FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ struggles in the kicking game last year proved costly several times over the course of the season. If that isn’t straightend out in 2016, it will be impossible for the Razorbacks to improve on — or maybe even match — last year’s eight wins.
With that said, here’s a look at the Arkansas football player deemed the fourth-most important for 2016.
As a reminder, these rankings shouldn’t be interpreted as our take on the best players on Arkansas’ roster, but the most important in determining the Razorbacks’ success in 2016.
4. Cole Hedlund, So., K
Jersey number: 9
2015 stats: Made nine of 15 field-goal attempts (60 percent) and all 58 extra-point attempts. He was successful on just one of his five field-goal attempt from beyond 27 yards all season.
Career appearances/starts: 13/0
A kicker as the fourth-most important Arkansas football player entering 2016?
Cole Hedlund made only 60 percent of his field-goal attempts and missed in three of the Razorbacks’ five losses last season.
The 29-yard attempt that was blocked with under a minute to go in regulation against Mississippi State was particularly costly; Arkansas would go on to lose that game in overtime.
With several fresh faces on offense — including, of course, the quarterback — Arkansas will need to secure any points it can, especially early in the season as the new starters get adjusted. The Razorbacks can’t afford any mistakes that cost them points, so Hedlund absolutely must be better in 2016.
By all accounts, he worked hard and improved his game throughout spring practices, but then once he was back in front of a crowd in Arkansas’ spring game, Hedlund missed four attempts.
Hedlund has the talent — he was the No. 4-ranked kicker nationally in the 2014 recruiting class — but can he recover mentally from last season? The minds of kickers can be delicate.
Sometimes, once a kicker’s confidence is shattered, it’s impossible to repair.
Editor’s note: Arkansas beat writers Jason Kersey and Trent Shadid are counting down the most important Arkansas football players for the 2016 season. The countdown will continue over the next four days, with each remaining player getting his own post.