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Arkansas Returning Talent is Largely Found on Defense | SEC 2013

Offensive talent, at least of the returning starter variety, is kind of rare on the Razorbacks' roster this year. Does that mean that the team will now have to rely on -- gasp -- defense? Part of Arkansas-Tennessee week

Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

When you hear that Arkansas has 14 starters coming back by the program's official count, and even when you take into account that one of those starters was a kicker, it sounds somewhat comforting. But when you look a little bit deeper in the numbers -- that's when the trouble starts to emerge.

The Hogs lose all but five starters on the offensive side of the ball, including their starter quarterback; three-fifths of the starting offensive line, the team's leading rusher and its leading receiver. There's no one left with more than 21 receptions or 45 rushes, and the most experienced quarterback has thrown the ball 49 times. In an odd twist for a team that had Bobby Petrino as its coach not that long ago, Arkansas might go as far as the defense can take them.

The Razorbacks actually bring back all but a few starters from last year's defense, but that comes with a catch: the Razorbacks bring back all but a few starters from last year's defense. That unit ranked near the bottom of the SEC in just about everything, but was actually pretty good when it came to sacking the quarterback, and Smith was a big reason for that. He logged 9.5 sacks among his 13 tackles for loss and was tied for third among returning players with 52 tackles overall. Smith could be leading one of the better parts of the Arkansas team this year, and if he and the other veterans can get the defense to step up its game a bit, a bowl might not be out of reach.

BIGGEST LOSS | QB Tyler Wilson
This isn't quite as cut-and-dry at it might seem. Wilson was incredibly prolific -- 249-of-410 for 3,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions -- but his efficiency was basically above average, checking in at 143.84. Still, Wilson was a solid player, and his loss is still a huge one for a team that saw one of the most talented trio of wide receivers in the conference and perhaps the country leave before last season, followed by the departure this year of Cobi Hamilton. In a way, this might be the ideal season to go ahead and bite the bullet if Bret Bielema wants to move to a more smash-mouth style of offense, because the passing game might be one of the more problematic aspects of the game for the Hogs -- in no small part because Wilson's gone.

Between the possibility of a shaky passing game and Bielema's preference for run-heavy offenses, whoever ends up carrying the football for the Razorbacks this year could end up with a lot of yardage. Williams didn't run much last year -- he had 45 carries for 231 yards -- but he's about the best Arkansas has at the moment. Yes, Alex Collins is in the picture after finally having gotten past his mother's rather strong objections, but Collins is still a freshman and still has 45 fewer career carries in college than Williams.