One of the more interesting features in the slew of college football previews that hit shelves each summer is Athlon's anonymous coach comments.
The wealth of information available on the Internet (including Bill Connelly's excellent work), has rendered the once-indispensable preview magazine something of a dinosaur. But a segment featuring SEC coaches sounding off without verbal crutches or cliches -- actually saying what they really think about their opponents -- is a yearly must-read.
And when it came to Arkansas in 2013, they pulled no punches.
When I first read these quotes in the summer, I (nervously) laughed it off. This was just a chance for beleaguered defensive coordinators to get in some shots on ol' Bobby P. without fear of Saturday afternoon reprisal.
Now, four weeks into what is sure to be a five-game losing streak (or more), with the Hogs looking progressively worse the deeper we get into SEC play, maybe it's time to revisit what those coaches had to say.
"They are really going to struggle. What happened was they had eight starters who got injured, and they were fighting an uphill battle all of last year. I think they’ll struggle up front, they’ll struggle in the secondary, the linebackers should be average."
Ouch. And he didn't even include the passing game.
"They are going to be slim in a lot of spots. It’s going to take them three years to get a good foundation. It’s a product of bad recruiting — which is typical of a Bobby Petrino school. It’s the same thing that happened at Louisville that got Steve Kragthorpe fired. Petrino didn’t leave him any players. It’s the same thing at Arkansas. They have no players on defense. Petrino would load up on offense and leave the cupboard bare. That’s why he can’t ever get over the hump."
This is about the point during my first reading where I quit taking it completely seriously. This is obviously a former co-worker of Kragthorpe who also had his shorts handed to him unceremoniously by Petrino at some point.
It won't really take three years ... right? Right!?!
"If you want to be competitive in the SEC, you better have big, strong defensive linemen, physical guys, and lockdown corners. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a chance. And right now they don’t have that."
Well, this guy's just plain misinformed and/or dumb. Arkansas has two positions right now that are unquestionably stocked with SEC-caliber talent. One is tailback, the other is defensive line.
As for the corners ... we'll give him that one.
"I don’t know really how good they are up front offensively, but I’m kind of skeptical based on what I know."
A reasonable sentiment. The offensive line underperformed last year and Bielema has had to insert a pair of true freshmen at guard -- possibly out of position -- to gain some semblance of stability up front. The future looks good on the offensive line. The jury's still out on the present.
"I think the young running back, Jonathan Williams, is going to be good for them. We liked him out of high school."
I think the Athlon editorial staff just felt obliged to include one nice thing about our team, and yes, Williams is good.
All in all, this was/is a bitter pill to swallow, but right now it's hard to argue with the veracity of most of it. Of course, after witnessing that embarrassment last weekend, you could probably convince most of the fanbase that the Hogs would be an six-point underdog to Fort Smith Southside on Saturday.
Confidence is that low right now. That's bad enough when we're talking about the fanbase, but when it's coming from the field, it's calamitous.
Maybe I'm being hardheaded, but I still think that's the Hogs' biggest problem right now -- confidence, the passing game, and this looming business trip to Tuscaloosa, in that order. This team is not bound for a prestigious bowl game and most of us knew it never was. But there is talent on this team -- at least more than we saw last week.
The defense is going to struggle against mobile QBs who are also capable passers. The offense is going to struggle with consistency as long as Brandon Allen's turning the ball over and the wide receivers are dropping the catchable passes that he does deliver.
But those things can be fixed. It's not like we're going to be terrible all season long, right?
"They are going to be terrible. What they are doing now, it’s the product of bad recruiting. They have a long way to go. That’s nothing against the new coach (Bret Bielema). But they are going to be terrible in Year 1."
Brent Holloway is an escaped journalist, but will consider returning to the industry for hundreds of thousands of dollars and a position that doesn't require Waffle Hours hours. Avert your eyes with him on Twitter, @thebholloway.