We reviewed five preseason magazines — Athlon, ESPN, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and The Sporting News — and broke down their team-by-team predictions.
Thursday, we examine Arkansas. Here is what’s being said about the Razorbacks:
Sporting News (4th in SEC West — No. 23, Music City Bowl): “Everything about Arkansas says it’s a program on the rise. But the Razorbacks face some strong headwinds going into 2016, particularly on offense.”
Athlon (4th in SEC West — 8-4, Belk Bowl): “Keeping that (positive) trend alive, given all the personnel fluctuations on offense, will require Bielema’s best coaching job to date in the Ozarks.”
Phil Steele (5th in SEC West [tied] — Birmingham Bowl): “My nine sets of power rankings are all over the place, calling for anywhere from 9-3 to 5-7. I think it will be somewhere in the middle.”
Lindy’s (6th in SEC West): “Rebuilding the offensive line simultaneous with a first-time starting quarterback and running backs coming off injuries doesn’t bode well when playing in the SEC West.”
ESPN (7th in SEC West — 6.5 projected wins): “The Razorbacks … must replace nearly every player who made them fearsome. After back-to-back years of rising win totals, Bret Bielema will be hard-pressed to keep pace in 2016 — even with Arkansas’ toughest tilts on home turf.”
Preseason All-American selections: Dan Skipper (2nd x1, 3rd x2, 4th x1)
Preseason All-SEC selections: Skipper (1st x5), Dominique Reed (2nd x1), Jeremy Sprinkle (3rd x3), Hjalte Froholdt (3rd x1), Deatrich Wise (2nd x1, 3rd x2), Brooks Ellis (3rd x2), Drew Morgan (3rd x1), Frank Ragnow (4th x1), Henre’ Toliver (4th x1)
- Athlon placed Arkansas just outside its preseason Top 25 at No. 26.
- Sporting News, which ranked Arkansas No. 23 in the country, said the Razorbacks “could be the breakout team in the SEC West,” and noted that the 2016 schedule is set up favorably for Bret Bielema’s squad.
- Sporting News named wide receiver Eric Hawkins the conference’s fastest receiver, referencing the 10.64-second 100-meter dash time he once recorded at an NCAA track meet. The magazine also named linebacker Brooks Ellis as the conference’s “Top Scholar.”
- Phil Steele also mentioned the supposedly softer schedule, writing, “They only have three true SEC road games, and those are vs. teams that were just 7-17 in the SEC last year.”
- ESPN spoke to an anonymous SEC coach who praised the Hogs’ offense: “I think that’s the hardest offense right now to defend in the SEC because of the run game and the multiple blocking schemes they give you, and then all the crossing routes, which are off blitzes, and the way they hit the tight end.”
- ESPN noted that wide receiver Drew Morgan caught 77.8 percent of his targets in 2015, best among Power 5 receivers with at least 35 receptions.
- ESPN’s Football Power Index projects the Razorbacks’ toughest game will be vs. LSU on Nov. 12. The magazine gave Arkansas a 20 percent chance of winning at home.
- Lindy’s named tackle Dan Skipper the SEC’s “best run blocker.”
- Lindy’s listed freshman defensive lineman McTelvin Agim as its No. 7 “Fab Freshman” in the country, saying he’ll be “heavily involved in the rotation up front.”
- Athlon named tight end Jeremy Sprinkle one of its 15 “Breakout Players” across the country, calling him a “capable replacement” for Hunter Henry.