Arkansas’ rushing attack may be best 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.
The first Arkansas spring scrimmage took place Saturday in the bright sunshine of Donald W. Reynolds Stadium. Sunburns for everyone. Hooray.
Independent of the weather, Saturday was the first opportunity anyone in the media had to see Arkansas in full-speed action against each other. As expected, some things were good. Some were bad.
The good news is Rawleigh Williams III and Devwah Whaley look like one of the best running back duos in the SEC. They’re not a “thunder and lightning” combination, but you can expect Whaley to get a few more carries next season simply because of his improvement.
The thing with spring, though, is when one unit looks good, its opposing one has to look bad. Zero-sum game.
That can be potentially scary in this instance. Arkansas was not good in stopping the run last year. The Razorbacks were 94th in the country in yards rushing allowed per game and 126th in the country in yards allowed per carry. There are 128 teams in the FBS.
Part of the difficulty can be attributed to Williams’ and Whaley’s quality. Another part can be given to the defense’s transition to the 3-4. But whatever it is, it’s more than a little concerning.
As our Jason Kersey writes, however, it’s only the second week of spring. Plenty of time. And that’s what spring is about, anyway. Nothing is going to be set in stone in mid-April. Things will change before next Saturday’s scrimmage. Forget about what’s going to change come Aug. 31 when Arkansas opens the season against Florida A&M.
Besides, remember this time last year? When word was how great the defensive line would be? If that didn’t turn out to be true, perhaps the struggles so far this spring won’t either.
Ragnow and Cornelius going dark
Coach Bret Bielema isn’t interested in another Jonathan Williams situation. Because of that, count on two of his best players to see limited action for most of the rest of the spring.
Senior center Frank Ragnow and senior wide receiver Jared Cornelius are arguably, behind quarterback Austin Allen, the two most important players on the Arkansas roster. Ragnow has been called the best offensive lineman in the nation by Pro Football Focus. Cornelius is the only receiver with any real experience on the team.
Imagine losing either of them.
The Arkansas offensive line wasn’t great last year and lost its second-best player, Dan Skipper, to exhausted eligibility. Replacing Ragnow with an untested, or worse unready, player could result in disaster for a team that finished 106th in FBS in sacks allowed.
Razorbacks receivers have a combined 77 career catches entering next season. Cornelius has 74 of those. And while the position is potential-laden (Brandon Martin, Jordan Jones, TJ Hammonds), it’s a giant unknown. A Cornelius injury would leave Allen with almost no one with whom he’s developed a rapport as Jeremy Sprinkle is off to pro football, too.
Bielema has long been prone to leave his best players out of some spring drills and Williams’ injury two years ago has only strengthened that resolve.
So when the spring game comes and you don’t see Cornelius or Ragnow, don’t lose your mind like some fans when NBA coaches sit their stars. It’s all for the best.
The struggle is real
Haunting memories from the 2016 season returned to Baum Stadium this weekend.
Arkansas lost its first SEC series of the year as LSU arrived to Fayetteville and took the final two of three games against the Diamond Hogs.
Saturday’s hurt. Sunday’s was hangover.
LSU overcame an 8-1 deficit to win 10-8 in Game 2. Game 3 was Arkansas not having bounced back. The Razorbacks had just four hits in a 2-0 loss.
Arkansas remains tied for first-place in the SEC, though, because Auburn and Kentucky — both of which were tied with the Razorbacks entering the weekend — also lost their series. Catch is, Mississippi State joins them atop the league, all at 8-4.
- The Arkansas softball team is back on a bit of a hot streak after some recent struggles. The Razorbacks took two of three from Missouri this weekend to win their second SEC series of the year. Arkansas won one SEC *game* each of the last two seasons.
- The women’s track team, ranked fourth in the nation, had five event victories Saturday at the Baylor Invitational.
- Women’s golf had a solid weekend down in Georgia. Cara Gorlei and Alana Uriell helped the 16th-ranked Razorbacks to a match-play win over Denver a day after a tiebreaker over Auburn was required.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
We have all heard of Craigslist transactions going wrong. They turn into robberies — or worse. Pretty rare, but it happens.
Two things make this one particularly “Arkansas.”
- The victim was going to buy a lawnmower
- The victim was robbed behind a church
Sucks. And $700 isn’t a small sum of cash. Must have been a nice lawnmower (FYI: The lawnmower almost certainly doesn’t exist). The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has details.
Skip Breakfast? C’mon. It’s too important. Catch up with previous versions here.