Favorite

Reasons for optimism for Hogs 

God-awful weather notwithstanding, last week wasn't so bad in Razorbackland.

For one thing, Bret Bielema's football staff cobbled one of those recruiting classes that seemed utterly modest until you squinted a little. What may not have been ranked among the country's elite hauls was still eminently warranting praise because, to be blunt, it addressed some dire needs and did so in the kind of context that normally makes closing on prospects a nightmare. A program coming off its worst season in the modern era, on the heels of a hellish 2012 with a short-term goon at the helm, doesn't commonly amass an incoming class meriting commendation.

Recruiting rankings are nebulous beyond description as a general rule, but at the risk of giving them credence at all, consider that programs with seven combined wins and a 13-game SEC losing skid aren't all that likely to thrive on the first Wednesday in February. For Arkansas to secure the signatures of the likes of interior monsters like Bijhon Jackson, Frank Ragnow and Brian Wallace keeps with Bielema's philosophy, but swaying guys like JoJo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards here from the state of Florida proves again that this staff will forge into challenging territory to locate playmakers.

There is, of course, the expectation that Jim Chaney will be under the edict to make the quarterback job open again this spring after Brandon Allen was perpetually underwhelming last fall. Again, critique the staff freely for some minor missteps last year, but 3-9 teams aren't just lacking in one area. Allen wasn't sharp, but he wasn't given much in the way of perimeter assistance, either. Brandon Mitchell could have accepted another conversion back to receiver but left for NC State, Mekale McKay bolted to Louisville and Demitrius Wilson tore up a knee — maybe the influx of fresh targets will give the rising junior a degree of confidence next year that he wasn't afforded in 2013, or maybe he will truly fall behind Rafe Peavey or his own brother in competition. Regardless of the outcome, there's abundant cause to believe that the most important position on the field won't again be the weakest for the Hogs this fall.

If this batch of football signees didn't get you a little feverish about fall, at least the basketball team finally showed it isn't quitting this spring. Bobby Portis gets all the credit for willing the squad to a narrow, ragged home win over an Alabama team that continues to be mysteriously awful under onetime coaching prodigy Anthony Grant. The 35-point outburst by the Little Rock Hall product was machinelike on a night when the rest of the team was a creaky mess of bricks and flatlined effort. It went in the books as a freshman record, topping Scotty Thurman's two 34-point games from 1992-93, but what it may have also done is spurred a sagging team to get its collective arse in gear. Portis fought the battle against Bama nearly alone — and I don't just mean that his 8 for 40-shooting teammates gagged out there, but also that the mid-week crowd was pitiful, too — and was at the height of his brilliance doing it. He took a total of 23 combined shots from the floor and the line, and nailed 20.

The immediate and direct evidence of that effect was on display Saturday at Vanderbilt. Against a thin Commodores team, the Hogs pushed tempo early and weathered Vandy's usual barrage of long-range missiles. Kevin Stallings has astonishingly made this a competitive team in spite of having only seven scholarship players, and they rebuffed every single surge that Arkansas made in both halves ... except the last one.

The Hogs trailed by multiple, whisper-thin margins in the waning minutes, having squandered yet another late lead, and then it once again became Rashad Madden's moment. And the junior guard found three such moments: He answered one Vandy surge with a tying three, then hit another jumper in response to Kyle Fuller's go-ahead shot for the Commodores. Finally, with about five seconds left and the Hogs down 75-74, Madden pierced the lane, elevated, and realized immediately that any bid for a shot was going to be nullified.

So he swung it out to a waiting Michael Qualls, who continued his pogo-stick season with another spring upward, elevating for a pretty 22-footer from the wing that put Arkansas in front with 2.6 seconds left. Vanderbilt got a great final look for gunner Rod Odom, but it glanced away, and there it was: a Razorback road win. It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly that it seemed fraudulent, like maybe the officials were about to hatch a cruel joke at the end about the scoring being incorrect or that someone in the Hogs' bizarro blue-grey jerseys got an obscure dead-ball technical foul for excess elation at a modern miracle.

Thus ended a few heartening, and hardly believable, days for the cardinal and white. Stick around for a few more days, because the mood can shift just like the climate.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • Thumped again

    October 19, 2017
    Seems like a bad prescription for beating the all-pro assemblage of talent that dons Alabama garb year in, year out, but the Arkansas Razorbacks started their third quarterback in three years against the Crimson Tide, and the end result was predictable. /more/
  • 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/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Thumped again

    Seems like a bad prescription for beating the all-pro assemblage of talent that dons Alabama garb year in, year out, but the Arkansas Razorbacks started their third quarterback in three years against the Crimson Tide, and the end result was predictable.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • 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
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Thumped again

    Seems like a bad prescription for beating the all-pro assemblage of talent that dons Alabama garb year in, year out, but the Arkansas Razorbacks started their third quarterback in three years against the Crimson Tide, and the end result was predictable.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • 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
  • 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 Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

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