Preview 2009 - Offense
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2009 Arkansas Depth
2008 Hog Preview |
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What you need to know:
The offense was trying to put square pegs
into round holes as the dominant running offense under Houston
Nutt tried to go to a more balanced attack. Big strides were
made with an improved passing game that saw several young wide
receivers get their feet wet to go along with the emergence of
D.J. Williams as one of the nation's best tight ends. All the
top targets are back, while the backfield is loaded with
talented, quick runners led by 1,000-yard back Michael Smith,
who might turn out to be the best in the SEC. The big problem in
the transition was the line that was a turnstile in pass
protection. Three starters return and Mitch Petrus is back at
guard after missing all of last season, but if the front five
isn't better, the offense won't be consistent even with the
emerging stars at receiver and in the backfield. All eyes will
be on the quarterback situation with Michigan transfer Ryan
Mallett finally eligible and ready to go. He's not going to be a
world-beater from day one, but in time, he should grow with the
young receivers and become special if he's allowed to make
mistakes early on.
Passing: Tyler Wilson
11-22, 69 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Michael Smith
207 carries, 1,072 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: D.J. Williams
61 catches, 723 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense: Senior RB Michael
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OG
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Joe Adams
Best pro prospect: Junior TE D.J. Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) Williams, 3)
Strength of the offense: Running back, Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Pass protection, Proven QB
6-7, 248-pound sophomore Ryan
Mallett's journey to what could be a long career
appears to have finally gotten its restart. After starting out
his career at Michigan, where he saw a few starts and plenty of
action in his true freshman campaign, completing 61-of-141
passes for 892 yards and seven scores, he left when Rich
Rodriguez was hired and campaigned hard to be able to play for
Arkansas last year. While he was denied, it turned out to be a
good thing for the Hog program as now he has three more years of
eligibility. Extremely strong with a big-time arm and tremendous
size, he has all the throws in the book and the talent to
eventually get paid a ton of money at the next level. Now he has
to work on his consistency and he has to limit his mistakes
after spraying the ball a bit too much this spring and throwing
two picks in the spring game. Confidence isn't an issue and
he'll let the down moments roll off his back.
Projected Top Reserves: While Ryan Mallett all but
has the starting job wrapped up, Tyler Wilson
is making it interesting. The 6-2, 180-pound redshirt freshman
was an Arkansas high school superstar winning three state title
and threw for almost 4,000 yards with 42 touchdowns as a senior.
He doesn't have the arm of Mallett, but he's more mobile and
could get the passing game going if thrown into the No. 1 role.
Redshirt freshman Jim Youngblood is the clear
third man in the mix, but he has tremendous upside and could see
work in blowouts. At 6-2 and 222 pounds he's a thick passer with
a live arm, throwing for 5,562 yards and running for more than
1,600 yards. He's the best running quarterback on the roster and
he can get the ball deep, too.
Watch Out For ... Wilson to be in the hunt for the
starting job more than you might think. Mallett is the
NFL-caliber bomber with the skills to grow into the job and be
special, but Petrino has always liked productive gamers. Wilson
doesn't have a real shot to win the starting job this summer,
but that could change if Mallett struggles early this fall.
Strength: Arms. This isn't your older brother's Arkansas
quarterbacks. Mallett is a pure bomber while Wilson and
Youngblood can each throw. These are three accomplished high
school passers with the résumés to show just how prepared they
are for the spotlight.
Weakness: Experience. Yes, Mallett saw time in Ann Arbor
and was solid, but being a full-time starter in the SEC is a
whole new ballgame. Wilson and Youngblood were great in high
school, but neither has seen a college snap.
Outlook: Mitch Mustain, the Dick brothers, Alex
Mortensen, Matt Jones; Arkansas has had its share of name
quarterbacks over the last few years, and now it has its
super-recruit in Ryan Mallett, who could arguably called on of
the top five pickups in America last year. Now he has to prove
it on the field and he has to live up to the hype or else Tyler
Wilson will be the starter and there will be a big-time, Mitch
He might only be 5-7 and 176 pounds, and he
might have had a few problems staying on the field thanks to
injuries and off-the-field issues, but senior Michael
Smith is extremely tough and very dangerous. Never able
to get out of the shadow of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, he
did what he could when he got his chances producing several big
plays. When he became the main man, he ran 207 times for 1,072
yards and eight scores, averaging 5.2 yards per carry,
highlighted by a 192-yard day in the loss to Kentucky. Also a
receiver, he finished second on the team with 32 catches for 298
yards and two scores. With his lightning quickness, combined
with his hands and his toughness, he's a good all-around back
for the offense to revolve around once he gets back healthy from
a hamstring problem.
fullback isn't always needed or used in the Petrino offense, the
Hogs have a good blocker in Van Sturmon, a
possible tight end who started out his career as a linebacker
and defensive end. The 6-2, 266-pound junior has moved around in
five different spots, making three tackles last year, and now
should be a major factor for the ground game.
Projected Top Reserves: At the moment,
De'Anthony Curtis is the key backup behind Michael
Smith, but he'll have plenty of competition for the job. The
star recruit of last year averaged 10.4 yards per carry in his
senior year of high school and was considered one of the five
best prospects to come out of Arkansas. He got in a little bit
of work with 76 yards on 23 carries, but he didn't do too much
with his opportunities. At 5-10 and 211 pounds he's a bigger
back than Smith, and he can catch making eight grabs for 68
Ready to make a huge impact is Broderick
Green, a 6-1, 242-pound inside runner who transferred
from USC and should be the team's pounder. He had a good spring
and should see a big role when the team is looking for a bigger
back in the equation. When all is said and done, he could finish
second on the team in rushing.
Lost in the shuffle is Dennis Johnson, a 5-7,
200-pound scat back who started in two games and finished second
on the team with 184 yards and a score. He made his biggest
impact as a kickoff returner, averaging 22.1 yards per try and
setting the school record for kickoff return yards in a season.
He ran for 127 yards in the win over LSU and showed he could
produce when called upon, but he'll have to fight for playing
time this year.
5-7, 209-pound senior Brandon
Barnett came over from Butler Country CC, where he was
a superstar at the JUCO level, and got in a little work two
years ago rushing for 136 yards and a score. He was fourth on
the team in rushing last year with 61 yards and a score, getting
most of his work in in the loss to South Carolina. He won't get
a lot of work, ,and he has to return healthy after missing
spring ball, but he's a quick back who could handle being part
of a rotation.
While Van Stumon is the blocking fullback,
Mitchell Bailey is the runner and receiver. The
5-11, 221-pound sophomore is a decent blocker, but he's not
nearly as big as Stumon and is quicker and far more athletic. He
has better hands.
Watch Out For ... Green. While he's not going to
push Smith out of a starting spot, with his bulk and his speed
for his size, he provides a different option than all the scat
backs currently in the mix.
Strength: Quickness. While there might not be Darren
McFadden/Felix Jones speed across the board, Smith can fly and
the other backs have no problems getting through a hole. There
are enough options for form a good rotation and use in a variety
Weakness: The line. Smith was an All-SEC-caliber
performer, but the Hogs still finished 97th in the nation in
rushing and netted just 3.6 yards per carry with a mere 13
scores. While a slew of sacks were the problem for the rushing
total, the line didn't do enough to open holes.
Outlook: Could the running game overcome the loss
of McFadden and Jones? No, but it wasn't the fault of the backs
as Michael Smith, Dennis Johnson and De'Anthony Curtis didn't
get a whole bunch of room to run through. The addition of
Broderick Green will help with the power, while there are more
than enough good talents to expect far more production.
While the receiving corps
should be better in the second year under Petrino, the team's
best receiver is future NFL starting tight end D.J.
Williams. A big-time talent with all the skills, the
junior is a Mackey Award semifinalist who led the Hogs with 61
catches for 723 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-2 and 251
pounds, it would be nice if he was a bit taller and wasn't built
like a fullback, but he's a fantastic route runner with deep
speed and consistent hands. He'll be more than just a safety
valve; he'll be a go-to target.
The team's rising star is Joe Adams, a 5-11,
177-pound sophomore who only started in seven games but finished
third on the team with 31 catches for 377 yards and a score.
He's a do-it-all playmaker who mostly starred as a corner in
high school, but he also did a little of everything as a runner
and a receiver, too. He got a few carries last season, running
six times for 46 yards, but he'll shine as a receiver after
coming up with a fantastic spring
Senior London Crawford was a big-play target
under Houston Nutt, averaging 23.4 yards per catch in 2006 and
18.4 yards per catch in 2007, but he was limited a bit as a
junior catching just 27 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown
averaging 11.5 yards per grab. He has had a few minor injury
issues over the years, but he has the speed to get deep and the
6-2, 204-pound size to fight for the ball.
Ready to become a major factor is Jarius Wright,
a 5-10, 174-pound sophomore who had a great spring and should be
devastating when he gets the ball on the move. He got seven
starts as a true freshman and was a big-play target averaging
18.3 yards per catch with 19 grabs for 348 yards and a score. He
came up with a 70-yard scoring play against South Carolina and a
46-yarder against LSU, and he's just scratching the surface.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Lucas
Miller was a starter in six games but was out this
spring with a knee injury. The 6-3, 204-pounder was fourth on
the team with 30 catches for 490 yards and two touchdowns and
has the size and athleticism to be a killer in single coverage.
Now he has to be more consistent. Ten of his grabs, with 201
yards and a score, came in the loss to Mississippi State.
6-3, 204-pound sophomore Greg Childs is coming
off a great offseason and he could push London Crawford for a
spot. He came up big in his freshman year making 18 catches for
273 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 15.2 yards per catch,
but he did most of his work on opening day with six grabs for 88
yards and a score against Western Illinois. He'll do a lot more
There's no question that D.J. Williams is the team's starting
tight end, and the main weapon, but Ben Cleveland
is a good No. 2 option who should be used more in the
passing game after catching one pass for a one-yard touchdown to
beat Mississippi State. At 6-4 and 249 pounds, he's a good
Watch Out For ... the sophomores. The receivers
weren't the main stars in the passing game with Williams and RB
Michael Smith the top two receivers. However, Adams, Childs, and
Wright are about to become a special trio that matures at the
same time in the Hog passing attack.
Strength: Experience and potential. Everyone is
back. Including Smith, the top seven receivers from last year
return and there are other good prospects waiting to do more.
Williams might be the nation's best tight end, or is at least in
the top three, while the young receivers are about to blow up.
Weakness: Consistency. That should come with age and a
bit more experience, but the Hogs were all over the place when
it came to production. The quarterback play will be fine, and
while the line will still struggle in pass protection, the
receivers have to do a bit more now that the corps has a year of
experience under Petrino.
Outlook: After finishing 112th in the nation in
passing in 2007, and rightfully so considering the backfield and
the running game the team had, the Hogs were second in the SEC
and 23rd in the nation averaging 260 yards per game even though
there wasn't any pass protection. Now the receiving corps should
blow up with everyone back including D.J. Williams, a special
tight end, and a slew of gamebreaking sophomore receivers. Once
QB Ryan Mallett figures out what he's doing, the receiving corps
will be unstoppable.
The biggest loss from the
offensive front is Jonathan Luigs, the 2007 Rimington Award
winner as the nation's best center. Looking to take over is
Wade Grayson, the team's most versatile blocker who
started every game last year at weak guard (the left side) and
could play tackle if needed. The 6-4, 289-pounder is just tough
enough and experienced enough to be a good quarterback, but he's
not going to be Luigs.
With Grayson moving one spot over, sophomore Grant Cook
will get the first shot at left guard. While he wasn't a star
this spring, he has 6-4, 322-pound size and a little bit of
experience, starting four times in the middle of the season.
He'll be given a shot to improve and grow into the role, he
needs to shine early on to hold off other promising options.
Back at left tackle is junior Ray Dominguez,
a 6-4, 329-pound pounder who struggled in the transition in the
new offense. A great run blocker in his six games of work in
2007, he started ten times last year and was great at times for
the ground game but wasn't consistent in pass protection. He has
the length and the experience to be better, but he'll have to do
more against the faster speed rushers.
junior DeMarcus Love is more of a guard than a
tackle, but he'll be moved to the outside after starting eight
times at right guard. The team's most experienced lineman with
14 starts and 20 appearances, and now he'll have to prove he can
be consistent in pass protection. Last year's starter Jose
Valdez struggled too often, and Love can't be much worse when if
comes to keeping the quarterback clean.
With Love moving
over, 6-4, 315-pound senior Mitch Petrus will
step in at strong guard, the right side. Mostly a huge fullback
and tight end so far, the former walk-on moved to guard after
beefing up over the last few years, but he's been out of action
after missing all of last year with a toe injury. He's a good
athlete who can blast away for the running game and should be
decent against the stronger interior pass rushers. He'll be
Projected Top Reserves: Able to play tackle or
guard, 6-5, 319-pound senior Michael Aguirre
will work where needed. Solid at either spot, he'll start out
behind Mitch Petrus on the right side after starting two times
at weak tackle. He was starting when the passing game rocked for
385 yards against Tulsa.
At 6-7 and 289 pounds,
sophomore Grant Freeman has the length to lock
on to pass rusher with the long arms to keep them at bay. He has
a little bit of playing time filling in for three games in the
rotation at left tackle. Now he'll be the main man behind Ray
Dominguez and could see time on the other side if needed..
Watch Out For ... the left guard battle. Cook has
the size and experience to have the job by default going into
the summer, but 6-4, 305-pound sophomore Seth Oxner
could take the job if he rocks just before the start of
the season. Both were mediocre this spring, and it's the one job
Strength: Size. This was a line put together to pound
away for the Houston Nutt running game, and it's huge. Grayson
is 289 pounds in the middle, but the other four projected
starters combine to average around 315 pounds. They'll blast
away for the ground attack, but ...
Weakness: Pass protection. There was a reason the 2007
line was so great in sacks allowed. The offense wasn't geared
around throwing the ball, but that wasn't the only reason last
year's line finished next-to-last in America giving up 46 sacks.
This isn't a line built for a high-octane passing attack, and
there will be a lot of tweaking done.
Outlook: All the other parts of the equation fit,
but the line needs to be night-and-day more consistent for the
passing game to work. The running game struggled, too, even
though Michael Smith ran for 1,072 yards. Three starters are
back with Petrus a good one to fill in at guard. The big
question will be at left guard, the weak guard spot, but more
production is needed from all five spots. This will be an
improved line, but not an elite one by any stretch.