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2018 SEC Football Season Preview: Arkansas Razorbacks

At least Bret Bielema is gone?

NCAA Football: SEC Football Media Day Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2018 SEASON PREVIEW — ARKANSAS

2017 Win-Loss Record: 4-8 (1-7 SEC)

2017 S&P+ Rankings: 91st (Overall), 43rd (Offense), 112th (Defense)


Arkansas was really bad last year.

I mean, look at those numbers. 112th on defense? There are only 129 teams!

In short, the biggest problem for the Razorbacks last year was an inability to string together consecutive weeks of good play. Of their four wins, the only two that came in back-to-back weeks were against Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina.

They also gave up more than 30 points in eight of their 12 games last season. Granted they were victorious in two of those eight, but it certainly isn’t a recipe for success when you’re regularly allowing touchdown after touchdown.


HEAD COACH

Chad Morris (First year at Arkansas, 14-22 in three seasons at SMU)

This is the one spot for optimism for Arkansas fans this year. After getting progressively worse the last three years, the Razorbacks cut ties with Bret Bielema in favor of Morris, who had been turning SMU around, taking them from 2-10 to 7-5 in three seasons. The SEC is obviously a different beast than the American, but there has to be some optimism present.


OFFENSE

Quarterback Cole Kelley got thrown into the fire earlier than expected last year when Austin Allen went down with an injury, and he was... alright. Kelley had eight touchdown to four interceptions and 1038 passing yards in nine games, four of which he started.

Kelley will be the starting quarterback to begin the season this year, as well.

Leading rusher David Williams graduated and was drafted by the Denver Broncos, but Devwah Whaley returns. He had 559 rushing yards on 127 attempts and seven touchdowns last season. Just as Whaley split carries with Williams last season, he will likely split with Chase Hayden this season. Hayden had 61 carries for 326 yards and four touchdowns in a strong freshman campaign.

Kelley will have no shortage of options on the offensive side of the ball, as the Razorbacks return their three leading receivers from last season in Jonathan Nance, Deon Stewart, and Jordan Jones. Additionally, Jared Corneilus and La’Michael Pettway are back from injury and suspension, respectively.


DEFENSE

The defense returns pretty much everyone, which isn’t a great sign considering their struggles last year. However, there’s one person who could prove to be a difference maker: new defensive coordinator John Chavis.

If you’ve followed the SEC at all in the last 25 years, you’ve heard of Chavis. He’s had DC stops at Tennessee, LSU, and Texas A&M before joining Morris at Arkansas. His time at A&M was a bit bumpy, but his tenures at Tennessee and LSU speak for themselves.

For a defense that had just two players on any of the All-SEC Preseason Teams (De’Jon Harris and Santos Ramirez both landed on the Third Team), Chavis has some work to do. Perhaps the experienced roster will develop and progress well under the new coordinator.


SCHEDULE

Arkansas 2018 Schedule

Week Opponent
Week Opponent
1 Eastern Illinois
2 @ Colorado St
3 North Texas
4 @ Auburn
5 Texas A&M (AT&T Stadium)
6 Alabama
7 Ole Miss (War Memorial Stadium)
8 Tulsa
9 Vanderbilt
10 BYE
11 LSU
12 @ Mississippi St
13 @ Missouri

OUTLOOK/PREDICTION

It’s really tough to gauge where an Arkansas team with a whole new coaching staff will fall in terms of wins this year. I think the ceiling is around six, but five is probably more likely. It’s not what you want, but the goal is to find things that work that you can build upon for the coming years and maybe grab an upset or two somewhere.

Prediction: 5-7, 2-6 in SEC play