Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.
2019 Record: 2-10 (0-8)
2020 Signing Class: 30th (11th SEC)
Head Coach: Sam Pittman (1st Season)
- QB Nick Starkel - 96/179 (53.6%) 1,152 yds 7 TD 10 INT
- TE CJ O’Grady - 33 rec 372 yds 11.3 avg 3 TD
- DE Jamario Bell - 17 tackles 5.5 TFL 4.5 sacks FF
- DT McTelvin Agim - 38 tackles 8.5 TFL 5.0 sacks FR FF
- LB De’Jon Harris - 101 tackles 6.5 TFL sack 2 PBU 2 FR 2 FF TD
- S Kamren Curl - 76 tackles 4.0 TFL 2.0 sacks 2 INT 2 PBU 2 FR 2 FF TD
- QB Feleipe Franks (GS) - 188/322 (58.4%) 2,457 yds 24 TD 6 INT (@ UF in 2018)
- RB Rakeem Boyd (Sr) - 184 carries 1,133 yds 6.2 avg 8 TD 19 rec 160 yds 8.4 avg
- WR Mike Woods (Jr) - 33 rec 423 yds 12.8 avg 4 TD
- WR Treylon Burks (So) - 29 rec 475 yds 16.4 avg
- WR Trey Knox (So) - 28 rec 385 yds 13.8 avg 3 TD
- LB Bumper Pool (Jr) - 94 tackles 6.5 TFL 0.5 sacks 5 PBU
- S Joe Foucha (Jr) - 87 tackles TFL INT 4 PBU FR
On April 1st, 2012, Bobby Petrino took that fateful motorcycle ride. Following the crash, his affair was revealed and on April 10th he was fired. In four years under Petrino, Arkansas went 34-17 overall and 17-15 in the SEC with two trips to NY6 bowls. Since Petrino’s ouster, Arkansas has gone 37-62 and 13-51 in conference play. Three times the Hogs have gone winless in the SEC and only once have they put together a winning conference record.
It ain’t been fun to be an Arkansas fan for awhile now.
Under new Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris the program cratered. In one and three quarter seasons as the Hogs head coach Morris won only 4 games, none against a Power 5 team. The last time they accomplished that feat was a victory over Ole Miss in 2017 in late October. It’s been awhile.
But hope has been renewed in Fayettville. Arkansas elected to make the biggest gamble hire of the offseason stealing away the nation’s best OL coach from UGA in Sam Pittman and naming him head man. I am skeptical of the move but Pittman is an outstanding recruiter and put together a solid staff hiring Kendal Briles as OC and Barry Odom as DC. The bar he needs to clear is also pretty low, just win an SEC game or two.
To do so, Arkansas needs MUCH better quarterback play. Morris played roulette at the position in two seasons unable to find anyone competent. In fact, the last time Arkansas had a QB start every game was in 2016 when Austin Allen was the man in charge. That looks likely to change in 2020 though as the Hogs signed former Florida Gator Feleipe Franks this past offseason.
Franks is a bit of a wildcard. He has some tremendous moments before quickly following with a very boneheaded decision. He was improving though under Dan Mullen. After a solid 2018 season, Franks started the 2019 campaign strong completing 76% of his passes and throwing for almost 700 yds. But an injury sidelined him for the year and he lost his job to Kyle Trask. Now he’s the trigger man for the Hogs and is unquestionably the most talented player at that position for Arkansas since Tyler Wilson.
Morris didn’t leave the offensive skill cupboard bar for Franks and Kendal Briles. Rakeem Boyd had a breakout junior season in 2019 and elected to return for his senior year. A thousand yard rusher, Boyd is a load coming out of the backfield at 215 lbs and should see more creases under Briles spread style of offense.
Out wide, Arkansas’s three top receivers return. Both Treylon Burks and Trey Knox were former blue chip recruits who had strong freshman debuts and look poised for big sophomore seasons in 2020. Woods is Arkansas’s leading returning receiver following a 400+ yard sophomore season. This trio along with Boyd give Franks plenty of weapons this fall. Morris did a lot wrong at Arkansas, recruiting offensive skill talent was not one of them.
Where I expect Pittman to have the biggest impact for Arkansas is up front. An elite OL coach and recruiter, Pittman was the man behind those behemoth lines of Brett Bielema and was almost unbeatable on the trail for the Dawgs. It will take some time but don’t be surprised if the Hogs are once again fielding good offensive lines. I am just not sure that happens in 2020.
Arkansas lost some talented players off that 2019 defense. Two were drafted in 3rd round pick defensive tackle McTelvin Agim and 7th round selection safety Kamren Curl. Leading tackler De’Jon Harris is gone as well along with pass rusher Jamario Bell. Odom has some serious rebuilding to do on this side of the ball.
The good news is he does return rising star Bumper Pool. The former blue chip prospect had an outstanding sophomore season tallying over 90 tackles with 6.5 going for a loss. Both were good for 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively. He has some help on the backend as well with former AU target Joe Foucha returning. I was a big fan of the Louisiana native coming out of high school and he’s blossoming into a top end SEC safety in Fayetteville. But there are a lot of holes elsewhere on the defense heading into 2020, especially on the defensive line.
Arkansas is going to be bad again in 2020. It’s hard to see otherwise. But the room for improvement is so large that Pittman doesn’t need to accomplish a lot to get Hog fans excited for the future. If Arkansas can steal a single SEC victory and put together 4+ wins, that would be a successful debut for Pittman. The sexy hires rarely pay off these days so maybe it’s Arkansas that ends up making the best hire of this offseason. All I know is Pittman better have his boys ready when they come to Jordan-Hare this fall because you know Gus and Chad are going to look to pile on as many points as possible. My guess is it won’t be a fun November afternoon for Arkansas, something that has become pretty common these days for Hog fans.