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2007 Arkansas Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 30, 2007


Preview 2007 Arkansas Razorback Offense

Arkansas Razorbacks

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Arkansas Preview | 2007Arkansas Defense Preview
-
2007 Arkansas Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Arkansas Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Casey Dick
65-132, 991 yds, 9 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Darren McFadden
284 carries, 1,647 yds, 141 TD
Receiving:
Marcus Monk
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:
Quarterback, passing

Quarterbacks

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 run.

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 reserve jobs.
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 behind him.
Rating: 5.5

Running Backs


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 bread-and-butter.
Rating: 10


Receivers


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 gig.

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.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

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 basis.

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 offense.

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.
Rating: 7.5

 

Related Stories
2007 Arkansas Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 30, 2007
2007 Arkansas Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 30, 2007
2007 Arkansas Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 30, 2007








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