Photo courtesy of Razorback Athletics
As of today (9/26), the Sam Pittman era will be officially underway. And this time, this time, I have a good feeling about it. A outside-of-the-box hire has slowly but surely grown to be adored amongst the Razorback fanbase. Obviously, wins and losses will move the needle the most, but up to this point he has done a fine, fine job. The big question in 2020, how do you define success? Allow me to throw some numbers around.
In conference games last season, Arkansas scored 17.4 points per game. Defensively, they gave up 39.9 points per game. Which means, Arkansas lost each game by an average of 22.5 points per game. Success for the Hogs will be lowering that number into the teens. Is that too much to ask? The graduate transfer additions mixed in with the new coaching staff should be able to accomplish that feat. I will add, a coaching staff that is keeping similar styles from the previous regime, specifically on offense, should make the learning curve more of a straight line.
Chad Morris did a lot of bad things. One thing he did well was recruit some dudes on offense. Starting with the pass-catchers, Treylon Burks and Trey Knox are freaks of nature. Whatever they did last year in the stat sheet will be improved this season. Same thing for Mike Woods and his YouTube page. The tight end spot is where you get a little concerned. Depth is quite thin. Hudson Henry and Blayne Toll are 1A/1B on the initial depth chart. One thing that blows my mind is how each of the last two seasons; Rakeem Boyd never finished below six yards per carry. Behind an average at best offensive line and an opposing defense that did not consider any of our quarterbacks dangerous, Boyd was running into stacked boxes more times than not and still putting up gigantic numbers. Imagine what he could do with a respectable offensive line and a quarterback as a threat like we may have in 2020? The future second day draft pick in the NFL Draft showed a lot of guts and leadership coming back to Fayetteville for his senior season. You have all my respect #5.
As I mentioned earlier, the offense scored 17.4 points per game in league play. No possible way that number gets worse. No way. I will go with 19.5. I am not bold enough to go in the 20’s. In all games last year they threw for 193, ran for 147, and combined for 340 yards per game. Look to see those numbers go to 210, 165, and 375 in a Covid-19 affected season.. An improved quarterback with the same receivers combined with the same running back and an improved offensive line should give this offense at least a few more points and a few more yards. Boyd goes for 810 yards and 6 TD’s while Trelon Smith bursts onto the scene for 280 yards and 3 TD’s. Treylon Burks leads the team in receiving touchdowns while Mike Woods leads in receiving yards.
It is no secret that John Chavis cooked up the worst defense in Arkansas’ program history last year. Three big pieces are out: McTelvin Agim, DeJon Harris, and Kamren Curl. Four big pieces replace them: Xavier Kelly, Jerry Jacobs, Julius Coates, and Levi Draper. Coach Odom will have his hands full with this group. The defense has nowhere to go but up. Preventing the big play will be vital. In 2019, Arkansas gave up 39.9 points per game in league play. That number MUST go south of 35 if we want to be competitive and take a step up this year.
Jerry Jacobs is my big sleeper on defense. The former All-Sun Belt second team recipient is a transfer from Arkansas State. The former Red Wolve will lead the Hogs in interceptions with three this year. I also anticipate Bumper Pool leading the defense in tackles. I would love to see Dorian Gerald have a great year after missing 11 games in the previous campaign. Him, Jonathan Marshall, Isaiah Nichols, Mataoio Soli, Kelly, and Coates should make for a solid defensive front.
Three tiers of opponents this year.
- NO SHOT (5): Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Louisiana State, Alabama
- UPSET WATCH (2): Texas A&M, Tennessee
- WINNABLE (3): Mississippi State, Mississippi, Missouri
As unfortunate as this looks, that is simply the reality of our football program right now. And yes, it stinks, but this is where we are. I am sorry.
The ceiling for this team is four. Winning all three winnable games and knocking off one of the “upset watch” games would give Sam Pittman a four-win season. The floor for this team is what we have been going through the last two years. It starts with a “Z” and ends with a “O”.
I say we fall right in the middle.
- Georgia – L
- Mississippi State – W
- Auburn – L
- Mississippi – L
- Texas A&M – L
- Tennessee – L
- Florida – L
- Louisiana State – L
- Missouri – W
- Alabama – L
2-8 would be a successful season. An early matchup with Leach is extremely favorable and a late season victory over Chad Morris 2.0 is the perfect way to kick off the Sam Pittman era.
We (finally) made it.
Happy football season, Hog fans.