The 2014 Arkansas Razorbacks are a youthful squad; everyone knows that. The majority of the team’s top contributors are not seniors. There are a lot of underclassmen on the field. These Hogs have talent, but a lack of experience and a struggle to find depth led to Arkansas’ defeat at Auburn last Saturday.
Many expect the Hogs to have double digit true freshman contributors this season. Frank Ragnow, Bijhon Jackson, Randy Ramsey, and Henre' Toliver all played significant snaps in the opening game. Since this team is so young and is in search of depth, a key to the Hogs making a bowl game could be to continue to develop their underclassmen.
This Saturday, Arkansas takes on the Nicholls Colonels at Donald W. The Colonels are an FCS program on a similar losing streak as the Hogs and are coming off a sizable loss to Air Force. This weekend should be a perfect opportunity to rep the young guys.
Offensively, look for freshman wide receivers
JoJo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards to see a lot more reps. Robinson, a slot receiver from Miami, has shown flashes in practice. His Joe Adams-esque ability allowed him to take a short crossing route to the house in the Hogs final fall scrimmage. Consistency has been the obstacle for JoJo. (Editor's note: after this was written it was reported that Robinson would be held out of the game due to an injury suffered in practice when someone stepped on him.) Kendrick Edwards is a huge target at 6’6 and could certainly help Arkansas in the Red Zone.
On the offensive line, Frank Ragnow and Brian Wallace are expected to contribute. The coaches had indicated they would play against Auburn, but the coaches decided against it late. However, with all the talk this week about how many plays players should be able to play during a game, it's likely they'll play this week.
Freshman defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson, is a load in the middle of the line, but the coaches said he should only play 10-30 snaps a game. Hopefully, he can see more plays this Saturday and continue to develop stamina. Arkansas’ starting defensive line is extremely talented, but depth needs to be developed.
The linebacking corps has the most young talent of any position. Randy Ramsey, Dwayne Eugene, and Khalia Hackett will all help Robb Smith’s defense this season. Ramsey played the most significant snaps last Saturday, but if he, Eugene, Hackett, and JUCO transfer Josh Williams can gain confidence and knowledge of the system, it could be huge for the Hogs as the season goes on.
In the secondary, Henre' Toliver will be the main freshman contributor. Toliver played as the number three corner last week and did a serviceable job. Arkansas’ glaring weakness in the secondary was at the safety position, though. Auburn had receivers running wild all day down the middle of the field. Backup safeties Josh Liddell and Deandre Coley will get meaningful reps this weekend and eventually be able to contribute consistently.
The Razorbacks need a win in the worst way to snap their 10-game losing streak. I don’t see that being an issue this weekend, but hopefully the Hogs play a clean game and execute on both sides of the ball. If Arkansas can get its underclassmen plenty of beneficial reps while still handily winning the game, this weekend will be a significant victory.