On July 18, 2018, I predicted the Razorbacks to win five games, including a conference game. The general consensus from the fan base had the Hogs winning anywhere from five to seven games. But no one, I mean NO ONE, could have imagined a two win campaign. Where could we have gone wrong?
According to sports-reference.com, the defense improved in the important categories (YPG, PPG, Yards/Play). We may have anticipated their improvement a little too quickly in The Chief’s debut season as the defensive coordinator in Fayetteville. Another area we overestimated was the offensive line. They were arguably the worst position group on offense and maybe on the team. And to make matters worse, three of the five starters will be graduating. Ty Clary and Colton Jackson are the lone rangers returning on the o-line. Expect the freshman and some possible junior college guys to compete and eventually fill those spots.
Another position that may have more competition is at quarterback. Currently Arkansas has five quarterbacks on the roster for 2019. Ty Storey (Sr), Daulton Hyatt (So), John Stephen Jones (Fr), Connor Noland (Fr), and KJ Jefferson (Fr). Everyone except KJ has received a redshirt, meaning they played in four or fewer games in a season, granting them an extra year of eligibility. KJ will provide an immediate spark within the position, being a 4 star, but how quickly can he translate to the college game? Being a freshman quarterback in any league is a tough task, not to mention the SEC. I believe KJ will be placed into low pressure game situations and be granted a redshirt at the end the year. It’s too risky to expect him to be a successful QB with a below average offensive line blocking for him. Let him get acclimated to the college environment and come 2020 he will have the keys to the offense. If the offensive line was a strength of the Hogs, I would be fine to give him more game experience next year but as of now letting him achieve his redshirt would be best for his future.
Now all of the focus has shifted to recruiting. According to Rivals, Arkansas owns the 11th spot in the 2019 team rankings. Legendary programs like Ohio State, Penn State, and Florida State all trail the Hogs on the list. Not bad for a program coming off a two-win year. Leading the way in Arkansas’ class are four star pass-catchers Treylon Burks, Trey Knox, and Hudson Henry.
As I mentioned earlier, there could be help on the way for the big boys up front. Myron Cunningham and Chibueze Nwanna both have the Hogs high on their lists. They say early playing time in the toughest conference in the nation is a big attraction to play for the U of A. I can not stress how important getting these guys would be.
Another pair of linebackers to keep your eye on is Sci Martin and Lakia Henry. Sci has an interesting journey. He committed to LSU coming out of high school then went to EMCC to play for Buddy Stephens from Last Chance U. He now has two years of eligibility remaining. Lakia is currently a Tennessee commit but the Vols have been struggling to keep him locked in Knoxville. Getting one (or both) of the linebackers will help fill the hole left by Dre Greenlaw. Since there is not a lot of extra room left in the class I believe the Hogs will only be able to take one of these guys. Whoever commits first could be the one that gets the spot.
Jalen Catalon and Gregory Brooks are two more guys to keep tabs on as well. Jalen will announce his college destination in January while Gregory will announce on Dec. 19 between Arkansas, Kansas State, and Mississippi State. Both are four stars that patrol the secondary.
The Hogs have 23 signees. The magic number seems to be around 29. So let’s say the Hogs have six spots to fill. Let’s fill out this historic recruiting class.
- Jalen Catalon
- Gregory Brooks
- Myron Cunningham
- Chibueze Nwanna
- Sci Martin/ Lakia Henry
The 6th item on the list is worth a discussion. There are a few names floating around that the Hogs could be after since Kelly Bryant will be spending his senior year in Columbia, MO. Khalil Tate was a former Arizona QB this past year. Reports have been released saying he will transfer from Arizona, or even declare for the NFL Draft.
Another name to mention is former TCU QB Shawn Robinson. Just this past weekend, Shawn announced he will be leaving Fort Worth. He was the 18th best dual threat QB in 2017 coming out of high school.
And finally, everyone loves to bring up Alabama QB Jalen Hurts. He is currently the backup to Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa. Tua would likely seal the starting spot over Jalen in 2019. While it would be realistic for Jalen to transfer, it would be unlikely he would stay in the conference, or even come to Arkansas.
Nonetheless, this program is on the right track and I can say without a doubt there WILL be improvement in the program next year.