2008 CFN Arkansas Preview
Arkansas DE Adrian Davis
Arkansas DE Adrian Davis
Posted Apr 11, 2008

It's a major year of transition for Arkansas as Bobby Petrino will change up the offense, while the defense needs Adrian Davis and the front four to be tremendous. Will the Hogs be rebuilding, or can they start to make some big steps forward? Check out the CFN Arkansas Preview.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Arkansas Preview | 2008 Arkansas Offense

- 2008 Arkansas Defense | 2008 Arkansas Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Arkansas Preview | 2006 CFN Arkansas Preview 

To hear the reaction from the fans and media when Bobby Petrino bailed on the sinking ship that is the Atlanta Falcons, you'd think he was responsible for the rising cost in gas prices, the mortgage crisis, and was a close personal friend of Osama Bin Laden.

Yeah, Petrino didn't exactly leave under the best of circumstances, but the NFL is a heartless, cut-throat business that chews up players and coaches and spits them out; Petrino simply won one for the other side. But while the Falcons are a few years (at least) from coming within shouting distance of being interesting again, Arkansas can go from very good to a real, live title contender in a bigger hurry.

Head coach: Bobby Petrino
1st year at Arkansas
5th year overall: 41-9
Returning Lettermen
Off. 19, Def. 21, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Hog Players
1. C Jonathan Luigs, Sr.
2. OG Mitch Petrus, Sr.
3. DE Adrian Davis, Jr.
4. DE Antwain Robinson, Sr.
5. NT Ernest Mitchell, Sr.
6. DT Malcolm Sheppard, Jr.
7. TE D.J. Williams, Soph.
8. RB Michael Smith, Jr.
9. QB Casey Dick, Sr.
10. FS Rashaad Johnson, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Western Illinois
Sept. 6 UL Monroe (Little Rock)
Sept. 13 at Texas
Sept. 20 Alabama
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE 
Oct. 4 Florida
Oct. 11 at Auburn
Oct. 18 at Kentucky
Oct. 25 Ole Miss
Nov. 1 Tulsa
Nov. 8 at South Carolina
Nov. 15 OPEN DATE 
Nov. 22 at Mississippi State
Nov. 28 LSU (Little Rock)

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2007 Record: 8-

Sept. 1 Troy W 46-26
Sept. 15 at Alabama L 41-38
Sept. 22
Kentucky L 42-29
Sept. 29 North Texas W 66-7
Oct. 6 Chattanooga W 34-16
Oct. 13 Auburn L 9-7
Oct. 20
at Ole Miss W 44-8
Oct. 27 FIU W 58-10
Nov. 3 South Carolina W 48-36
Nov. 10 at Tennessee L 34-13
Nov. 17
Mississippi St W 45-31
Nov. 24 at LSU W 50-48 3OT
Cotton Bowl
Jan. 1 Missouri L 38-7

The problem is that Petrino now has the reputation for having one foot out the door. As Petrino was turning Louisville into a power, there was the infamous meeting with Auburn officials about taking over for a then-beleaguered Tommy Tuberville before things turned around for the Tigers. Between leaving the Cardinals and ditching the Falcons, Arkansas fans might be always be a little nervous, but for now, all seems right with the world.

Looking beyond all the extra issues, Petrino is a fantastic head coach who’ll take an Arkansas program that wasn’t that bad to begin with and make it better. He has done a terrific job of recruiting in a limited amount of time, with the biggest coup getting big, strong-armed QB Ryan Mallett from Michigan. Petrino has a career college record of 41-9 and had Louisville within a heartbeat of playing for a national title, and now he has more to work with.

Losing Darren McFadden and Felix Jones doesn't help the cause, but while it might seem like the pieces aren't there to run things the way Petrino might like, this might be a case of some players being able to break free of the shackles.

Casey Dick, whose job was to hand the ball off and to not screw up the passing game, appears to have taken to the new passing attack. The O line should still be among the best in the SEC, there are some quick, talented runners ready to take over, the receivers are promising, even if they aren't proven, and the defense that wasn't all that bad last year should come up with even more of a pass rush.

However, while the new coaching staff and the emerging players should keep the train rolling, there are too many big problems to keep this from being a special year. The linebacking corps is a mess, all four starters have to be replaced in the secondary, and yeah, while the skill players are promising, the offense is basically starting from scratch.

The team has the right coach, good young talent, and a recent history of success. Now it'll take a little time to hope everything comes together so Arkansas can go to another level. And then it'll take Petrino to stick around.

What to watch for on offense: The new and improved Casey Dick. He was much better last year than he was over the second half of 2006, but Dick still wasn't exactly the type of quarterback who could step up and beat a team by himself. That might change if this spring was any indication. He threw for 18 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions last season, but his job, to put it nicely, was to be a game-manager. Now he's the main returning offensive weapon and he'll get to be a passing quarterback and a true leader. He's experienced and he has been a quick study, and now the offense is on his shoulders.

What to watch for on defense: The linebacker situation. If you can play linebacker, send in your résumé. This was going to be a potential problem spot going into the season anyway, and then Freddie Fairchild, the team's leading returning tackler,
was booted of the team after getting charged with suspicion of third-degree battery and false imprisonment. Likely middle man Wendel Davis is also in hot water for an off-the-field incident. That means veteran Elston Forte, redshirt freshman Jerry Franklin, and sophomore Ryan Powers, all undersized but all athletic, will have to be stars from day one.

The team will be far better if … it gets something out of the punting game. Jeremy Davis is fine, but the Hogs struggled in coverage and netted a mediocre 33 yards per kick. The bigger problem has been punt returns after finishing last in the SEC and 107th in the nation. Reggie Fish will get a shot as a returner, but the job might be open to anyone who can produce.

The Schedule: It's an interesting schedule for Petrino's first season with just enough breaks to prevent any sort of long losing streak. Starting off against Western Illinois and UL Monroe will give the team time to prepare for the road trip to Texas and the SEC opener against Alabama. There's a much-needed late September open date before dealing with Florida and at Auburn, and then things lighten up for a while. If the Hogs can upset South Carolina in Columbia, there's a solid chance they can win five in a row before closing out against LSU in a Friday game in Little Rock.

Best Offensive Player: Senior C Jonathan Luigs. Depending on what scouting services you like to follow, Luigs is either first or second on the list of top NFL center prospects. The 2007 Rimington Award winner is the perfect quarterback for a front line that has to learn how to block in the new system. Pass protection will be at a premium, and it'll start in the middle.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Adrian Davis. The NFL types are waiting for DE Antwain Robinson to blow up and become the big-time player he has the potential to blossom into, but for now it's Davis who has the skills to be the star speed rusher. Either way, the Hogs are set up front with a scary-good group of pass rushers. At least, they'd better be set, because the back seven needs as much help as it can get.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Casey Dick. The offense might be in a little bit of a holding pattern until Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett is eligible next year, but until then it's Dick to be the one to carry things. The Hogs will still be able to run the ball, but the offense will will have issues if Dick isn't excellent.

The season will be a success if ... the Hogs get to eight wins again. No one's expecting a run for the West title, and the schedule is decent enough to be really grouchy if this isn't a bowl season. After going 8-5 last year, similar success would mean Petrino was able to tread water and keep things from sliding in a season of reshaping.

Key game: Sept. 20 vs. Alabama. A key road game for the Tide to show that things are on the upswing in the Nick Saban era. Bama won 41-38 last year, and now, after going to Texas and with a week off to follow before dealing with Florida and a date at Auburn, the Hogs might need to pull off a win in the SEC opener to avoid 2-4 start.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Average yards per carry: Arkansas 6 – Opponents 4.1
- First half scoring: Arkansas 229 – Opponents 138
- Fumbles: Arkansas 37 (lost 15) – Opponents 20 (lost 10)