Preview 2007 - Offense
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2006 CFN Arkansas
What you need to know : The Gus Malzahn experience quickly
got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better
utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new
offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style
passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how
to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of
Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of
three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but
suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver,
but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to
throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Passing: Casey Dick
65-132, 991 yds, 9 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Darren McFadden
284 carries, 1,647 yds, 141 TD
50 catches, 962 yds, 11 TD
Star of the offense: Junior RB Darren McFadden
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior
QB Casey Dick
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Jose Valdez
Best pro prospect: McFadden
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McFadden, 2) RB Felix
Jones, 3) WR Marcus Monk
Strength of the offense: Running back, running the ball
Weakness of the offense:
Projected Starter: All Casey Dick has to do
is be average. He doesn't have to throw for 300 yards per game,
he doesn't have to carry the offense, and he doesn't have to do
anything more than make the throws in single coverage to keep
defenses honest. He got over a back injury to work his way into
the starting job, throwing for 991 yards and nine touchdowns
with six interceptions. However, he completed fewer than half
his passes and was miserable as the season wound down, hitting
rock bottom with a deer-in-the-headlights 3 of 17, 29-yard, one
touchdown, one interception performance against LSU. While he
has experience, and decent size, he's not going to make too many
big throws and won't run.
Projected Top Reserves: At the moment, it's up to
6-2, 203-pound junior Nathan Emert to quickly become
ready to handle himself as the number two man in the mix. The
former transfer from Missouri Southern came to Arkansas to run
the spread, and while he has decent passing skills, he might not
be the fit needed for the pro-style attack the team is going to
6-0, 188-pound sophomore Clark Irwin is a good runner
with a decent arm, but he's purely an emergency option. He'll
mostly be used as a scout teamer and possibly as a holder for
the kicking game.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. The offense will
be desperate for more backup options, and Joe Chaisson and
Nathan Dick, Casey's brother, will get every shot to earn the
Strength: Darren McFadden. The star running back will
get the ball more as a quarterback in the "Wildcat" package. The
more he's under center, the better.
Weakness: Throwing the ball and the reserves. Dick is
hardly a consistent passer, and while he'll have his good
moments, he'll have other times when he melts down and is a
complete liability. Unfortunately, the team desperately needs
him to play well and can't afford to lose him with no other
backup options to work with.
Outlook: It's Casey Dick and hope for the best.
Oddly enough, the new pro-style offense would've been a perfect
fit for Mitch Mustain, who took his ball and went home, or to
USC, after things didn't quite work out as planned with the
Arkansas coaching staff. Now the passing game needs Dick to step
up and be consistently adequate with no other viable options
Projected Starters: Junior Darren McFadden
is one of the nation's best players and a near-certain top 15
draft pick when, not if, he leaves after this year. He has the
power at 6-2 and 215 pounds, and he's a bolt of lightning when
he gets into the open field with 1,647 yards and 14 touchdowns
while catching 11 passes for 149 yards and a score. In the
"Wildcat" package, he'll even spend time lined up at
quarterback, where he completed seven of nine passes for 69
yards and three touchdowns with an interception. One of the
leading Heisman candidates will be used in every way possible to
get the ball in his hands.
Paving the way for the running game is 6-2, 243-pound senior
Peyton Hillis, a longtime, do-it-all player who can run with
power, with 61 yards last year, can catch, finishing tied for
second on the team with 19 catches for 159 yards, and has even
been a strong punt returner. Despite never being quite right
thanks to a hamstring problem, he was still effective, and now
should be one of the team's unsung stars.
Projected Top Reserves: Darren McFadden might be
the star of the show, but 6-0, 207-pound junior Felix Jones
is every bit as dangerous, averaging 7.6 yards per carry
with 1,168 yards and six touchdowns. A speedy, quick back, he
won't come up with a whole bunch in the way of power, but he's a
nightmare when he gets to the outside and gets in space. He's an
All-America caliber kick returner who'll get even more work in
the offense as both a runner and a receiver, after catching 15
passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
As if the Hogs didn't already have an embarrassment of riches in
McFadden and Jones, sophomore Michael Smith showed this
spring that he might be the star of the future. He'll likely be
the main man next year, assuming the star duo will be gone to
the next level, and he should be ready. While he didn't get a
whole bunch of work last year, he made the most of his chances
averaging 7.1 yards per carry with 247 yards and three scores.
Backing up Hillis at fullback will be 6-0, 230-pound senior
Farod Jackson, who's more of a true blocking back. He got a
few carries, but he wasn't used all that often in the passing
game, and won't be again.
Watch Out For ... Smith. While it'll be hard to
find him carries with McFadden and Jones too good to not handle
the ball all the time, but Smith was terrific in stretches in
spring scrimmages. He's yet another dangerous speed back who'll
tear off yards in chunks.
Strength: Speed. Defenses will hold their collective
breath every time any of the backs get the ball. It'll take a
total defensive effort just to keep the stars from tearing off
backbreaking runs, much less keep under wraps.
Weakness: They can't play quarterback. Oh wait ...
McFadden is the team's best option. There's no weakness outside
of a possible lack of overall focus with all the NFL talk. If
McFadden and Jones are healthy, they'll be unstoppable.
Outlook: Most teams have to throw the ball to get
big plays and move the ball effectively down the field. With
Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, the Hogs have two backs who can
take it all the way from anywhere on the field. This is the
nation's best running back tandem, and if they stay healthy,
will combine for over 2,500 yards. The coaching staff isn't
going to play around and will do whatever it takes to go with it
Projected Starters: The passing game will revolve
around senior Marcus Monk, a 6-6, 220-pound matchup
nightmare who uses his size extremely well around the goal line
and is a yardage machine when he gets on a role. By far, he was
the team's leading receiver with 50 catches for 962 yards and 11
touchdowns, averaging 19.2 yards per catch (the number two
receivers had 19 grabs), and he should be even more vital this
season with all the uncertainty in the rest of the corps. While
he'll occasionally disappear, more of a function of the offense
than anything else, he showed he could explode with 16 catches
for 329 yards and three scores over a two-game span against
South Carolina and Tennessee, and he scored at least once over
six-game stretch in the second half of the year.
Senior Robert Johnson started out last year as the
quarterback, lost his job early on, and eventually moved to
receiver where he made six catches for 96 yards. While he's
hardly an elite athlete, he's a smart receiver with good 6-2,
209-pound size and surprisingly reliable hands.
Taking over at tight end will be 6-6, 275-pound sophomore
Andrew Davie. More of a third tackle than a receiving option
in the Hog attack, Davie fills the need left by Wes Murphy, who
made two catches with a touchdown despite starting 11 games.
Davie got two starts last season and turned into a decent
blocker, while making two catches for 13 yards.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for the second
receiver job on the other side of Monk will be 6-2, 200-pound
sophomore London Crawford, an interesting deep threat
option who caught five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns
with a 23.4 average. With 4.4 speed, he's a potentially
dangerous home run hitter, but first he has to get over a
hamstring injury that kept him from taking over the starting
Behind Monk will be 6-3, 184-pound redshirt freshman Marques
Wade, who likely would've seen time as a true freshman if he
didn't have problems with a toe injury. Even though he has the
speed to get deep and crank out big plays, his key is his size
and physical ability. He appeared ready this spring to step up
as a key target.
5-7, 156-pound junior Reggie Fish, a decent punt returner
who got a few carries. Now he'll be used from time to time as a
very quick receiver who'll try to make things happen in the
rotation with Johnson and Crawford.
Behind Davie at tight end will be 6-4, 250-pound sophomore
Ben Cleveland, a better receiver who'll come in on passing
plays. While he's not nearly the blocker that Davie is, he
caught 12 passes for 103 yards and two scores in a reserve role.
Watch Out For ... Wade. He's not going to see too
much time at split end in place of Monk, but he can step in if
injuries strike and could end up taking over at flanker. He'll
be the team's number one receiver in 2008.
Strength: Monk. The Hog passing game was 108th in the
nation last year, and isn't going to be any better
statistically. However, Monk is able to take advantage of single
coverage when safeties have to creep up against the run. Monk
makes teams pay.
Weakness: Sure-thing reserves. The transfer of Damian
Williams to USC will hurt, for no other reason than it takes
away another great option. Wade, Johnson and Crawford all have
to prove they can take the heat away from Monk.
Outlook: Arkansas is going to throw the ball even
less than last year, so there might not be great overall
numbers. Effectiveness is at a premium, and Marcus Monk will do
his part with a big season as one of the SEC's premier targets.
Finding a second receiver will be vital for no other reason than
to allow for a few more options, even if he'll only and up
making around 20 catches. Robert Johnson and London Crawford
should be fine, if not special.
Projected Starters: All eyes will be on 6-5,
307-pound junior Jose Valdez at left tackle, replacing
all-star Tony Ugoh. He's a fantastic athlete who can make big
blocks on the move and has the feet to be strong in pass
protection, but it's asking a lot for him to be Ugoh. He'll
spring some big runs, but he needs to show right off the bat
that he can handle the better SEC speed rushers on a consistent
The other new starter to the left side will be 6-5, 288-pound
junior Mitch Petrus, who'll be the line's biggest
question mark. The former walk-on tight end and fullback isn't
all that huge, and while he might be physical, he needs to prove
he can hold up for a full season at a key spot in the Hog
The third new starter will be at right tackle, where senior
Nate Garner takes over for Zac Tubbs. At 6-7 and 319 pounds,
he's an imposing blocker with a little bit of starting
experience. While he won't be the run blocking monster that
Tubbs was at times, he should grow into the role.
The line will revolve around junior center Jonathan Luigs
and right guard Robert Felton, who'll each be in the hunt
for All-SEC honors. Luigs is a perfect quarterback to bring
everything together, and he'll be invaluable with all the new
starters around him. At 6-4 and 307 pounds, he's big, strong,
and a technician for the running game. The 6-4, 328-pound Felton
is a pounder who could move to guard if needed. He's not a great
pass protector, but there are few better at pushing people
around when the hard yards are needed.
Projected Top Reserves: The backups are big and
beefy. Considering Petrus doesn't fit the prototype of what the
line might like at left guard, 6-6, 313-pound sophomore
Michael Aguirre might see plenty of time. Originally a
tackle, he got stronger over the last two years and should be
fine on the inside if he can stay healthy.
Backing up Garner at right tackle is massive 6-4, 332-pound
junior Cody Green, a versatile blocker who could see
action at guard to add even more beef inside. His issue is a bad
back, which limited him early in his career. Showing off the
athleticism to be consistent in pass protection will determine
his playing time.
Watch Out For ... Valdez to be more than fine at
left tackle. He stepped in for Ugoh in the Capital One Bowl, and
was a rock. Ugoh was a special blocker, and while Valdez will
need a little time before he's an all-star, he's too athletic
and too big not to be a good one.
Strength: Size. Outside of Petrus at left guard, the
line is loaded with 300+ pounders who can shove people around.
Being physical isn't a problem for this group.
Weakness: The new starters. Arkansas always comes
through with good lines, and last year's front five was special.
There are great pieces to work around, but it's not going to be
as good as last year's dominant wall.
Outlook: Once the offense started to forget about
the spread and went to more of a running game, the line started
to rock. While three new starters are stepping in, the line will
be great because it'll get to do what it want to: hit. Oh sure,
from time to time there will be key pass plays when the new
tackles don't always come through, but when it comes to opening
holes for the top backs, the line will get the job done as well
as anyone in America.