2010 Arkansas Preview
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett
Posted Jul 5, 2010

Every year there's a window of opportunity for at least one SEC team to make a huge splash. Arkansas has the schedule, the returning experience, and the superstar quarterback in Ryan Mallett to challenge Alabama for the West, the SEC, and maybe more. Check out the CFN 2010 Arkansas Preview.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Preview 2010

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- 2010 Arkansas Defense | 2010 Arkansas Depth Chart
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bobby Petrino
3rd year: 13-12
7th year overall: 54-21
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 29, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Arkansas Players
1. QB Ryan Mallett, Jr.
2. TE D.J. Williams, Sr.
3. WR Greg Childs, Jr.
4. WR Jairus Wright Jr.
5. LB Jerry Franklin, Jr.
6. WR Joe Adams, Jr.
7. DE Jake Bequette, Jr.
8. RB Dennis Johnson, Jr.
9. WR Cobi Hamilton, Soph.
10. RB Broderick Green, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Tenn Tech
Sept. 11 ULM
Sept. 18 at Georgia
Sept. 25 Alabama
Oct. 9 at Texas A&M
Oct. 16 at Auburn
Oct. 23 Ole Miss
Oct. 30 Vanderbilt
Nov. 6 at South Carolina
Nov. 13 UTEP
Nov. 20 at Miss State
Nov. 27 LSU

Every once in a while a program finds its way into a perfect storm of positives that sets everything up for a special season. If you happen to be in the SEC, you have to take seize of the moment before the window slams shot with a hard thud. Georgia didn't take advantage of its talent, schedule, and experience in 2008, and Ole Miss certainly didn't use its sweetheart of a schedule and all the returning veterans to shine as expected last year.

Arkansas, this is your 2010 wake up call. Don't blow it.

18 starters are back from a good team that came up with the textbook definition of a stepping-stone season. Bobby Petrino was in his second year of changing around a program that all but ignored the forward pass, mainly because it was cranking out too many big yards with the ground game, star quarterback prospect, Ryan Mallett, was getting his feet wet in the SEC wars, and the relatively young team had to deal with road trips to Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and LSU. With Mallett choosing to come back for his junior year, rather than jump to the NFL early, the Hogs are loaded, the schedule works out to their favor, and the rest of the league is in a bit of a rebuilding period at just the right time.

Alabama will be good, of course, but it has some major changes to deal with on defense. LSU and Ole Miss are still trying to put all the pieces together after disappointing seasons, while Auburn and Mississippi State are still building to where they want to be in the second year under their respective coaching staffs. While Arkansas is hardly the most talented team in the division, on experience, coaching, big-time players in the right spots, and schedule, this has to be considered one of the favorites to win the West.

Win the West, and go to the SEC title game in a year when Florida is undergoing a major overhaul, Tennessee and South Carolina aren't realistically in the picture, and Georgia is great, but flawed. Of course, win that, and then the really big things start to come in play for an SEC champion. While that's getting the head way, way, WAY over the skis, this Arkansas team has to think big, and it has to think big now.

While the road games at Georgia, Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State are hardly layups, any team good enough to think about winning the SEC title has to win four of those. Throw in the mega-breaks of getting Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss at home, along with layups against Tennessee Tech, ULM, Vanderbilt, and UTEP, and it's all there to hope for an 11-1 season and the great things to follow. But for that to happen, the Hogs need several key pieces to go their way in a year when things are set up to go their way.

The veteran offensive line has to go from serviceable to fantastic. The kicking game has to be more consistent, the secondary has to stop someone, the pass rush could stand to be a bit stronger, and the team has to start winning on the road after going 0-4 last year. But with so much returning firepower, an NFL starting quarterback in Mallett, and with Petrino and the coaching staff hitting its stride (even with a new offensive coordinator), it's all there for Arkansas to be one of the it teams of 2010. It has to be, because the SEC world, as always, will change.

What to watch for on offense: The Pistol. The type of offense can mean a lot of things to a lot of teams, most famously at Nevada where Chris Ault's team set records for the ground game, but all it'll mean for Arkansas is that Mallett will line up a bit differently. The idea is to get the ball in the hands of the backs a bit quicker while allowing Mallett to survey the field a bit more and get the downfield passing game going more efficiently. It's a tweak, but it could make an already explosive attack even more dangerous.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary shuffle. The team's Achilles heel could be a secondary that's long on speed and experience but short on production. The Hogs have been ripped apart over the past few years and finished last in the SEC in pass defense and pass efficiency defense last season. The coaching staff is moving some of the key parts around with one of last year's starting corners, Rudell Crim, moving to strong safety while Darius Winston gets his chance to improve the playmaking in his place.

The team will be far better if … the special teams are rock solid. The difference between winning the SEC and being an also-ran can be a paper thin, and Arkansas has to be better and more effective on special teams to get though all the tight games. Only three games last year were decided by seven points or fewer, and they all came down to a field goal with a miss against LSU and two key misses against Florida proving costly. The defense isn't good enough for the punting game to be so miserable after averaging just 32.63 yards per try.

The schedule: If Arkansas wants to make some noise with Ryan Mallett and the high-powered offense, this is the year to do it. Going to Georgia isn't a plus in interdivisional play, but missing Florida helps and getting a home game against Vanderbilt is a layup. Against the West, the Hogs get Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU at home ... Merry Christmas. Yes, a road date at Auburn isn't going to be easy and Mississippi State is getting nastier, but Arkansas has to win two of the three big division home games. Facing Texas A&M in Dallas should be a blast with 1,000 yards of total offense, and the rest of the non-conference slate should be a breeze.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Ryan Mallett. He could've turned pro this year and rolled the dice on possibly being the No. 1 overall pick, but instead he chose to continue to hone his skills, return to a great situation, and up his profile and draft stock even more. The 6-7, 238-pound bomber started out his career at Michigan and showed great promise, but he left when the Rich Rodriguez era began and is now the perfect fit for the Bobby Petrino attack. While he threw 30 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions, he struggled with his consistency and his accuracy in the bigger games and on the road. If he can be the star against the Alabamas and LSUs of the world, the Hogs might win the West.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Jerry Franklin. He was a nice redshirt freshman making 81 tackles with two picks and two fumble returns, and then he turned his game up a few notches with a team-leading 94 stops with three interceptions and an 85-yard fumble return for a score against Texas A&M. At 6-1 and 241 pounds he's big, quick, and very, very active. He's the playmaker who comes up with the stops needed on a shaky defensive front seven.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore CB Darius Winston. If the secondary can make the changes needed, with Rudell Crim moving to safety, Winston, Isaac Madison, and/or Andru Stewart have to make the pass defense stronger after yet another rocky year. Winston's emergence is a must with his tremendous skills and big-time upside.

The season will be a success if … the Hogs finish 10-2 and make a big push for the West title. There are only so many chances for the schedule, the franchise quarterback, and the experience to all come together for a huge season, and while it might be asking for way too much to win the West (Alabama is still Alabama), the Hogs need to come close.

Key game: Sept. 25 vs. Alabama. The Hogs have lost four of the last five games in the series getting blasted over the last two years by a combined score of 84 to 21. As the lone home game in a four game stretch, surrounded by Georgia, Texas A&M and Auburn, there's a chance the first half of the season could be a major disappointment without a huge win over the defending national champions.

2009 Fun Stats:
- First Quarter Scoring: Arkansas 100 – Opponents 57
- Fourth Down Conversions: Arkansas 10-of-20 (50%) – Opponents 4-of-16 (25%)
- Fumbles: Opponents 25 (lost 17) – Arkansas 18 (lost 6)

- 2010 Arkansas Preview | 2010 Arkansas Offense
- 2010 Arkansas Defense | 2010 Arkansas Depth Chart
- Arkansas Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006