2012 Arkansas Preview – Offense
Arkansas WR Cobi Hamilton
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Arkansas Razorback Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: There might be a new head coach, but offensive coordinator Paul Petrino is around to keep the attack rolling. In a league full of mediocre offenses, Arkansas was dominant finishing first in total offense, scoring offense, passing offense and passing efficiency. With quarterback Tyler Wilson choosing to put off the NFL for one more year, and with All-America caliber running back Knile Davis returning from missing all of last year hurt, the backfield is set. The running game should be dominant with several terrific options ready to work in a rotation with Davis, while the line should be fine after getting a little while to gel. The receiving corps might be the concern with Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs gone, but Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gregg are great pieces to start with, and the offense and Wilson will make everyone shine.
Star of the offense: Senior QB Tyler Wilson
Passing: Tyler Wilson
277-438, 3,638 yds, 24 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Dennis Johnson
106 carries, 670 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Chris Gragg
41 catches, 518 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior WR Cobi Hamilton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Brey Cook
Best pro prospect: Wilson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wilson, 2) RB Knile Davis, 3) OG Alvin Bailey
Strength of the offense: Running Backs, Tyler Wilson
Weakness of the offense: Veteran Wide Receivers, LSU & Alabama
So who missed Ryan Mallett? He left early for the NFL after throwing for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, but senior Tyler Wilson was every bit as strong completing 63% of his passes for 3,638 yards with 24 touchdown and six picks. Far more careful with the ball than Mallett and without the same sort of gunslinger – in a bad way – mentality, he didn't throw more than one pick in any one game and was ultra-steady throughout the year. His two mediocre games came against Alabama and LSU, but everyone had mediocre games against Alabama and LSU. Everything else worked out well with 510 yards and three scores against Texas A&M, 250 yards or more in seven of the 13 games and two touchdowns or more in nine games.
No, he doesn't have Mallett's jaw-dropping arm, but he's 6-3 and 220 pounds with an NFL gun and the right mentality to be the team's leader and steadying force. 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 past now. He could've been a first round NFL draft pick had he left early, but if everything goes according to plan, he should be a top ten selection if he can have another excellent season.
Looking to be the main man in the near future is Brandon Allen, a 6-3, 212-pound redshirt freshman who fits exactly what the program likes in its quarterbacks. He's a pure pro-style passer who led the way to the state championship after throwing for 3,408 yards and 38 touchdown passes with no picks in his final season. All the pieces are there, but he just needs a little bit of time, while junior Brandon Mitchell is a veteran backup option who saw a little time in nine games completing 69% of his throws for 271 yards and two scores with a pick. At 6-4 and 230 pounds he has tremendous size with the athleticism to run for 54 yards and two scores in his limited time.
Watch Out For … Allen. Can he be next in the progression? He might not be a sure-thing NFL talent like Mallett was or like Wilson has turned into, but he's deadly accurate and he has the upside and the ability to be a star. The upside is through the roof.
Strength: Passers. Almost no one in the SEC could throw a forward pass on a regular basis last year, but Arkansas was the big exception finishing 13th in the nation averaging over 300 yards per game despite facing the supposedly brutal defenses week after week. Wilson could push to become the No. 1 NFL quarterback prospect even though most of his top targets are gone.
Weakness: Backup experience. Allen hasn't seen any action yet and Mitchell hasn't seen enough time to be counted on to keep a dream season alive if something happens to Wilson. There's talent and ability across the board, but the backups need more mop-up time if possible.
Outlook: The passing game might not have thrown for as many yards last year as it did in 2011, but the interceptions and mistakes have been cut down and the efficiency and effectiveness were terrific for the SEC's best air show. Wilson should be in for a huge season and it'll be a stunner if this isn't once again the league's most dangerous passing game.
Unit Rating: 9
Junior Knile Davis is getting a lot of respect – a lot of respect – considering he hasn't come up with a full season and he has to prove he's healthy. The 6-0, 226-pound power runner appeared ready for a monster 2011 before suffering an ankle injury in preseason camp. Fortunately, he went down in early August and should be back to 100% by the start of the season, and now the Hogs get him for this season; he probably would've taken off for the NFL early had he played last year. But can he regain his form?
An argument could be made that he was the best player in college football over the second half of the 2010 season – even over Cam Newton – running for 1,201 yards and 16 touchdowns over the last nine games. 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. Also a receiver, he can be the star of an offense that should be among the best in the SEC. But, again, he has to be healthy.
When Davis stepped down, Dennis Johnson stepped up leading the team with 670 yards and three touchdowns averaging 6.3 yards per carry. The 5-9, 213-pound senior can catch – making 24 grabs for 255 yards and two scores – and he's an elite kickoff returner averaging 25.6 yards per try with a score. He's built like a pounding back, but he's quick and shifty with the ability and talent to be a terrific complementary star. He only carries the ball 106 times, and he hasn't been a workhorse, but he carries the way to a win over Ole Miss with 160 yards and a score and was terrific against Tennessee with 97 yards and four touchdowns.
6-3, 231-pound junior Ronnie Wingo Jr. is good enough to take over the workload if needed. He's built like a tight end but he's a good, solid runner finishing second on the team with 458 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 20 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns. While he's not the speedster that Johnson is, he's quick and can be used in a variety of ways.
Redshirt freshman Kody Walker kicked off his career on fire with 20 carries for 68 yards and five touchdowns with two scores against Missouri State, two against New Mexico and one carry for three yards and a touchdown against Troy before being lost for the year with an ankle injury. Fortunately, he was hurt early enough to maintain his redshirt status to get four years of eligibility left.
When the Hogs use a fullback it'll be up to senior Kiero Small, a 5-10, 255-pound blaster who got just one carry for a one-yard score and he caught a pass for seven yards. While he could be used from time to time as a short-yardage back, his job will be to blast away for the big runners.
Watch Out For … Davis. Unstoppable during his brief stretch in 2010, is he the real deal? Is he fully healthy? He's not going to have to carry the ball 30 times a game, but if he can be terrific again as a part of a rotation, he has the type of talent and skill to be one of the nation's most effective backs in a salary drive season before likely taking off to the NFL.
Strength: Gigantic depth. From the 226-pound Davis to the 231-pound Wingo to the 213-pound Johnson to the 240-pound Walker, the Hogs are huge. They can pound away with big back after big back to wear teams down.
Weakness: The passing game. It's not really a negative, but it would be interesting to see what this group could do if they played in a pure running offense and combined for 500 carries. The passing game is still the most dangerous aspect of the attack, and while the running game isn't just along for the ride, it's definitely the second fiddle.
Outlook: Arkansas finished 81st in the nation in rushing, but that was because the passing game did most of the heavy lifting. The ground game averaged 4.3 yards per carry with 25 touchdowns and was effective when it had to be. With Davis coming back and at least three great options, this is one of the nation's most loaded backfields in college football.
Unit Rating: 10
The receiving corps took a huge hit losing Jarius Wright and Joe Adams, and now it has to deal with the drama surrounding sophomore Marquel Wade and junior Maudrecus Humphrey, two talented targets who are trying to get back into the rotation after being charges with burglary of a student's dorm room. They have played not guilty, but it's still a big question mark about whether or not they're going to be allowed back on the team.
The 5-11, 185-pound Wade looks like he's ready to be another Adams as both a dangerous receiver and a return man, averaging 8.2 yards per punt return and catching eight passes for 62 yards. However, he was mostly known for being suspended following a huge hit in the win over Vanderbilt. The 6-3, 185-pound Humphrey only caught one pass for nine yards, but with his size and deep speed he has a world of upside. Again, though, there's a big question about whether or not they'll be back.
The No. 1 target should be Cobi Hamilton, a 6-3, 209-pound deep threat with elite-level speed and the strength to be a matchup nightmare. A track star who was good enough to be in the AAU Junior Olympics, and fast enough to lead the Texas state champion 4x200 meter relay team, he has been able to take advantage of single coverage to be a deep threat making 34 catches for 542 yards and four touchdowns averaging 15.9 yards per grab after averaging 19.7 yards per catch two years ago. Now he has to show he can be effective when he's being focused on and he has to be more well-rounded receiver.
6-1, 204-pound junior Javontee Herndon will get a long look at one of the starting spots after catching eight passes for 137 yards. A backup so far, he's smooth and has great route-running ability, but now he has to show he can produce on a regular basis in a bigger role.
6-1, 194-pound junior Julian Horton got in a little bit of starting work and saw time in every game making nine catches for 85 yards. With outstanding deep speed, he has the tools to become a dangerous home run hitter and the upside to be one of the team's top targets.
While the receiving corps is a question mark, there's no concern at tight end with senior Chris Gragg back after finishing third on the team with 41 catches for 518 yards and two touchdowns. At 6-3 and 236 pounds he has good size and great hands. He stepped in for Mackey winner D.J. Williams and turned into a key part of the attack as the breakout star of the passing game highlighted by an eight-catch, 119-yard, one score day against Mississippi State. He'll once again be backed up by junior Austin Tate, a 6-6, 253-pound blocker who saw plenty of time last season making seven catches for 53 yards. He's not going to stretch the field, but he'll block.
Watch Out For … the legal situation. With Wade, Humphrey and tight end Andrew Peterson having problems, the depth for the passing game might be an issue. It's Arkansas, so there are options, but Wade appeared to be ready to make a huge splash before the controversy.
Strength: Arkansas. Even with the coaching change the passing game should be the best in the SEC. Having a future NFL starting quarterback in Tyler Wilson will help the cause, while years of loading up with plenty of good talents should keep the fun going despite the loss of …
Weakness: Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs. The three combined for 141 catches for 2,009 yards and 15 scores averaging 14.2 yards per catch. There's promise and potential across the board, but these three, especially the duo of Wright and Adams, were terrific.
Outlook: Arkansas does a great job of spreading the ball around and is good at including the backs and tight ends, too. The receiving corps should be great if Hamilton can do a little more and if Gragg can be among the SEC's best tight ends. It might take a little time to find the right combination, but Tyler Wilson will make everyone better.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The offensive line struggled a bit in pass protection and was decent, not great, for the ground game on a consistent basis. The line needs sophomore Bray Cook to become a star at left tackle after coming in as the team's top recruit last year. The 6-7, 308-pounder saw time in almost every game as a true freshman, and now it's his time to become the anchor with great size and nice feet. He blew off Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn and other top programs to be a Hog, and while he wasn't a star right out of the box, he should be ready to go.
Back at right tackle will be senior Jason Peacock after he started the last nine games last year. At 6-4 and 305 pounds he has the size to work inside or out, and he has the experience to know what he's doing after stepping in as a key JUCO transfer. One of the team's strongest players, he's a powerful blocker more than a pass protector, but he's fine against the average speed rushers. He'll have to battle with 6-6, 300-pound junior David Hurd, who saw a little bit of time last season and should be the starter next year if he doesn't get the gig this season. He'll be a good run blocker with more of a chance.
Back in the middle as the quarterback up front is 6-5, 305-pound junior Travis Swanson after he starting every game over the last two seasons, An SEC All-Freshman selection, he's a bit tall for the position and is built more like a tackle, but he was shockingly good from the start and steady enough to handle being a key cog in big games.
6-5, 312-pound junior Alvin Bailey earned second-team All-SEC honors after a big year at guard. A blaster at left guard, he built on a terrific first season and established himself as one of the team's best run blockers while building up a great résumé while growing into a top pro prospect. With the athleticism to move to tackle if absolutely needed, he's great on the move and he buries his man for the hard yard. He's the team's anchor.
6-4, 296-pound sophomore Mitch Smothers started the first four games of last year at tackle before Peacock took over, and this year he'll be in the hunt for the starting right guard job while also serving as a possible option at center. He's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line, while 6-4, 305-pound sophomore Luke Charpentier will be a key backup at center while also seeing a little time at left guard if needed. A decent special teamer, he'll fill in as a swing backup at a few spots. Also in the hunt for a spot is 6-4, 300-pound Tyler Deacon, a special teamer who'll get every shot at the right guard job.
Watch Out For … Cook. He could be a starting tackle this year for just about anyone in college football, and he has the talent to be an all-star to work the line around for the next few years. It'll be his job to be the main pass protector to keep Tyler Wilson upright, and now the pressure is on to play up to his potential.
Strength: Tackle-sized blockers. The Hogs might not have any massive road graders who blot out the sun – other than Bailey, but they're all a certain type that's perfect for pass protection, Everyone is around 6-5, 300 pounds and, for the most part, carries the weight well.
Weakness: Consistent pass protection. It wasn't awful considering the offense threw the ball 471 times, but the pass blocking broke down a bit allowing 28 sacks. Obviously, the less Wilson gets hit, the better, and with several new receivers in the mix he needs as much time as he can get.
Outlook: The line should be able to replace the lost starters without a problem while Bailey and Swanson are good veteran rocks to work around. This might not be a dominant front five like LSU's will be, and there isn't the jaw-dropping talent like Alabama's line has, but it'll be a solid group that gets the job done to keep the high-octane offense rolling.
Unit Rating: 7
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