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Top 25 Athlon Team Previews: Arkansas Razorbacks

2009 Record: 8-5 (3-5 in SEC)
Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Ryan Mallett :: Brad Schloss/Icon SMI
2010 Schedule
Sept. 4Tennessee Tech
Sept. 11UL Monroe (Little Rock, AR)
Sept. 18at Georgia
Sept. 25Alabama
Oct. 9Texas A&M (Arlington, TX)
Oct. 16at Auburn
Oct. 23Ole Miss
Oct. 30Vanderbilt
Nov. 6at South Carolina
Nov. 13UTEP
Nov. 20at Mississippi State
Nov. 27LSU (Little Rock, AR)
2009 Results
Sept. 5Missouri StateW48-10
Sept. 19GeorgiaL41-52
Sept. 26at AlabamaL7-35
Oct. 3Texas A&MW47-19
Oct. 10AuburnW44-23
Oct. 17at FloridaL20-23
Oct. 24at Ole MissL17-30
Oct. 31Eastern MichiganW63-27
Nov. 7South CarolinaW33-16
Nov. 14TroyW56-20
Nov. 21Mississippi StateW42-21
Nov. 28at LSUL30-33
Jan. 2East Carolina (Liberty Bowl)W20-17
2009 Rankings
OFFENSEPER GAMESECNAT'L
Scoring36.0 ppg19
Rushing131.8 ypg1081
Passing295.5 ypg110
Total427.3 ypg320
DEFENSEPER GAMESECNAT'L
Scoring25.1 ppg958
Rushing152.7 ypg973
Passing248.5 ypg1299
Total401.2 ypg1289
TO MARGINPER GAMESECNAT'L
+15+1.1526
2010 Projected Rosters
OFFENSE
WRJoe Adams (Jr.)Carlton Salters (Sr.)
WRGreg Childs (Jr.)Lance Ray (Fr.)
WRJarius Wright (Jr.)Cobi Hamilton (So.)
STDeMarcus Love (Sr.)Grant Freeman (Jr.)
SGWade Grayson (Sr.)Zhamal Thomas (Sr.)
CSeth Oxner (Jr.)Travis Swanson (Fr.)
WGGrant Cook (Jr.)Alvin Bailey (Fr.)
WTRay Dominguez (Sr.)Anthony Oden (So.)
TED.J. Williams (Sr.)Chris Gragg (So.)
QBRyan Mallett (Jr.)Tyler Wilson (So.)
RBRonnie Wingo Jr. (So.)Dennis Johnson (Jr.)
DEFENSE
DEJake Bequette (Jr.)Damario Ambrose (Sr.)
DTPatrick Jones (Sr.)D.D. Jones (So.)
NGZach Stadther (Jr.)Lavunce Askew (Jr.)
DETenarius Wright (So.)Caleb Evans (Sr.)
WLBJerico Nelson (Jr.)Bret Harris (Jr.)
MLBJermaine Love (Sr.)Austin Moss (So.)
SLBFreddy Burton (Sr.)Jerry Franklin (Jr.)
CBRamon Broadway (Sr.)Andru Stewart (Sr.)
CBDarius Winston (So.)Isaac Madison (Jr.)
SSRudell Crim (Sr.)Elton Ford (Jr.)
FSTramain Thomas (Jr.)Anthony Leon (Sr.)
SPECIAL TEAMS
1Alex Tejada (Sr.)KRDennis Johnson (Jr.)
1Dylan Breeding (So.)PRJarius Wright (Jr.)
RETURNING LEADERS
Passing: Ryan Mallett (3,627 yards, 30 TDs, 7 INTs)
Rushing: Broderick Green (104 car, 442 yds, 11 TDs)
Receiving: Greg Childs (48 rec, 894 yds, 7 TDs)
Tackles: Jerry Franklin (94, 51 solo)
Sacks: Jake Bequette (5.5)
Interceptions: Two players tied with 3
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PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ryan Mallett, QB: He set or tied 16 school records last season, including 3,624 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and a 152.5 efficiency rating.

D.J. Williams, TE: His receiving numbers dropped in '09, but he's a much stronger blocker and his stats should go up.

Joe Adams, WR: He had seven touchdowns and 19.6 yards per catch and bounced up from a vicious hit by LSU's Chad Jones.

DeMarcus Love, OT: The veteran in the trenches was an offensive co-captain last year and is the unit's leader this season.

Greg Childs, WR: He produced his personal highlight-reel game against Georgia and put a scare into No. 1 Florida with a 75-yard touchdown.

IMPORTANT LOSSES

Malcolm Sheppard, DT: The emotional leader had a team-best 11 tackles for loss to end a strong three-year run.

Mitch Petrus, G: The former fullback and tight end didn't allow a sack in a pass-wild offense during a big senior year.

Michael Smith, RB: He followed a 1,000-yard season with an injury-plagued senior year, but he was a key leader.

Adrian Davis, DE: The Razorbacks will miss his team-high-tying 5.5 sacks and 50 tackles, including 10.5 for 57 yards lost.

Wendel Davis, LB: The solid performer in the middle finished second on the club with 79 tackles and three pass breakups.

NUMBERS GAME

9: Just nine of Ryan Mallett's 30 touchdown passes came on the road last year, compared to 21 scoring strikes in seven home games.

OFFENSE

With Ryan Mallett piloting Bobby Petrino's prolific system and surrounded by elite skill position talent, Arkansas' air attack should be one the country's most electrifying. The Razorbacks lost only two key pieces -- tailback Michael Smith and guard Mitch Petrus -- from a unit that ranked ninth nationally in scoring (36.0), 10th in passing (295.5) and 20th in total offense (427.3). Garrick McGee takes over for departed offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.

Mallett considered declaring early for the NFL draft, then missed spring drills while recovering from foot surgery. The 6-foot-7 rifleman led the SEC in passing yards (3,624) and efficiency rating (152.5) and chewed up shaky defenses last season, but must play more steadily against the tougher units.

The receiving corps, led by Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton, is loaded. That quartet combined for 2,490 yards, 22 touchdowns and a hefty 18.2 yards per catch in 2009. D.J. Williams remains one of the nation's most dangerous tight ends.

Arkansas has runners capable of delivering 1,000-yard seasons, but it's unlikely any of the talented quartet of Ronnie Wingo Jr., Dennis Johnson, Broderick Green and Knile Davis will get the carries to hit that mark. The new line coach, former Nevada offensive coordinator Chris Klenakis, will help incorporate more running from the Pistol formation. He has four returning starters, including tackle DeMarcus Love.

DEFENSE

As porous as this unit was for great chunks of the season, it rated among the nation's best in takeaways and red zone defense. Coordinator Willy Robinson's unit, which ranked last in the SEC the last two years, must slice its big-play score allowance and continue the turnover run for Arkansas to contend.

The defensive front, with returning veterans such as Jake Bequette, Damario Ambrose, Zach Stadther and Tenarius Wright, should be deeper and more stout. Youngsters D.D. Jones and incoming freshman Byran Jones could become a star tackle tandem. Freddy Burton, Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson are experienced linebackers, but they must be stronger tacklers.

The Hogs' pass defense rated as one of the nation's worst in 2009, but it should improve with a better pass rush and some key personnel returning in the secondary.

SPECIALISTS

Only kickoff return ace Johnson has prevented these units from being near-disasters the last two seasons. Kicker Alex Tejada made a game-winner in the Liberty Bowl, but his track record is spotty, and incoming freshmen Zach Hocker and Eduardo Camara have a chance to unseat him. Punter Dylan Breeding must improve his 38.7-yard average or face losing his job. Wright has the first shot at returning punts, where Petrino vows Arkansas will be better. The Hogs' coverage units allowed a punt return score by LSU's Trindon Holliday, but they were solid otherwise.

FINAL ANALYSIS

A trendy darkhorse pick as a national title candidate, Arkansas should challenge in the SEC West. Petrino has welcomed the expectations and used them to pressure his team through an intense spring.

A two-week stretch in September -- at Georgia and home against Alabama -- could determine if the Razorbacks have the goods to reach their first BCS bowl game. It appears Petrino will tweak the run-pass ratio more toward the ground to help the Hogs' defense, though the temptation will be there to ride Mallett they way Arkansas did last season.

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