Last week we profiled the Arkansas Razorbacks ourselves, but we’ll always have a less intimate knowledge of the opposition than the opposition themselves. Thankfully, we have Eric Harris from ArkansasFight.com to help us understand what’s going to make the Hogs tick in 2018 under Chad Morris.
What are your thoughts on how the Bielema firing went down, the coaching search, and your early impressions on Chad Morris as a head coach?
While the decision to fire Bielema was the clear one, they definitely fumbled how they did it with having the press releases ready to go and having him do the post game presser anyways. Morris is definitely trying to bring a new vibe to the program. There’s a lot of newer energy that wasn’t in the program before which is nice. We’ll see if it translates to on field performance.
Your never-ending train of Allen Bros. quarterbacks seems to have ended for the time being, does Cole Kelley have the upper hand or will he be beaten out by Ty Storey?
It was an open competition during the spring and Morris said it will continue in the fall. The new offense incorporates a lot more read option concepts and movement from the quarterback, at which both quarterbacks looked a little rough during the Spring game. I’d say Kelley has a slight lead over Storey right now, and there’s an outside chance incoming freshman Connor Noland could come in and impress the staff enough to play.
As far as the skill positions go, it looks like Arkansas returns a fair few guys from last season. Who’s the breakout player in the backfield and in the wideout corps that we’ll hear a ton about this year?
Having Jared Cornelius back at receiver will be huge after he missed most of last season, and early enrollee Mike Woods had a very good spring there as well. It looks like it will be running back by committee again this year, but hopefully TJ Hammonds gets more involved than last year. He did very well in his few touches last year and had fans going nuts that he wasn’t given more chances.
With Frank Ragnow gone, the offensive line needs a little retooling, but there are some other starters that return. Will this group be a strength or a weakness in 2018?
The O-Line was a disaster at the end of the Bielema era, and was even worse when Ragnow went down injured. Things are looking improved there among the starters, but it’s a thin group and if a couple guys go down there could some very inexperienced guys getting time.
On defense, the front seven seemed to have the better spring, was that a function of the competition they were going against or are they going to be a special bunch?
I think there are a handful of guys in the front seven who could have special years. Dre Greenlaw, Scoota Harris, Randy Ramsey, and Sosa Agim all have a chance to do big things this year. The question is if John Chavis can get the most out of them. They’re moving back to a 4-3 defense after one year in the 3-4, hopefully that plays to their strengths more.
With John Chavis coordinating the defense, what are some things we can expect to see, and who can we expect to see become an All-SEC player?
I already talked about that some in the previous question. To add to that, Chavis has shifted the secondary around a little to get the most talented guys on the field. I think with Kevin Richardson getting a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA we’ll see a 4-2-5 quite often. I mentioned Greenlaw earlier and he is the best defensive player we have but the conference is always so deep at linebacker it might be hard to break into an All-SEC team. Arkansas is also getting Ryan Pulley back after his season ending injury in last year’s opener. He’s definitely got the potential to make All-SEC as well.
What are your thoughts on the schedule? The non-conference slate isn’t difficult, and the East opponents are Vandy and Mizzou. Is it out of the realm of possibility that the Razorbacks could get 8 wins in Chad Morris’ first year?
The schedule is probably what’s going to help Morris the most this year. Because Michigan cancelled our home and home so late, Colorado State was the closest we could get to a P5 matchup. We also have a good draw with Missouri and Vanderbilt as our teams from the east this year. 8 wins would be one hell of a coup though. There are still a lot of question marks on this team and the goal will definitely be to get back to a bowl game.
We’ve gone through four weeks of previews, and there’s plenty left to come! Stick around for Southern Miss this week and then we’re back into the meat of the SEC schedule after that. War Eagle!