CFN SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Hogs' Spring
What's the next step?
What's the next step?
Posted Mar 15, 2011

With spring ball kicking in, we start rolling out analysis for each team's off-season sessions. Check it out as CFN's SEC Bloggers give you five different perspectives on some key questions facing the Arkansas football team this spring. Is QB by any other name just as sweet? Where does Knile Davis need to improve, and just how good is this receiving corps?

SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU's Spring, March 11, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA's Spring, March 9, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU's Spring, March 6, 2011

Barrett Sallee: On if a quarterback by any other name is just as sweet

Well, almost as sweet. Don't confuse what's written below as some sort of comparison between Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson, because it's not. With that said, Wilson will be your postseason first-team All-SEC quarterback in 2011.

Is he better than Mallett? Not at this point. But really, what does that matter for 2011? A quarterback's best friend is a good running game, and Knile Davis is the straw that stirs the drink in Fayetteville. Couple Davis with a veteran receiving corps featuring Greg Childs and Joe Adams, and you have an offense waiting to explode.

With Mallett sitting out last spring with a foot injury, this will be Wilson's second straight season as the de facto No. 1 quarterback in spring practice. You saw how important those practice snaps were last year, when Wilson stepped in for an injured Mallett and nearly beat Auburn. IN Auburn.

He doesn't have the family arm of Mallett, but he will be just as effective as No. 15 - and maybe more.

Billy Gomila: On what position is undergoing the biggest overhaul

Given how much emphasis is placed right now on the offense in Fayetteville, it has to be the offensive line. The Hogs are losing both tackles to the NFL in Demarcus Love and Ray Dominguez, and both were a key to Arkansas' (and Mallet/Davis') big seasons in 2010.

Replacing them will be a tall task - particularly given the fact that Bobby Petrino's offensive schemes are known to be quite complex. Many are predicting senior Grant Freeman and sophomore Anthony Oden (Greg's brother) to take the spots, but we're hearing they'll battle it out for the LT spot. Which will make the LT spot huge, literally; Freeman's listed at 6'7", 300 lb, and Oden 6'8", 330 lb.

On the other side the battle appears to be between true-freshman-to-be Brey Cook and JC transfer Jason Peacock. Cook, perhaps the Hogs biggest acquisition in this year's recruiting class, is already on campus and acclimating nicely. Peacock is beside him on drills this spring. Don't be surprised if the 6'7", 320 lb. freshman takes one of the coveted spots right out of the gate.

Given the lack of starting experience between these four and red-shirt freshmen Denton Simek and Luke Charpentier, we can expect a myriad of formations this spring, as Petrino works to find the best combination.

One thing's for sure, given the abundance of talent/speed at the skill positions, it would be a shame if Arkansas is unable to get the tackle position settled before the opening kickoff. There's certainly a lot of work to do here this spring.

Brian Harbach: On what we need to see out of this defense

It easy right now for writers to take shots at the Arkansas defense, since the offense has been so dynamic the last two years under the offensive mastermind that is Petrino. However, if it wasn't for the offense overshadowing everyone, the Hogs' D would be getting a lot more respect; particularly after last season.

There were a number of positives from the Razorback defense in 2010 that are being ignored - Arkansas led the SEC in Opponent third down conversion %, they were second in Sacks and fifth in Total Defense.

However, there were two key factors last year that held Arkansas back on defense and hurt the perception of the group... red zone and run defense. The Razorbacks were tenth in the conference in both; two crucial stats for a defense to be viewed as successful. These struggles have to do with the physicality of the defensive line, which was lacking much of last season.

One of the most exciting players to watch on third down is Arkansas DE Jake Bequette, but on first and second down Jake simply gets eaten up. He had only 16 solo tackles last year, and seven of those tackles were sacks - you need better production from the starting end position. For a player of his size (6'5", 271 lb.), Bequette should be making much more of an impact in the run game.

But not to single out just Bequette - the entire defensive line needs to step it up this fall from a physical standpoint. The back seven looks like the strength of the defense, but we need to see a much more physical line for this defense to take a step forward in 2011.

Gabe Harris: On where RB Knile Davis needs to improve

Everyone seems to think Arkansas won't miss a beat going from Mallett to Wilson, but I'm here to tell you that isn't likely. That doesn't mean the Razorbacks' offense is going into hiding, particularly with all the talent/speed at the skill positions.

But Wilson isn't Mallett (not yet, anyway), and he'll need to rely heavily on SEC first-team running back Knile Davis. However, while Davis was great last year and carried this team on many occasions, that doesn't guarantee he can improve where Wilson needs him to the most.

What is a young quarterback's best friend? Short, quick passes to tight ends and running backs. With Mackey Award TE D.J. Williams off to the NFL, the burden is on Davis to be a security blanket for Wilson in 2011. Davis caught 19 passes for 136 yards and one TD in his albeit limited action, and was always good for 2 catches per game. But much more will be needed.

Expanding his role in the passing game and making sure his hands are up for the task will be huge for Davis this offseason. Pay close attention here.

Russ Mitchell: On just how good is this receiving corps, really

This is one of the best receiving corps in the history of the SEC.. Absolutely so if it's in comparison to the rest of the SEC receivers in 2011. But stand alone - one year against any in history - this Hog squad can hold its own.

First, there's no doubt that SC's Alshon Jeffery is the best receiver in the conference; with one more year post-HS, he'd have likely thrown his hat into the morass that is this year's NFL draft. But after that, Arkansas' four receivers fill out the rest of the top five.

Childs has it all - blazing speed, size, hands and toughness. However, late word out of Fayetteville says he has yet to rebound completely from a late season knee injury, and will likely see limited participation in spring drills. If true, this is worse news for Wilson than Childs; the latter is already NFL-ready and the former could use the reps to work on timing.

We've been saying it for years, but Adams is the toughest receiver in the league, hands down. There are few better on third down - particularly across the middle of a defense. The man is fearless.

Jarius Wright came into his own toward the end of the year, with all five touchdowns coming in the last six games. He might be the fastest of the group. Childs, Adams and Wright combined for 2,260 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2010.

And it's hard to call Cobi Hamilton a "four"... He'd be a starter on most SEC squads. As one Arkansas insider told us recently, "Cobi's a freak!" He's 6'3", 215 lbs, and averaged a staggering 20 ypc last season (on 31 recs).

Oh yeah, and they're all upperclassman.

Merry Christmas, Wilson.

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.

SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU's Spring, March 11, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA's Spring, March 9, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU's Spring, March 6, 2011