansas Football 2013 Preview

Arkansas Razorbacks

Overall Rank: #56
Conference Rank: #12 SEC

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The beauty of playing in a conference like the SEC is that no matter how far down you finish, you are pretty much guaranteed a spot in a bowl game because it is likely the last-place divisional teams will be bowl-eligible. Such is the case with Arkansas, which has to compete alongside the LSUs and Mississippis of the world on a weekly basis. Things should stabilize on the sideline at least, as the personal pitfalls of Bobby Petrino and the rantings of John L. Smith have given way to the calm Bret Bielema, who left Wisconsin after several successful seasons with the Badgers.

2012 Record: (4-8, 2-6)
2012 Bowl: No bowl
Coach: Bret Bielema (first season with Arkansas, 68-24 overall)
Offensive Coordinators: Jim Chaney
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Ash

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jonathan Williams, RB, 231 yards
Passing: Brandon Allen, QB, 186 yards
Receiving: Mekale McKay, WR, 317 yards
Tackles: Rohan Gaines, S, 75
Sacks: Chris Smith, DE, 9.5
Interceptions: Alan Turner, S, 1; Will Hines, CB, 1; Tevin Mitchell, CB, 1

Other Key Returnees: WR Javontee Herndon, WR Julian Horton, TE Austin Tate, K Zach Hocker, OL David Hurd, C Travis Swanson, DT Bryan Jones, S Eric Bennett

Key Losses: QB Tyler Wilson, QB Brandon Mitchell, RB Dennis Johnson, RB Knile Davis, , WR Cobi Hamilton, WR Chris Gragg, P Dylan Breeding, FS Ross Rasner, LB Terrell Williams, LB Alonzo Highsmith

After so much turmoil on the sideline, Bielema will rebuild the Arkansas program in his mold. His presence alone is a strength. The loss of Highsmith to the NFL as an undrafted free agent was one strike, as was Williams’ documented troubles with a DWI arrest. Just as the team prepared for life without 2013 draft pick Tyler Wilson, Brandon Mitchell transferred and left the quarterback battle in shambles. There isn’t much to build around for now save for Rohan Gaines’ strong presence at safety and the presence of Mekale McKay, who should get a chance to anchor the receiving corps for the season.

Name the position, there is a chance there has been some turmoil attached to it. Gaines is about the only returning defensive starter with tackling experience. Brandon Allen only completed 21 passes last year. The Razorbacks need someone to replace Cobi Hamilton, who gained 1,335 receiving yards and caught 90 passes. Allen won the QB job by default and the team better hope he stays healthy. A weak rushing game doesn’t help matters. Still, it is a brand new coaching staff, so some of these strengths may become weaknesses.

The Bottom Line:
This may be a case of addition by subtraction. The loss of Smith, who lost all hope of taking over at Arkansas with repeated losses and meltdowns, isn’t as bad of a black mark as you might expect. Bielema was a surprise move down from Wisconsin, and he should adjust quickly to the rigors of SEC football. Games against Louisiana, Samford, Southern Miss and Rutgers should help Arkansas get some land legs. If the Razorbacks come out of this stretch with three or four wins, it should not be a stretch to reach six wins and bowl eligibility. Anything less than three wins to start and it might be a long first season in Fayetteville.

Projected Bowl:  Military Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 118.67(104th in nation, 14th in conference)
Passing Offense: 301.50 (21, 3)
Total Offense: 420.17 (49, 6)
Scoring Offense: 23.50 (89, 12)
Rushing Defense: 124.08 (19, 5)
Pass Defense: 285.83 (113, 14)
Total Defense: 409.92 (73, 12)
Scoring Defense: 30.42 (81, 12)
Turnover Margin: -1.58 (118, 14)
Sacks: 2.58 (25, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.58 (43, 3)

Madness 2014 NFL Draft Rankings:
#101 Travis Swanson

Madness 2013 Recruit Rankings:
#62 Alex Collins
#152 Hunter Henry
#183 Denver Kirkland


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