Arkansas could have the best offense in the SEC next season
With your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points. There is no place like it on the Web.
Longtime followers of Hogs for Breakfast know I am a big fan of Pro Football Focus. The folks at that site are solid writers and excellent at going deep with statistics. Those are two things I hold dearly to my heart considering my entire adult career.
And over at that site, they have decided Arkansas’ roster contains two of the top 10 players in the SEC. Quarterback Austin Allen checks in as the eighth-best returning player in the league and center Frank Ragnow is the fourth.
Read that again: Arkansas has two of the 10 best players in the SEC on its roster for next season. The Razorbacks have the best quarterback (yep, over Alabama’s Jalen Hurts) and the best offensive lineman in the best conference in college football. Pro Football Focus even went so far as to say Ragnow might be the best lineman in the country.
Throw in the SEC’s leading rusher from last season — Rawleigh Williams III — a dynamic No. 2 running back in Devwah Whaley and a potential future NFL wide receiver in Jared Cornelius, and the high-end talent exists in surplus.
The Allen ranking, of course, is the most interesting. What I loved about the PFF breakdown was this little graph:
Allen was excellent with time to throw, with protection. He was pretty miserable without it. Certainly, he could afford to shrink his interception rating in both qualifiers, but on a whole, Allen had very good numbers. Ragnow’s return, plus the return of three other starters along the offensive line, and no one inside the Natural State thinks Arkansas will have the same difficulty it had last season in protecting the quarterback.
In fact, as the season went along, the Razorbacks offensive line grew better and better. It was never elite, but by the end of the season, it was better than competent. Remember, it wasn’t close to competent in the early going. Those issues shouldn’t be around in 2017.
That said, Allen doesn’t have a ton of proven options behind Cornelius out wide. In fact, he has none. Only two wide receivers on the roster have catches at the Division I level. La’Michael Pettway and Deon Stewart have exactly 1 catch apiece. That’s it. No one else has any.
Brandon Martin should get every opportunity in the world to become the team’s No. 1 (Cornelius is probably best served as a No. 2, where he can be, perhaps, the best second option in the SEC). Jonathan Nance is another junior college transfer with a pedigree. Loads of freshmen, true and redshirt, will have opportunities, too. It’s just none have done it.
If they do and Allen gets protection and throws fewer interceptions and Williams comes close to last season and Whaley improves just a touch, then, yes, this will be the best offense in the SEC next season. Those are a lot of “ifs.” But, really, they’re not outrageous. Not even close.
In theory, Arkansas could be scary good on offense next season. Just ask Pro Football Focus.
Down a man vs. Ole Miss?
Arkansas put the paddles to its fading NCAA tournament hopes Wednesday night, going into South Carolina and beating the No. 21 team in the nation.
The win put Arkansas back out of the “Last Four In” moniker with ESPN’s bracketology by Joe Lunardi. Now, the Razorbacks are on the “Last Four Byes” tier. Staying there is far from being guaranteed a tournament bid and not just because of the last couple weeks.
Arkansas has a difficult game Saturday at Bud Walton Arena against Ole Miss. The Rebels sit directly behind Arkansas in the SEC standings, itching to put themselves on the NCAA tournament bubble. A win against the Razorbacks might do that, too.
Reserve point guard Anton Beard might be missing from the game Saturday, though, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. Beard was sick for the South Carolina game, Anderson said, which is why he played just five minutes Wednesday. His status for Ole Miss is a game-time decision, the coach said.
More on the game Saturday morning, ahead of the 5 p.m. tip.
Happy days are here again
Getting a little personal here (so unusual for me, huh? Personal) …
It’s the best day of my professional year. The opening day of college baseball at Arkansas. Baseball is — by far — my favorite sport to cover. My past with sport has a lot to do with that. Helps, too, that Arkansas is, for my money, one of the 15 or so best programs in the country in college baseball.
Last season was a down one, big league, for the Diamond Hogs. There is almost no way it happens again with hitters such as Luke Bonfield and Carson Shaddy back and the striking arm of Isaiah Campbell, as well.
Arkansas opens the season with a three-game series against Miami (Ohio), with Blaine Knight getting the call Friday at 3 p.m. Campbell, a sophomore who is expected to be a weekend starter, likely won’t go because of arm soreness. And that’s A-OK, as the Razorbacks need him healthy later in the season more than this weekend.
For the record, mark me down for Arkansas going 32-24 overall and 14-16 in SEC.
- Ben Herbert is a large man and a strong man. Ragnow is a large man and a strong man. Who wins in a weight-lifting challenge? “The answer may surprise you!”
- The Battle-Line Rivalry may have been forced upon us, but it’s awfully close to becoming legit with animosity, our Jason Kersey writes.
- Derrick Munson will be playing linebacker at Arkansas this fall. For now, he’s still in high school … where he finished third in the state of Louisiana as a wrestler. In his first season. Whoa.
- The Arkansas women’s basketball team has lost seven straight games now after falling 69-62 to Kentucky on Thursday night. They’re second to last in the SEC.
- One of my absolute favorite people affiliated with either Arkansas media or Arkansas athletics is Diamond Hogs play-by-play guy Phil Elson. Fun feature here on him from WholeHogSports.