2011 Arkansas Preview – Offense
Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Arkansas Razorback Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense was devastating last season finishing ninth in the nation in total yards, fourth in passing and 17th in scoring. Even with the early departure of Ryan Mallett to the NFL the offense could be even stronger if the line can come together right away. The Hogs have the same starting five up front for all 13 games, and now they have to replace three players and have to deal with some major position battles to find the right combination. Tyler Wilson is more than ready to be the star of the passing show, and he should be brilliant if he gets time. The stable of running backs was among the deepest in the nation, and that depth will be tested with Knile Davis out with an ankle injury and Dennis Johnson gone with a knee injury. If the receiving corps isn’t college football’s best, it’s in the team photo.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Greg Childs
Passing: Tyler Wilson
34-51, 453 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Knile Davis*
204 carries, 1,322 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Joe Adams
54 catches, 813 yds, 6 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior OT Grant Freeman and/or sophomore OT Anthony Oden
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman OT Brey Cook
Best pro prospect: Childs
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Childs, 2) QB Tyler Wilson, 3) WR Joe Adams
Strength of the offense: Receivers, Running Backs
Weakness of the offense: Line Starting Experience, Quarterback Experience
State of the Unit: Normally, losing a quarterback the caliber of Ryan Mallett would be crippling. All he did was bomb away for 3,669 yards and 32 touchdowns last year while showing off one of the biggest arms in college football. But Bobby Petrino always gets tremendous production out of his quarterbacks, and he has good talents ready to step up and shine after Mallett chose to leave early for the next level. With one of the nation’s best receiving corps returning, and with a strong running back in Knile Davis to hand off to, the new starter should have a relatively easy transition.
Hog fans got a glimpse of The Next Big Thing when junior Tyler Wilson stepped in for an injured Mallett in the Auburn game and bombed away for 332 yards and four scores. While he threw two picks in the 65-43 loss, he was hardly to blame for the defeat and showed a cool, calm demeanor, along with a nice passing touch, being thrown into a tough situation. While the 6-3, 215-pounder doesn’t have Mallett’s size and doesn’t have the same jaw-dropping arm, he’s a perfect fit for the Arkansas system and he has the talent and ability to put up Mallett-like numbers. An Arkansas high school superstar, he won three state titles and threw for close to 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior. The prep résumé is great, but that’s in the distant pass now. He needs to prove right away that he can be a steady, consistent passer while trying to limit the mistakes that Mallett made. The offense is his now, and it has to come through in his play.
While Wilson is the starter, 6-4, 230-pound sophomore Brandon Mitchell and 6-2, 220-pound redshirt freshman Jacoby Walker will get their chances in practices to show what they can do. Walker was a top recruit who adds more of a rushing element to the equation. While he’s hardly Michael Vick on the move, he might as well be considering Wilson doesn’t move much. He’s a strong, accurate passing prospect who was wanted as a dual-threat playmaker at places like Nebraska, Utah, and Oklahoma State.
Mitchell is a big, talented athlete who got a little bit of time throwing for 16 yards in the blowout against Tennessee Tech. He got on the field as a special teamer, but now he’s too valuable as the likely No. 2 option to be put on coverage teams. With the size, the arm, and the athleticism, he’s going to be a factor at some point down the road.
Watch Out For … Wilson to make fans forget about Mallett. No, he’s not going to throw the ball on a rope 50 yards down the field with a flick of his wrist, but he’ll be a steady, accurate passer who’ll put up a few monster games. While Mallett’s attitude was overblown, yes, there will be a little bit of a chance in the personality under center. That’s not a bad thing.
Strength: Bobby Petrino’s offense. Being Petrino’s quarterback is a bit like being the drummer for the Foo Fighters; you have to really know what you’re doing to get the gig. If you’re under center for Arkansas, you will regularly throw for 300 yards or you’ll be replaced by someone who will.
Weakness: Experience. Yes, Wilson looked phenomenal at times against Auburn, but he only threw the ball 51 times last year and there’s almost no appreciable experience among the reserves. Wilson will be more than fine in place of Mallett, but Mallett is going to be a multi-millionaire for a reason. A drop-off, if there is one, can’t be too much of a shock.
Outlook: The Arkansas passing game threw for 4,338 yards and 36 touchdowns last year, and while the quarterbacks combined for 15 interceptions, that’s to be expected after winging it around 301 times. As good as Wilson is, it’s still asking a bit too much to be Mallett right away, but he’s not going to be asked to carry the team. The stats will be there, and if they’re not, Mitchell is a big-time option who deserves time as soon as possible.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: It’s a common misconception that the running game is an afterthought in the Bobby Petrino offense. While the passing attack gets all the headlines, the running game doesn’t get ignored. No, the numbers aren’t there compared to the top rushing teams, but going back to the Louisville days, Petrino’s teams always run effectively. It’s not exactly going to be back to the days of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but the Hogs are loaded with talented backs who can carry the workload.
Raise your hand if you saw Knile Davis coming. Liar. The 6-0, 230-pound brutish back was solid as a true freshman, running for 163 yards and four scores in garbage time, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire over the first part of last season being held to -7 yards against Georgia and running six times for 42 yards against Alabama and started to show glimpses of greatness against Texas A&M and with a 91-yard day against Auburn. And then … KABOOM. Cam Newton might have won the Heisman going away, and LaMichael James won the Doak Walker Award without a thought, but an argument could be made that no player in America was better than Davis over the second half of the year.
Over the last seven games, Davis went ballistic running for 100 yards or more in each game, with the one game under 100 yards an 82-yard, two score outing when he wasn’t needed much in the blowout over Vanderbilt. Not just a hard charging power runner, he flashed decent speed averaging 6.5 yards per carry and a nose for the goal line with 12 of his 13 touchdown runs coming in the final seven games to go along with a receiving score against Mississippi State. He’ll be a marked man now, but he was last year, too, and great run defenses like LSU’s and Ohio State’s couldn’t stop him. But now the Hogs will have to wait until 2012 to get him back in the mix, after he suffered an ankle injury in practice. He's out for the year, but he was hurt early enough to be healthy again for next season.
Davis might be the star of the ground game, but he's gone, as is the 6-2, 244-pound senior Broderick Green , a tough backup who got most of his work in early last year before being relegated to backup duty. The former USC Trojan is a huge tailback was supposed to be used like a big blocker and be strong around the goal line after scoring 11 times in 2009, but he suffered a knee injury this offseason and will be out for the year.
He was second on the team with 365 yards and three
scores last year, but he has the ability to do far
more next year as both a big tailback and a
Junior Ronnie Wingo Jr. was third on the team with 274 yards and four touchdowns, but his real worth was as a receiver with 27 catches for 274 yards and four scores. At 6-3 and 231 pounds, he’s a big, tough back with nice hands and showed a little flash averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Very quick, he’s light for a big, powerful back and he could be a top goal line runner if used that way.
5-9, 213-pound junior Dennis Johnson was considered for the starting job last year, and he ran for 83 yards and a score in two games before getting knocked out for the year with a perforated colon. A very quick back with tremendous kickoff return skills, he’s the smallish speed back in the mix if he can come back to be 100%.
Watch Out For … A good distribution of carries. Even with the injuries, the Hogs are loaded with options, and everyone will get their turn to always have a fresh body ready to roll.
Strength: Depth. Davis didn’t exactly come out of left field last
year, but he wasn’t a known star. That he was able
to emerge from the pack showed just how good he was,
because Johnson and Wingo will now show why they're so
highly thought of.
Weakness: The offensive style. It’s both a positive and negative. The bread is buttered with the passing attack, but it gets so much focus from opposing defenses that the holes are there for the backs to blow through. With so many great backs, it would be interesting to see what they’d do at Wisconsin where they’d get over 500 carries.
Outlook: Loaded. Davis had Doak Walker potential and could've been a threat for 2,000 yards. Now that he's out,
the depth kicks in. This is one of the deepest backfields in America, and it’s a big group that can move. While the spring wasn't that great, and the loss of Green and Davis hurts, this should still be one of the team's biggest strengths.
Unit Rating: 9
State of the Unit: The Arkansas running backs are deep, talented, big, and strong with at least four players who could start and produce at an extremely high level. As a unit, though, it might not be as good as the receiving corps. The Hogs were phenomenal last year, and most of the top players are back in what should be as dangerous a group as any in America. Mackey Award-winning tight end D.J. Williams is gone, but that’s it. Counting the running backs and backup tight ends from last year, after Williams, the next nine top targets are back.
The idea of being a No. 1 target in this attack is all relative, but senior Greg Childs , if healthy, is the main man. The 6-3, 217-pound veteran followed up a strong sophomore campaign with 46 catches for 659 yards and six scores including an all-timer of a last-second 40-yard touchdown to beat Georgia. While he wasn’t consistently dominant, he blew up at times with 12 catches for 146 yards and two scores against ULM and nine catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns against Auburn. Just when he appeared to be a lock for a truly special season, he went down for the year with a patellar tendon injury and missed the final five games. He’s a big play, big-time performer who always comes through when needed.
As good as Childs and Adams might be, senior Jarius Wright is the most dangerous. The team’s fastest target with sub-4.3 wheels, he showed off tremendous playmaking ability this offseason coming off a terrific 42 catches for 788 yards and five scores with all the touchdowns coming in the final six games. At 5-10 and 180 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s unstoppably fast and has the potential to come up with a special year.
With Childs getting knocked out, senior Joe Adams turned into the team’s top producing wide receiver finishing with 50 catches for 813 yards and six scores, averaging 16.3 yards per catch. While the 5-11, 190-pounder isn’t the biggest or toughest of targets, he has an all-star résumé and is an ultra-reliable receiver who can dominate in single coverage. Staying healthy has been an issue, but he’s as explosive as any target in the SEC.
6-3, 209-pound junior Cobi Hamilton is a big, strong receiver with extreme, elite speed. A track star who was good enough to be in the AAU Junior Olympics and led the Texas state champion 4x200 meter relay team, he has next-level wheels to get deep on a regular basis averaging a whopping 19.7 yards per catch. The former high school teammate of Ryan Mallett has been a true home run hitter who was a killer against LSU with three catches for 164 yards and two scores and hit South Carolina for seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown in the win.
With D.J. Williams and his team-leading 54 catches gone, more opportunities will be there for Chris Gragg after catching eight passes for 171 yards and two scores when he got his chances. At 6-3 and 238 pounds, he has decent size and looks the part more than Williams, and he could be the breakout star of the passing game. He’ll be backed up by Austin Tate, a strong 6-6, 253-pound sophomore who was mostly a special teamer and got a start, but he’ll be used primarily as a blocker.
The starting receivers are so good that’ll it’ll be tough for others to get time, but there will be chances for a tremendously talented group of reserves. 6-1, 194-pound sophomore Julian Horton caught four passes for 85 yards, but he has nice size and tremendous deep speed to be used as a home run hitter, while 6-1, 199-pound sophomore Javontee Herndon made two catches and was mostly a special teamer, but he’ll be working more into the rotation in all three spots.
Watch Out For … Gragg. It’s asking a lot to be another D.J. Williams, and no one will put Gragg on the short list for the Mackey right away, but the talent is there and everything is in place to come up with a huge season.
Strength: Phenomenal talent. There might not be a sure-thing No. 1 NFL target in the group, but together, the Hog receivers are loaded with speed, size, and enough good players to take turns burning opposing secondaries. Who’s going to be the star this week? Spin the wheel and you’ll have a good shot of getting the right guy.
Weakness: Drops. Cue up the tape of the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Arkansas beat the Buckeyes if the receivers could’ve hung on to the ball.
Outlook: The Hogs have a world of talent, several options, and all the tools across the board to be a destructive force. You know you’re phenomenal when a Hamilton or a Wright might be a backup or Childs could be a No. 4 as he’s trying to get back to 100%. If Gragg can be a 35-to-40 catch tight end, the passing game will be truly unstoppable.
Unit Rating: 10
State of the Unit: The line wasn’t all that great last year, it struggled a bit in pass protection, and it was mostly good for the ground game because teams were so worried about the passing attack. Even so, it was a cohesive group with all five starters getting the call for all 13 games. Now the Hogs have to replace three starters with First Team All-SEC star left tackle DeMarcus Love the biggest loss. There will be some big position battles going into the fall, and finding the right combination could be the key to the season.
Step One will be to replace Love on the left side, and his understudy, 6-7, 305-pound senior Grant Freeman , will get
a shot. A spot starter earlier in his career, he has the experience and the length to be a good pass rusher, but he hasn’t taken the job by the horns and will have to battle with sophomore Anthony Oden, a 6-8, 320-pound bear out of Indianapolis who was expected to be a big part of the rotation, but missed most of the season with an illness. He has the talent to revolve the offensive line around once he figures out what he’s doing.
Left tackle is the big concern, but replacing Ray Dominguez at right tackle is an issue, too. 6-7, 317-pound true freshman Brey Cook was the team’s top recruit and has the potential to be a star up front right away. He blew off Oklahoma, Auburn, Alabama and others to be a Hog, and with prototype size and the ability to bury his man into the dirt, he’s ready to go right off the lot. He’ll have to fight for the job with Jason Peacock , a good JUCO transfer who chose Arkansas over Arizona, Mississippi State, and Utah. He’s 6-4 and 334 pounds with the size to work at guard but could be a tough run blocking right tackle. He’s a powerful blocker more than a pass protector.
One of the two returning starters is in the middle with 6-5, 305-pound sophomore Travis Swanson back after getting the call in every game. An SEC
All-Freshman selection, he was stunningly good from
the start with the smarts to be a steady quarterback
up front and good blasting ability for the ground
12-game starter Alvin Bailey is a 6-5, 319-pound sophomore who came up with a terrific first season and established himself as one of the team’s best run blockers. He’s a guard, but he’s just athletic enough to potentially move to tackle in a pinch. As one of two returning starters, he might be needed for his experience.
The right guard job should be Grant Cook’s after serving as a key part of the rotation at left guard last year. Cook will be tried out on both sides, and with 6-4 and 318-pound size along with a little bit of starting experience, he needs to be a steadying force from the start.
Watch Out For … An ongoing battle for most of the spots. Swanson will start at center, and after that, throw out the depth chart. There are plenty of decent options and there’s enough versatility to move several players around to get the best five blockers on the field at all times.
Strength: Size. The Hogs get a certain type of lineman and they get more and more of them. Everyone around 6-4ish and 305 to 315 pounds, and everyone can move a little bit. This might not be the best all-around line in the SEC, but it’s big enough to do some shoving.
Weakness: An experienced starting five. The line will be fine. Arkansas has a way of getting good production out of young players so there isn’t too much of a concern about a few key newcomers, but considering the rest of the offense is so amazing, any blips or dips this year will probably be blamed on the front five.
Outlook: The line is very big and will be very capable in time, but it’s asking the world for another injury-free season and there’s no way the starting five will have the same combination for every game. It’s a big enough group to blast away for the ground game, but pass protection will be the main focus. The line doesn’t have to be elite; it simply has to be solid.
Unit Rating: 6
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