With a good deal of help from Year2.
There are a couple of reasons that Arkansas is a trendy pick to challenge Alabama in the SEC West, but one of them is the number of returning starters: 16 on the offense and defense, with just two players from the Razorbacks' fireworks-laden offense departing and four first-stringers from the defense leaving. That's solid foundation for anyone to build on, whether Arkansas does so successfully or not.
THE RETURN OF THE KING (OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT)
The key, as with any Bobby Petrino team, will be the offense. Most of that is back, including 100 percent of Arkansas' passing yardage (no, they don't even lose the backup); 86 percent of all receiving yards; and 78 percent of the rushing gains (even with Michael Smith leaving).
At the center of it all is, yes, Ryan Mallett. (Tired of hearing about him yet? Just think of a season of Gary Danielson with no Tim Tebow. Whom do you think he'll be talking about?) What I promise -- or at least sincerely hope -- will be our last recap of the week:
|Ryan Mallett, 2009||225||403||55.8||3,627||30||7||152.52|
The completion percentage is a bit lower than you might like, but otherwise a solid first year for Mallett and a reason for all those Arkansas hopes you keep hearing about.
The team's top rusher, Broderick Green (104 carries, 442 yards, 11 TD) returns. Among the returning receivers are Greg Childs (48 receptions, 894 yards, 7 TDs); Jarius Wright (41 receptions, 681 yards, 5 TDs); Joe Adams (29 receptions, 568 yards, 7 TDs); and tight end D.J. Williams (32 receptions, 411 yards, 3 TDs). From the starting offensive line, only Mitch Petrus leaves.
BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER -- THEY HOPE
The defensive line is something old, something new, with Jake Bequette and Zach Stadther anchoring it after each started eight games in 2009. With 5.5 sacks and eight quarterback hurries, Bequette was one of the Razorbacks best pass rushers.
Jerry Franklin leads the linebacking corps back into 2010, returning after leading the team with 94 tackles, five for loss, and tying for the team lead in interceptions with three. Jerico Nelson's 74 stops and 2.5 sacks are also back.
Despite having three returning starters and seeing Isaac Madison come back from his 2009 season-ending injury, there are some questions about how the secondary will shake out. Rudell Crim seems to be moving from cornerback to safety, possibly to make room for Madison or for Darius Winston. Ramon Broadway and Tramain Thomas figure to feature in the new secondary whatever shape it might take. Elton Ford should also factor in.
THE NEW GUYS
Ronnie Wingo Jr. ought to also factor in at running back after averaging 6.5 yards on 49 carries (319 yards, 3 TDs) in 2009 as a consensus four-star freshman. Other than that, look for the veterans to carry most of the load on offense.
Tenarius Wright, Jermaine Love and Patrick Jones are all set to contribute in the front seven for the defense; they combined for one start and 44 tackles (34 of them Wright's) in all of 2009, though Wright had seven tackles for loss.
Clearing the roster room for them: Wendel Davis and his 79 stops -- 8.5 for loss -- from the linebacking corps, and defensive linemen Malcolm Sheppard (33 tackles, 11 TFL) and Adrian Davis (50 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks).