August 16, 2010

Top 25 Team Previews

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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. 4 Tennessee Tech
Sept. 11 UL Monroe (Little Rock, AR)
Sept. 18 at Georgia
Sept. 25 Alabama
Oct. 9 Texas A&M (Arlington, TX)
Oct. 16 at Auburn
Oct. 23 Ole Miss
Oct. 30 Vanderbilt
Nov. 6 at South Carolina
Nov. 13 UTEP
Nov. 20 at Mississippi State
Nov. 27 LSU (Little Rock, AR)
2009 Results
Sept. 5 Missouri State W 48-10
Sept. 19 Georgia L 41-52
Sept. 26 at Alabama L 7-35
Oct. 3 Texas A&M W 47-19
Oct. 10 Auburn W 44-23
Oct. 17 at Florida L 20-23
Oct. 24 at Ole Miss L 17-30
Oct. 31 Eastern Michigan W 63-27
Nov. 7 South Carolina W 33-16
Nov. 14 Troy W 56-20
Nov. 21 Mississippi State W 42-21
Nov. 28 at LSU L 30-33
Jan. 2 East Carolina (Liberty Bowl) W 20-17
2009 Rankings
OFFENSE PER GAME SEC NAT'L
Scoring 36.0 ppg 1 9
Rushing 131.8 ypg 10 81
Passing 295.5 ypg 1 10
Total 427.3 ypg 3 20
DEFENSE PER GAME SEC NAT'L
Scoring 25.1 ppg 9 58
Rushing 152.7 ypg 9 73
Passing 248.5 ypg 12 99
Total 401.2 ypg 12 89
TO MARGIN PER GAME SEC NAT'L
+15 +1.15 2 6
2010 Projected Rosters
OFFENSE
WR Joe Adams (Jr.) Carlton Salters (Sr.)
WR Greg Childs (Jr.) Lance Ray (Fr.)
WR Jarius Wright (Jr.) Cobi Hamilton (So.)
ST DeMarcus Love (Sr.) Grant Freeman (Jr.)
SG Wade Grayson (Sr.) Zhamal Thomas (Sr.)
C Seth Oxner (Jr.) Travis Swanson (Fr.)
WG Grant Cook (Jr.) Alvin Bailey (Fr.)
WT Ray Dominguez (Sr.) Anthony Oden (So.)
TE D.J. Williams (Sr.) Chris Gragg (So.)
QB Ryan Mallett (Jr.) Tyler Wilson (So.)
RB Ronnie Wingo Jr. (So.) Dennis Johnson (Jr.)
DEFENSE
DE Jake Bequette (Jr.) Damario Ambrose (Sr.)
DT Patrick Jones (Sr.) D.D. Jones (So.)
NG Zach Stadther (Jr.) Lavunce Askew (Jr.)
DE Tenarius Wright (So.) Caleb Evans (Sr.)
WLB Jerico Nelson (Jr.) Bret Harris (Jr.)
MLB Jermaine Love (Sr.) Austin Moss (So.)
SLB Freddy Burton (Sr.) Jerry Franklin (Jr.)
CB Ramon Broadway (Sr.) Andru Stewart (Sr.)
CB Darius Winston (So.) Isaac Madison (Jr.)
SS Rudell Crim (Sr.) Elton Ford (Jr.)
FS Tramain Thomas (Jr.) Anthony Leon (Sr.)
SPECIAL TEAMS
1 Alex Tejada (Sr.) KR Dennis Johnson (Jr.)
1 Dylan Breeding (So.) PR Jarius 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
MORE FROM ATHLON
More from AthlonFor full coverage of College Football before, during and after the season, visit AthlonSports.com/si.
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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