Arkansas Preview 2006
Darren McFadden - Arkansas
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Arkansas Razorbacks Preview 2006

- Arkansas Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

You bought all your tech stocks in 2001. You started watching Desperate Housewives this year. You've only seen the final hour of Wedding Crashers. Here's your chance to finally get in early on something ... Arkansas.

Arkansas grew into a bit of a stale team under head coach Houston Nutt. It was competitive, but it had problems with the big boys over the last two years with six losses by a touchdown or less against monster teams like Texas, LSU, Georgia (twice), and South Carolina, but all anyone seems to remember is the loss to Vanderbilt along with the 70-17 nail-biter against USC.

While the program might be a year away from being something special, things are turning around in a big hurry thanks to a massive youth movement and the landing of one, big, save-the-franchise quarterback recruit; Mitch Mustain.

Head coach: Houston Nutt
9th year: 57-40
14th year overall: 93-62
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 24, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 13
Ten Best Hog Players
RB Darren McFadden, Soph.
2. LB Sam Olajabutu, Sr.
3. RB/KR Felix Jones, Soph.
4. CB Chris Houston, Jr.
5. QB Mitch Mustain, Fr.
6. FB Peyton Hillis, Jr.
7. OT Zac Tubbs, Sr.
8. DT Keith Jackson, Sr.
9. LB Freddie Fairchild, Soph.
10. DT Marcus Harrison, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 USC
9/9 Utah State
9/16 at Vanderbilt
9/23 Alabama
10/7 at Auburn
10/14 SE Missouri State
10/21 Ole Miss
10/28 UL Monroe
11/4 at South Carolina
11/11 Tennessee
11/18 at Miss State
11/25 LSU

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 4-7

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 SW Missouri St W 49-17
9/10 Vanderbilt L 28-24
9/17 at USC L 70-17
9/24 at Alabama L 24-13
10/8 UL Monroe W 44-14
10/15 Auburn L 34-17
10/22 at Georgia L 23-20
11/5 South Carolina L 14-10
11/12 at Ole Miss W 28-17
11/19 Miss State W 44-10
11/26 at LSU L 19-17

It's hard to win close games when you play 17 true freshmen and don't have a steady quarterback, but all the bumps and bruises suffered last year will pay off as this is one of the SEC's up-and-coming teams. With all the speed and all the talent Nutt and his staff have brought together, it's Mustain who has reenergized the fan base. Nutt, who was on a major hot seat after things started to regress, bought himself at least another two years by landing the star, NFL prospect. Now there's hope that by 2007 at the earliest, Arkansas will be a major player again in the SEC race.

While the addition of a top-shelf quarterback might do wonders for the passing game, it's the ground attack that'll make headlines. True sophomores Darren McFadden and Felix Jones form one of the nation's best 1-2 rushing punches, and small, quick Michael Smith is healthy and ready to be part of the mix. Add a fullback in Peyton Hillis who led the team in catches last year and returns punts, and an offensive line with, for all intents and purposes, five returning starters, and the Hogs should run wild.

The defense won't get a lot of publicity, but it'll be strong led be undersized, but talented linebacker Sam Olajabutu and with a strong line to work around. Chris Houston and Matterral Richardson are talented corners who'll both see time in an NFL camp, and the safeties are improved with speedy Michael Grant taking over the free safety job.

Yup, there's reason to get really, really excited about the future of this team, but as always, it has to deal with a tough slate. While a 4-7 record wasn't acceptable last season, the team did have to play at USC, at Alabama, Auburn, at Georgia, and at LSU. Find the team in America outside of the top 15 that wouldn't have lost almost all five of those games?

If the Hogs can pull off an upset or two and all the young talent can take a bit of a step up, this will be a dangerous SEC West team right now. Just getting a winning record again would be nice, and then the sky's the limit for next year.

The Schedule: The season opener against USC might be the coming out party for this Hog team, but that's asking a lot. Vanderbilt doesn't have Jay Cutler anymore, so a 2-1 record is likely going into battles with Alabama and at Auburn. And then things ease up in a big way playing SE Missouri State, Ole Miss and UL Monroe before things turn back again going to South Carolina and playing Tennessee and LSU in the final four games.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Darren McFadden. How good was McFadden's freshman season? He was only the seventh freshman to ever crank out 1,000 yards in a season. When you join a list that includes Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith, you've done something right. He has speed, power, and the hands to be used a bit at wide receiver.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Sam Olajabutu. He's only 5-9 and 229 pounds, but he plays and hits like a much bigger defender. He has unlimited range and is always around the ball, and he has turned into a whale of a pass rusher.

Key player to a successful season: Freshman QB Mitch Mustain. There's a possibility he might redshirt, but for the team to come out rocking and rolling in 2007 with a team worthy of playing for the SEC title, the new hot shot needs to get a year of SEC seasoning under his belt. If he's not ready, or if he ends up sitting and learning for a year, then Casey Dick, who came on at the end of last season, has to get one of the nation's worst passing games moving.

The season will be a success if ... the Hogs end up with a winning season and go to a bowl. There can't be any slip ups against teams like Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, and there has to be at least one big upset over a Tennessee or an Alabama along the way. Another losing season wouldn't get Nutt fired, but it would put him on double-secret probation for 2007.

Key game: Sept. 23 vs. Alabama. Arkansas has won two of the last three in the series and with a road date at Auburn ahead, it'll need this win for a likely 2-0 SEC start and to make a statement in the West race. It would also be the type of win the team didn't/couldn't come up with last year and show that the past really is in the past.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Arkansas 80 for 644 yards - Opponents 58 for 440 yards
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 9 of 12 (75%) - Arkansas 11 of 25 (44%)
- Passing yards per game: Opponents 209.4 - Arkansas 143.7

The Last Time Arkansas…
…played in a bowl game…2003 (Independence Bowl vs. Missouri)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2002 (South Carolina)
…was shutout…1995 (LSU)
…scored 50 points…2004 (New Mexico State)
…went undefeated…1964
…won a conference title…1989 (SWC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Darren McFadden)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1998 (Anthony Lucas)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (WR Matt Jones)

Related Stories
Arkansas Preview 2006 - Offense
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Arkansas Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Arkansas Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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