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SEC 2009 // Hog Holdovers

If you're looking for one reason for the expectations of a rebound in Fayetteville this year, one reason is the lack of material your humble correspondent has for this post. Arkansas has eight returning starters on offense and nine on defense by the school's measure, ten by Phil Steele's ruler. There won't be many position battles to settle this fall.

One of those potential fights could be at quarterback, where Bobby Petrino has toyed with the idea of a competition between Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson, but is expected to name Mallett as his starter.

Let's humor him for a moment, though.

Arkansas "QB Competition"








Ryan Mallett
(2007, Michigan)








Tyler Wilson
(2008, Arkansas)








You can see why there's so much skepticism about Petrino's notion of keeping the signal-caller position open in the fall. The rating is better -- in part because of the TD-to-INT ratio -- and the experience gap is significant. The only real strike against Mallett is the completion percentage, marred by outings like a 6-of-17 performance in relief during the Oregon game and an 11-of-36 day against Wisconsin.

There might be some controversy at WR as well, with the Hogs returning all five wideouts with double-digit catches. The downside of that? Only one of those receivers, Lucas Miller, broke 400 yards (490), none had more than two TD receptions, and only London Crawford (11) had more than seven starts.

The overall receptions leader, D.J. Williams (61 catches, 723 yards, 3 TDs), returns at TE. So does RB Michael Smith, who rushed for 1,072 yards and eight scores on 270 carries. Most of the offensive line comes back, though both guard spots could be filled by first-time starters.

Defense could be even more stable, according to the post-spring depth chart, which shows the front seven comprised entirely of returning starters. Included: DT Malcolm Sheppard, who led the team last year with 6.5 sacks. Leading tackler Jerry Franklin (87 stops) is back at LB. Then again, the Hogs allowed 170.8 rushing ypg last year, so take that as you will.

The mediocre pass defense will likely have to be overhauled, with two returning starters listed on the depth chart and only CB Isaac Madison as a starter. (The other, FS Elton Ford, is noted as being injured.) But CB Ramon Broadway, not listed as a returning starter but currently No. 1 at the other corner position, had 10 broken-up passes, six picks and 52 tackles (six for losses). Jerico Nelson, the likely starter at strong safety, is also solid.