Favorite

Looking ahead after Arkansas Red-White game 

Putting suitable stock in a spring scrimmage is difficult, but if Arkansas's annual Red-White game has evidentiary value months from now, there are roughly three areas where the program's new image will be manifest.

One certainty is that the committee-based rushing attack that Bret Bielema employed at Wisconsin will be entrenched here for the foreseeable future. This is doubtless an extension of having little returning experience at the tailback position (Jonathan Williams' 45 carries from 2012 make him the default workhorse) but also because Bielema's Rose Bowl teams always used a variety of body types and styles to gnash through the defense.

Williams is in the Felix Jones mold with a sturdy frame and shiftiness, but guys like Patrick Arinze, Kiero Small and Kody Walker are going to get steady reps in the middle. The completely unheralded Arinze, walking on by way of a California JUCO, is getting justifiable buzz for his bullish ascent into the mix.

Another spot where the Hogs can expect fast resurgence is in the kicking game, predominantly because Bielema is reinvesting in Zach Hocker. The senior was remarkably dependable as a young pup, then got caught up in the overall maelstrom of regression that overwhelmed the roster in 2012, missing seven of his 18 field goal attempts and connecting only twice from 40 yards or longer. By the time Hocker whiffed on a couple of tries in the finale against LSU, he sat idly while John Henson handled placekicking duties in the second half of that loss.

Bielema's solution? Heap confidence and responsibility on Hocker in spades: the Russellville product will likely do double duty as kicker and punter this year, which only makes sense given Hocker's leg strength. It's possible that Aussie import Sam Hill liberates Hocker of some of the duties in the summer but it would surprise nobody if Hocker joined the ranks of recent prolific college kickers (Quinn Sharp, Pat McAfee to name a couple) who absorbed the whole job.

Lastly, expect a defense that will play, much of time, beyond its cumulative talent level. For the past three seasons, even as the Hogs excelled and then accordingly when they crumbled, the goodly share of the publicity surrounding that unit has been negative. This time, the returnees are more or less unknown but, in the greater context, actually a pretty seasoned bunch. The line has a veteran feel in particular. Chris Ash wasn't brought in as coordinator in order to mollify fans who have gone off the deep end every time a tackle was missed or coverage broke down, but he's historically led a unit that commits few penalties and toughens quickly after it softens.

If the prevailing mantra of recent campaigns has been to outscore the opponent, there's a pretty sharp reversal afoot here. The expectation is that a defensive unit, scarred and annoyed by month after month of criticism, is now prepared to anchor the team and keep games tight enough for a thoroughly average-looking offense to be buoyed.

I'm not necessarily buying the common thought that Arkansas will be stunted on offense that greatly, simply because coordinator Jim Chaney is known for being inventive and playing to whatever strengths he has. The spring game showed that there are some young receivers like Keon Hatcher who may be itching to show off, and that the offensive line could get a lot meaner, a lot faster under Sam Pittman's watch. It doesn't hurt that the Hogs ease into their schedule for a change: all four nonconference games are at the front end before the murderer's row of Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama follow in rapid succession.

So now, after all that ... we wait, watch baseball, and ironically hope that Bielema's debut is more like Houston Nutt's 1998 campaign than Bobby Petrino's 2008 one. The smart money is on it being somewhere in between those two benchmarks.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • The end is near

    October 12, 2017
    It has fast become gospel around here that if Bielema's staring at a smaller number on the scoreboard as he saunters into the locker room at the midway point of a game, there's no credible reason for Arkansas to take the field for the last 30 minutes of action. /more/
  • On to TCU

    September 7, 2017
    This opener was never endangered by weather, never in doubt on the scoreboard, and never remotely interesting. But it happened, Arkansas is 1-0 (unlike Baylor, UNLV and — chortle — Texas A&M), and the Hogs lost very little against hapless Florida A&M in a 49-7 walloping that may have been a sendoff to War Memorial Stadium. /more/
  • Game on

    August 31, 2017
    This entire opening game preview, I suppose, has a giant asterisk accompanying it. If the havoc that Harvey wrought upon Texas makes its way nor'easterly, then the Arkansas season debut Thursday night in Little Rock may be in jeopardy, and I suspect would not be rescheduled if such a cancellation came to pass. Arkansas may need that presumably easy win for bowl consideration later, but let's presume for the moment the Hogs do get to take on Florida A&M at War Memorial Stadium. /more/
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 3

    August 17, 2017
    Halfway through the Hogs' 2017 football season, which now will undoubtedly be played out in the memory of J. Frank Broyles, Pearls has the team sitting at 4-2, 1-2 after back-to-back road defeats against South Carolina and Alabama. /more/
  • Awwwwww. Big Bret Bielema shows off his little baby daughter

    August 9, 2017
    Razorback Coach Bret Bielema brought his month-old daughter Briella to his news conference this morning and cuteness ensued. /more/
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 1

    August 3, 2017
    By the time you read this, Arkansas will have put in about a week's worth of gridiron prep for a 2017 season that has such an odd feel, what with the deflating close of 2016 a distant but still germane development and the cast of skill and special teams players looking substantially different. /more/
  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    July 20, 2017
    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions? /more/
  • Summer hopes

    June 22, 2017
    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere. /more/
  • Changes needed

    January 5, 2017
    Those who have read this column with some degree of regularity know that I've held fast to the belief that Bret Bielema can and will revive the Arkansas football program. /more/
  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    December 8, 2016
    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • The end is near

    It has fast become gospel around here that if Bielema's staring at a smaller number on the scoreboard as he saunters into the locker room at the midway point of a game, there's no credible reason for Arkansas to take the field for the last 30 minutes of action.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • A win, finally

    Given all upheaval, foreign and domestic, Arkansas beating New Mexico State by a comfortable, if unremarkable, 42-24 margin on Saturday genuinely meant a hell of a lot.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • Agony vs. Aggies

    You watched Austin Allen fire that third-down pass into a "window" that was more like a keyhole, and you knew, didn't you?
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • The end is near

    It has fast become gospel around here that if Bielema's staring at a smaller number on the scoreboard as he saunters into the locker room at the midway point of a game, there's no credible reason for Arkansas to take the field for the last 30 minutes of action.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • A win, finally

    Given all upheaval, foreign and domestic, Arkansas beating New Mexico State by a comfortable, if unremarkable, 42-24 margin on Saturday genuinely meant a hell of a lot.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • Agony vs. Aggies

    You watched Austin Allen fire that third-down pass into a "window" that was more like a keyhole, and you knew, didn't you?
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation