One of the good things about living outside of the Natural State’s borders is that you get to come home to them every once in a while. When you live 10 hours away, that’s not something you take for granted.
For the first time this season, this column will be filed from the central time zone instead of the eastern, where I’m surrounded by family, friends, and more Hogs than Dogs.
I’m thankful for that.
I’m also thankful this football season almost over. It’s been miserable; the most gut-wrenching I can remember, and I’m in too good of a mood to recount it all now. Suffice to say, I’m glad there’s only one game left.
I’m thankful that we’ll soon have a new coach. There’s little chance Jeff Long’s choice will please everyone, but with a new leader in place, a new era can begin and the rumor-a-day message board squabbling can come to an end – or at least move on to a new topic.
I’m thankful that Tyler Wilson had one good season, won a Cotton Bowl, and has rewritten large chunks of the Arkansas record book. He’s far from perfect, but he’s a highly skilled quarterback, and I firmly believe if talent ran in correlation to love of school, state and team, we’d have the best one in the country.
I’m thankful for a group of seniors that helped raise the program’s profile. It’s easy to forget thanks to all the events since April 1, but the 24 Razorbacks who will play their last game for Arkansas on Friday have played a big role in elevating the program to a place where 10-win seasons don’t seem like such a far-flung fantasy.
I’m thankful Jared Green and Kalleon Kelleybrew came home. As bad as the season has been, it could have been worse if not for the two Little Rock Central products who transferred in from Mississippi Valley State and walked on. They not only earned playing time, they’ve been needed contributors on a defense plagued by injuries and inexperience. Kelleybrew is tied for the team lead with six pass break-ups, and Green ranks third on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks – he’s also gotten a consistent push in the middle. I would’ve liked to have seen what they could’ve done with four years of SEC seasoning, but I’m glad we got a few good games from them and that they got to live out what must’ve been a dream, even it was a nightmare season.
And I’m thankful for one of the best group of freshmen on campus since 2008. Jonathan Williams, Otha Peters, AJ Turner, Will Hines, Mekale McKay, Nate Holmes, Keon Hatcher, Davyon McKinney, Rohan Gaines – each played a key role or showed flashes of playmaking ability this season, and each have three more years of eligibility remaining. Regardless of who the new coach turns out to be, if the Hogs are to resurrect in the coming seasons, these names will be a big reason why.