The first step towards the very intriguing 2011 football season begins today, with spring practice officially kicking off in Fayetteville (and culminating with the nationally televised Red-White game on April 16).
The coaching staff is a strong unit, with no turnover from last year, and the team is stocked with veteran talent on both sides of the ball. Yesterday, released the pre-spring depth chart, which is full of interesting info - Tyler Wilson is listed as first team QB, as expected, and true freshman Brey Cook is already positioned as a potential starter on the offensive line.
Things we'll be watching for this spring include:
* The QB battle. Can Brandon Mitchell or Jacoby Walker challenge Wilson for the starting spot? With Ryan Mallett gone, will we see more of the Wilson from the Auburn game or the Wilson from the South Carolina game? How will he handle being The Man?
* Offensive identity. How will the Razorbacks evolve in the post-Mallett era? Will Petrino put the team on Knile Davis' shoulders? Even if Wilson remains the starter, will a running QB like Mitchell see the field more as a change of pace for defenses? Is there a loophole in the rules that would allow the Hogs to put eight receivers on the field at once?
* Defensive leaders. After years of being the much-maligned weak spot of the team, Willy Robinson's D has an opportunity to be an area of strength this year. Can they replace departed leaders like Anthony Leon and Ramon Broadway and build upon strong late-season performances against LSU and Ohio State (in the second half, at least)?
* Offensive line. Petrino recruited a great batch of young talent on the offensive line...can they step in and replace reliable veterans like DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez? With established studs at nearly every other offensive position, this might be the most crucial question of all.
What are you looking forward to about spring football? Let us know in the comments section.