clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

SEC 2015: Arkansas' Offense is Loaded and the Defense is Reloading

With nine returning starters on offense, that side of the ball should be relatively settled. Both Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins are back at RB and four offensive line starters return, so the Razorbacks should be able to get the running game going. Let's look at what other position groups could be critical to the potential success of the Razorbacks' season.

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

The Back of the Media Guide?

Arkansas made headlines by putting their starting five offensive linemen on the cover of the Razorbacks' media guide this season. If a position group deserved to be on the back cover, perhaps tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle should have garnered that honor.

Henry returns as a starter after garnering second team All-SEC honors in 2014 and preseason second team honors in 2015 (though first teamer Evan Engram is more of a large wide receiver than a traditional, hand-in-the-dirt tight end). Sprinkle takes the place of A.J. Derby. Henry and Derby were the second- and third-leading receivers on the 2014 Razorbacks, and it is no mistake that 384 of Henry's 513 yards took place during the second half of the season, corresponding with Arkansas's second half surge.

The trend of pass-catching tight ends under Bielema is not limited to his years at Arkansas. In Bielema's last five years at Wisconsin, tight ends were the leading receivers in two of those seasons and never placed lower than third on the team in yards. With the lack of a known receiver quantity other than Keon Hatcher, the tight ends should be relied upon by Brandon Allen as escape valves and to keep safeties from completely jamming the box to defend the run.

Speaking of the Wide Receivers

Outside of Hatcher, the leading wide receiver returning is sophomore Jared Cornelius, who only caught 18 balls in 2014. Perhaps this relative lack of production from the receiver position is directly related to recruiting success at the position, as Hatcher is the last Arkansas wideout recruit rated as a 4-star or higher in 247 Sports' "Composite Ranking," and Hatcher will be a senior this season.

One potential receiver to emerge for the Razorbacks is junior college transfer Dominique Reed. While only rated as a 3-star composite by 247 Sports, Williams boasted offers from schools including Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Auburn and Louisville after posting 979 yards and 16 touchdowns at Kansas' Coffeyville Community College.

If any position is open for a breakout year on the Arkansas offense, it is wide receiver, and it is open as to who could emerge among Cornelius, Reed, or any of a number of underclassmen including Drew Morgan, Damon Mitchell and Cody Hollister.

Some Rebuilding to Do on Defense (or Reloading?)

Statistically, the Arkansas defense was a top twenty defense in 2014, according to both the S&P Defense and the FEI Defensive rankings. A small drop-off, however, could take place in 2015 with the loss of five starters (four in the front seven) including defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Darius Philon.

The two were both second team All-SEC in 2014 and combined for 112 tackles and 10.5 sacks. Junior college early enrollee Jeremiah Ledbetter and 4-star freshman Jamario Bell should get plenty of looks at Flowers' end spot, while sophomore Bijhon Jackson, true freshman Hjalte Froholdt (all-name team nominee?) and 340-pound DeMarcus Hodge should earn playing time at the departed tackle spot.