Welcome to the toughest two weeks of football season. At least they are to me. Classes started today on the Fayetteville campus and practice is now closed to the fans.
The media can watch about 20 minutes of stretching, calisthenics and drills, but nothing more meaningful can be ascertained than if someone might be missing from the workout. Thus the practice stories written and posted will less informative until a game is played. It’s tough to ask meaningful questions when you don’t know what’s going on in practice and don’t have an immediate game to look forward to or follow up on.
We have the rest of this week and all of next to labor through while we count down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to kickoff.
No doubt some of the TV stations will run preview specials and newspapers will likely have their football preview tabloid in this Sunday’s section. Both the specials and tabs will no doubt be informative and well produced, but deadlines often force some of the material to be dated. Before the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of radio shows, those products possessed more vitality.
But today with access limited so the university can better control and homogenize the message and the nearly instantaneous news feed afforded by social media and the Internet, there is no way a broadcast or print reporter can hold back really good material for a special project. Everything must go, now, before it's stale and dated.
Obviously, that instant gratification is great for us fans. We can gobble up the information, digest it and then hold out our plate like a starving gridiron waif, pleading, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
I’m greedy, too. Give me a free moment in the day, and I’m checking Twitter, my e-mail or even Facebook to see if there is some kind of Razorback alert. And, most of the time there is. But as we trudge forward to kickoff, the fount of information may flow a bit slower.
That might be good for the atmosphere in and around Razorback Stadium on Sept. 1 when Jack Crowe (Hog head coach from 1990 through one game of the 1992 season) makes his return with his Jacksonville State squad hoping to spring another upset like he suffered against The Citadel two decades ago or, more aptly, like the one his squad administered to Ole Miss a couple of years back. We may be starving for action almost as much as junior Hog running back Knile Davis.
The season is so close compared to the last eight months, yet still so far away. Someone really ought to market an Razorback football Advent-like calendar for the month of August to allow Hog fans to mark the time until kickoff.
I picture a foreshorten drawing of snarling Razorback running right at you, maybe it’s even a 3D lenticular hologram emblazoned in red.
Of course it would 31 tiny, little die cut windows so that each morning, you could pull it open and maybe read a bit of trivia about a current Razorback or even a snippet about a great Razorback victory from the past. Each morning could be a tiny Razorback celebration, building up to kickoff.
The trivia calendar would contain nothing, not a single word about the 1969 loss to Texas. While I know and even appreciate the historic significance and lore that surrounds that darn ballgame, I’ve read and heard about it enough about it for a lifetime. Like Frank Broyles once told me, “I prefer to think about the victories and forget the losses.”
But, since that game did pop into my head, the most vivid aspect I’ve taken from watching several replays of it was how well Hog quarterback Bill Montgomery played in the midst of running for his life. Other than that one errant throw into the end zone, he played a truly courageous ballgame.
The Hogs outplayed Texas that cold, wet December afternoon in 1969, but because of Texas’ superior depth and talent a few plays turned the tide the Steers way. The Longhorns wore the Hogs down that afternoon and took advantage of a few too many Razorback errors to dishearten the state for what seems like an eternity. During the Longhorns heydays, it seemed the Razorbacks had to play almost perfect to beat them. Kind of like today with Alabama and LSU.
As talented as the Razorbacks are — and make no mistake the 2012 Hogs are a talented bunch — Alabama and LSU has more depth and their talent is more evenly distributed. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have relative weaknesses, while the rest of the SEC has true question marks among one or more of their units.
Although the games were altogether different, I bet Montgomery had big time empathy for Hog quarterback Tyler Wilson last season as he watched the Greenwood, Ark., native stand in the pocket and absorb hit after hit against Alabama and Texas A&M.
The last three seasons Arkansas’ front allowed the Razorbacks’ offense to be high powered and very dangerous, but it also kept it from being dominant. It remains to be seen how the offensive line will shake out this season.
The more capable the Hogs are of grinding out yards on the ground, the better their chances are against the bully boys of Bama and the Bayou Bengals.
The Razorbacks have three proven backs in Davis, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo, and from the way Jonathan Williams (6-0, 205 from Allen, Texas) ran in last Saturday’s scrimmage, a fourth one is in development.
I hope Davis is able to replicate his sophomore season when he averaged 6.48 yards per carry for a total of 1,322 yards, but it might be difficult for him to do and not necessarily because of the offensive line.
In 2010, the scariest aspect of Arkansas’ offense was the bomb. Quarterback Ryan Mallett threw it and Greg Childs and Jarius Wright caught the long ball better than any trio I can remember in 38 years of watching Razorback football. That precision forced opponents to keep their safeties back and out of the “box.” Without the additional run support, Davis ran wild the last seven games of the season.
While I think Arkansas has done a nice job of retooling its receiving corps after the loss of Joe Adams, Wright and Childs and Wilson has the arm and accuracy to air it out, it’s yet to be seen if the 2012 offense will be able launch a long distance air attack as effective as 2010’s.
That said, I think we should all expect a great year out of Davis, but the going might be tougher for him than it was his sophomore season.