1. In a season filled with disappointment, what's been the biggest let down for you this year?
Derek: The running game. Normally Arkansas has always had a strong running game, and the fact they've gotten nothing from that this year has been very disappointing. No 1,000 yard rusher for Bielema this year.
Jamie: The offensive line. Not only has it been a mess, but a mess that it seems like this staff has no idea what to do with.
Cody: My most candid response is that we beat Ole Miss and gave some hope of Coach B keeping his job. But to give only a slightly more insightful answer I will go with the overall talent on the team. With very few exceptions, it is clear his recruiting classes on campus are much worse than the consistent top 30 rankings they have received; or the coaching staff isn't good; or both.
Adam F: The offensive line. The pieces around Ragnow and Froholdt needed only be a little better than in 2016. Instead, the line is inexplicably worse. Part of the brand we were sold is that the offensive line would be top-tier, and it hasn't for two years now, with very little hope of that improving.
Jamie: I would say the biggest area would be the running game. Everyone knew the o-line would have struggles in pass protection again but the fact there has not been any consistency on the ground had been disappointing.
Eric: That it’s been another year where you had guys who were new to the program outperform guys who supposedly should have developed into better players. Instead some guys stagnate and a few have even regressed under the current coaching staff.
2. Simple question, any chance the Hogs get a win in the last three?
Derek: Honestly, no.
Jamie: Maybe Mizzou… but even that I expect to be a 4-6 point dog and will be relying on the team trying to rebound from the embarrassment of last season against them.
Cody: If Lloyd Christmas had a chance with Mary
Samsonite Swanson, surely Arkansas has a chance, right? Simple answer: Nope.
Adam F: Sure. Any of the three remaining teams are beatable. Reaching a bowl wouldn't be a huge surprise, although I'm not counting on it.
Jamie: Really all three are winnable with LSU highly unpredictable, Miss St not really having much to play for and Missouri showing up with a terrible defense. I think they can get at least one out of those three.
Eric: Ehhhhh. Missouri’s upswing is partly due to playing Idaho, UConn, and Florida, but no. I don’t trust this staff anymore.
3. Since the chance of a coaching search looks more and more likely each week, who have you been keeping an eye on as someone you'd like to see the Hogs go after?
Derek: Mike Norvell has obviously been the hottest flavor, although if I had just my personal preference, it'd be Mike Leach, just for the gold he provides on a daily basis.
Jamie: Norvell in Memphis for sure. Matt Campbell at Iowa State as well. If Jeff Long is the one who makes the next hire though, who knows… regardless of the outcome, Bielema was an unexpected splash of a hire.
Cody: I am probably of an unpopular opinion, but I think Charlie Strong is still well capable of coaching a power 5 school. He inherited a problematic team in Texas, which he immediately cleaned house of disciplinary problems (and presumably some talent). I can't imagine, given the same condition, that even the best of coaches would have had much success in three years. But alas, he made the bed and had to sleep in it. Considering all of that, he is doing well with a South Florida team this year that he received in much better condition. Though this year may be too soon I think he gets another opportunity to make a vertical move.
I also want to briefly throw in Greg Schiano (DC, Ohio State), but with the multitude of existing and prospective vacancies in the SEC alone I find it hard to believe he makes it to Arkansas.
Adam F: He's done an amazing job at Oklahoma State, but after another Bedlam loss, you have to wonder if Mike Gundy feels he's reached his ceiling in Stillwater.
Jamie: I really don't have any realistic names, and have become jaded toward the coaching search craziness. I would like to see an offensive philosophy that differs from what is currently in place and goes more toward what Alabama has over the last couple years. A power spread team that can still run the ball but uses the wealth of athletes at wr that Arkansas always seems to find. Or maybe completely shake up the SEC and hire a guy like Dana Holgersen, Mike Leach or Sonny Cumbie.
Eric: At this point I just want to have some fun on offense. Take a shot at Dino Babers and see if we can have some fun running RPO’s all day.
4. Moving on to Basketball, On the scale of 1-10, how concerned are you about replacing Moses Kingsley, Dusty Hannahs, and Manny Watkins?
Derek: I'd say a 5. I think Daniel Gafford will be a solid replacement for Kingsley, especially on the defensive end. Not as sure offensively. Replacing Hannahs shooting will be difficult, but C.J. Jones has a chance to take on some of that load. Watkins' energy and defensive prowess won't be easy to replace either.
Jamie: A 3 I guess… Moses more than anyone… we just couldn’t size up with teams down low last year and I’m not sure we’re better down low this year. I really think our 2 best players from last year are still on the team with Barford and Macon.
Cody: I'll go with 1, 8 and 3, respectively. Daniel Gafford is the real deal out of my alma mater El Dorado High School and may not be where Kingsley was the last two years offensively, but Gafford will be more physical and dominant on the boards. I don't see how you replace a guy that could shoot like Hannahs. If I were considering leadership and basketball IQ my level of concern would be much higher for replacing Watkins, but talent wins on this team.
Adam F: About a 6. It's a concern, but I'm not panicking. Kingsley is probably the biggest loss. Where's the low-post scoring going to come from this year?
Jamie: 6, Hannah's the most where he provided a solid threat from the outside and high percentage at the free throw line. Kingsley and Watkins provided solid defense and on the boards but I think that will be a little easier to replace.
Eric: I’m at a pretty solid 7. All three were crucial to the team in their own ways and that’s really difficult to replace. I’m excited for what Gafford brings but I look at this team and get really nervous about outside shooting.
5. Who is the guy you think will make the biggest leap forward from last season?
Derek: I think it's C.J. Jones. I think he could have an Anthlon Bell type jump. Kind of carry the team with his jump shooting at times.
Jamie: I’m not sure, but I really hope its Trey Thompson. He’s got the size to be a difference maker on the blocks and showed (limited) flashes last season, but we’ll need his best on most nights.
Cody: This may be just what I want to see more than what I think, but Trey Thompson could make as big a leap this year as he did last season. After excelling as more of a facilitator for the offense last year, I would like to see him use his size a little more down low this season and put in quality minutes in the paint on both sides of the ball. He can only go up from 2.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last year, and I think he rounds out his game his senior.
Adam F: For the benefit of the team, I'm hopeful it's Adrio Bailey. A dynamic 4 really changes the game for this team.
Jamie: I'd like to see Barford play with more consistency but the guy that needs to make a huge leap would be Trey Thompson. Whether it is hitting the boards or providing some sort of low post option, he has to make strides.
Eric: I really like what Adrio Bailey did in the last game against North Carolina. He’s not your typical low post guy but his versatility could be crucial, especially early with suspensions and injuries.
6. What's your prediction for how the season goes?
Derek: I said 25-6 on Twitter. That may be a little too optimistic. I'll temper the expectations a bit and say a repeat of 23-8, which will be more impressive than it was last year.
Jamie: A double bye (top 4) for the SEC Tournament would be a success, and I think they can (and should) be able to put that together this season. A birth in the dance ought to be a given and a single digit seed would be a bonus.
Cody: My expectations for this team are very high, and have been since Macon and Barford announced their returns. It hurts to lose a leading scorer and leading rebounder, but this is a very skilled veteran team adding highly talented youth, the perfect combination to stick around in the NCAA Tournament. 23-8 Overall, 13-5 SEC, a couple SEC tournament wins, Sweet 16.
Adam F: I think the Hogs once again finish higher than the SEC Media prediction, so I'll go 4th or 5th in the conference, which should be enough to make the tournament. I think once again they'll vanish from the national radar after an unspectacular run through the nonconference before figuring things out in late January/early February.
Jamie: Just beating the teams they are supposed to at home. Also getting a .500 record on the road in SEC games which would set them up to make a run on the SEC tournament again. Throw in a couple non conference rpi boosting wins and they could find themselves with a solid selection in March.
Eric: Somewhere pretty close to the 20 win mark. I really don’t think a lot of people realize how improved the SEC is. They could finish anywhere from 4th to 9th I think. Since I see 6-7 teams in the SEC making the NCAA Tournament there is a fine margin between a successful or bad season.