Maybe this is a tired exercise and I’m not going to pawn it off as some serious form of journalism here. But, by golly, it’s fun and it creates conversation at
bars water coolers.
At the halfway point of the season, Arkansas finds itself 4-2 — better than most expected — but 0-2 in the SEC — worse than most expected. Some has gone wrong. Some right. What you’re about to read is going to be reflected by those foibles.
Now presenting: The first Arkansas Football Midseason Awards and Accolades.
(Taking suggestions for a better title).
Toby Baker, punter
You’re pardoned if you roll your eyes, but if Baker isn’t on this team, they might be 2-4 instead of 4-2. He carries the second-best yards-per-punt average in the SEC, gets ridiculous hang time and it seems like every single one of his punts goes and stays inside the 20-yard line. With an offense that grinds and a defense that’s struggled, the field-position game is huge with Arkansas.
Also receiving votes: DE Deatrich Wise Jr., C Frank Ragnow
Most Surprising Positive Player
Austin Allen, quarterback
OK, so I thought he’d be one of the best three or four quarterbacks in the SEC this year simply because of the weapons he had at wide receiver and tight end. I was hardly alone in this. But none of us figured the guy could contend for All-SEC second-team honors just six games into the season. He’s second in the SEC yards and passing efficiency and he leads the country’s best conference in passing touchdowns. Not shabby.
Also receiving votes: CB Ryan Pulley, WR Jared Cornelius
Most Surprising Negative Player
Jake Raulerson, guard
It’s difficult to quantify offensive line struggles without watching every single play again on the DVR and charting all the moves. But it’s safe to say Raulerson has not been what was hoped after previously starting at another Power Five conference school (whereas the other option here, Hjalte Froholdt, has the positional move alibi). Probably of all the players on the Razorbacks front five, only Frank Ragnow has met expectations. Arkansas is middle of the SEC pack in rushing offense and sacks allowed, two rankings that go against everything previous Bret Bielema-coached teams have done. Sorry, Jake.
Also receiving votes: Froholdt, S Josh Liddell
Devwah Whaley, running back
The freshman earns it by a nose. A top-three running back recruit in the Class of 2016, Whaley has been eased into things in his first year. He has only 14 carries for 50 yards against SEC opponents, but in corners of the Arkansas internet — and in the press box at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium — there is a clamoring for him to get a larger opportunity. Whaley’s first step is explosive and while he isn’t the all-around back starter Rawleigh Williams III is, Whaley oozes potential.
Also receiving votes: DL McTelvin Agim, LB De’Jon Harris
Play of the Year
See below. Obviously.
If he’s wrong, though …
Advanced disclosure: I worked with Chris Fallica for three years at ESPN. Same department. Shared a show assignment once, even. He knows research and he knows college football.
Fallica is a regular guest on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, the most popular sports radio show in Arkansas. He had this to say about Ole Miss/Arkansas this weekend.
Fallica: I think Chad Kelly is going to give Arkansas a lot of trouble.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) October 11, 2016
It’s a given Chad Kelly is the best quarterback in the SEC. It’s a given Arkansas’ defense has struggled. That doesn’t mean, though, it’s a guarantee Kelly comes in and lights up the Razorbacks defense. And in Fallica’s defense, he isn’t saying it’s a guarantee, either.
In fact, the odds might be in Arkansas’ favor Kelly doesn’t do that. Or if he does, Arkansas still has a shot in the game. See, the Razorbacks are Ole Miss’ daddy (you have to say that in Pedro Martinez’s voice), to steal that terrible phrase from the 1990s-early 2000s. The last two years, anyway.
Ole Miss has beaten every other team in the SEC West at least once since 2014. Except Arkansas. Two years ago Arkansas smoked what was considered a superior Rebels team by 30 points. Last year, in Oxford, the most iconic play in recent Arkansas memory helped seal another “upset.”
This year, it’s Arkansas that would have to pull the stunner as the Rebels are about a touchdown favorite, give or take, depending on your favorite book.
And they could … if they stop Kelly.
Allen has, if nothing else, established himself his own player in his first season as Arkansas’ starting quarterback. He still gets, from time to time, comparisons to his older brother Brandon, the Razorbacks previous starting quarterback. In fact, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, whose Rebels visit Fayetteville this weekend, sees a lot of similarities between the two, writes Antonio Morales at the Clarion-Ledger.
Arkansas safety Santos Ramirez is expected to play this weekend as he recovers from a leg bruise suffered against Texas A&M a couple weeks ago, according to our Trent Shadid.
As I wrote yesterday, some underachiever is going to have to step in and take some snaps for Arkansas at linebacker with Dre Greenlaw out. Note that “underachiever” doesn’t mean “bad player.” Apparently it’s going to be Dwayne Eugene, writes Jason Kersey.
Arkansas’ men’s golf team stroked (sorry) the competition in West Virginia. Again. The Razorbacks won the Mountaineer Intercollegiate, beating 13 other schools, including SEC rival Mississippi State, in the tournament. They were the only team to finish it under par (-6) and won by 11 strokes over the second-place Bulldogs.
The Arkansas softball team had 12 players off last year’s team earn Easton/NFCA Division I Scholar-Athlete honors, it was announced Monday. That’s the second-most honorees in the SEC. Fall season starts tonight.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
Broadway Bridge, which connects Little Rock and North Little Rock, was supposed to be imploded Tuesday because it was, as officials had said, “structurally weak.” The plan was to demolish and rebuild.
Well, either the old rock is tougher than they thought or they messed up the plans.
The implosion failed. It didn’t fall. In fact, it took several hours and a pair of barges to knock it down completely.
In Little Rock, an old, major bridge was imploded today because officials said it wasn't sturdy enough. After blasts it's still standing.?
— Jake Sandlin (@sandlinjake) October 11, 2016