Arkansas Spring Practice Preview: Offense

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offense as we start Spring Practice tomorrow.

The Arkansas offense was so bad last year, it can only get better. It can’t get worse, right?

Last season, the offense put up 30 points or more only twice against FBS opponents, once in a win against a Sun Belt team and the other against the worst scoring defense in the SEC.

In a league last year that became known for some of its high-scoring offenses (Auburn, Texas A&M, Missouri), last season's performance wasn't nearly good enough. The Hogs averaged just under three touchdowns a game, ranking 12th in the conference. They were last in the SEC in total passing yards, yards per attempt, and collectively completed less than 50% of their passes.

However, there was one shimmering light in the darkness.

It came in the form of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, who helped propel a Razorback rushing attack that was good for third overall in the league behind the two Championship Game participants.

As a whole I want to see how the offense evolves under Jim Chaney and Bret Bielema. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to in Year 1, but because of the lack of a passing game, Chaney was forced to rely heavily on his backs.

Don't get me wrong, Collins was good enough to garner well-deserved, league-wide attention, being named the SEC Freshman of the Year, but was that by default or design? With even a decent, middle of the pack air attack would Chaney, who has turned out some impressive quartbacks as an OC in the past, have been allowed to be a little more creative?

I think Chaney and Bielema have more than just the rush-up-the-middle game Bielema became known for during his days in Madison. Hopefully, this spring we will get to see more of the playbook being explored.

Quarterback

The quarterback depth chart will certainly be the most talked about part of the team through the spring. And likely the summer and at least the beginning of fall.

With new freshman Rafe Peavey on campus already, we’ll get an idea of the full quarterback depth chart pretty quickly.

One tiny little issue to be resolved is figuring out how much Brandon Allen’s shoulder injury really limited him throughout last season. If he plays well this spring, better than he did in October and November, perhaps we can all accept that the injury really was that detrimental and lingered for several weeks. But if he doesn’t look good, there will surely be a lot of people wanting to see Austin Allen, Damon Mitchell, or Peavey in the starters role.

And how high up the depth chart does Mitchell have to be for him to remain a quarterback and not be moved to safety?

Running Back

Obviously, this is the most exciting position on the team. Bielema has said he’s so excited about Jonathan Williams that he’ll have a light spring as far as live contact is concerned. He’s also announced Korliss Marshall will remain at the position along with Alex Collins. It should be exciting to see what that trio can do with another year of development.

Kody Walker is also expected to play Kiero Small’s fullback role, so expect to see a little more of the junior bruiser from St. Louis. Walker showed flashes of what he could do in limited time against Mississippi State last fall.

All in all, I think we all know we’re pretty comfortable here.

Receiver

This will be a position to watch this spring. With the departures of Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton, the arrivals of midterm enrollees Jared Cornelius and Cody Hollister, and Demetrius Wilson’s return from the fall camp injury he suffered last year, this part of the depth chart is wide open.

Bielema has spoken very highly of Cornelius, so we might expect to see him make an immediate impact. Wilson will be a fifth year senior, and was listed at the top of the depth chart after spring practice last year, and it should be a nice boost for the offense if he’s back to full speed.

The top returning receivers are Hunter Henry at tight end - and we all figure he’ll only continue to get better following his All-SEC Freshman season - and Keon Hatcher, who at times looked fantastic and at times struggled.

How much Arkansas can improve here may be just as important as what happens at quarterback, and there will certainly be new names on the depth chart here. Keep a close eye on it.

Offensive Line

Arkansas tinkered with the players along the offensive line throughout the season last year, and with the players coming in now and in the fall, expect that to continue. The Razorbacks lost two seniors in Travis Swanson at center and David Hurd at left tackle, but the other three starters - Denver Kirkland, Dan Skipper, and Brey Cook - can probably expect to remain starters.

Juco transfer Sebastian Tretola will join the team this spring, and 4* 2013 recruit Reeve Koehler will be back in action after suffering an injury in fall camp last year that forced him to redshirt. Senior Luke Charpentier has been backing up Swanson for the last couple of seasons, but now will be competing to take over the starting role.

The Hogs will also be working to figure out how Grady Ollison, Mitch Smothers, Austin Beck and Cordale Boyd will fit into the rotation. The Hogs have done well as building depth along the line, and when Brian Wallace and Frank Ragnow join the unit this summer, it will only get better.  This is what you call "a nice problem to have."

It’s certainly an intriguing spring for the offense. Plenty of storylines to follow. We can handle a lot of answers to these questions as long as those answers include "get better."

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