Football is almost back!
There is no advanced stats preview because, obviously, there are no stats to use for the season, but there are some things I’ll be looking for in the opener against Eastern Illinois. Here’s a look at a few:
- Cole Kelley on third down. As Bill Connelly notes, Kelley was a respectable 16 for 31 on third and long last season, despite half his attempts coming against Auburn and Alabama. Being able to keep drives alive with his arm is a quick way to guarantee gets all the snaps at quarterback moving forward.
- Protection up front. Arkansas gave up a ridiculous number of sacks and pressures in 2016 and 2017, and the offensive line still has major holes that will take a few years of recruiting and development to fill. But if Eastern Illinois can get constant pressure, that could be a bad sign for this season.
- LaMichael Pettway. The former Nashville star hasn’t produced much in Fayetteville, but he had a fantastic spring as is listed atop the depth chart at one of the receiver spots. I’m anxious to see if he’s ready to break out this year.
- Devwah Whaley. Whaley had a sophomore slump in 2017, falling to a meagre 4.1 yards per carry after a solid freshman year in 2016. If he starts looking more like 2017 Devwah, he’s got a whole host of backs (namely Chase Hayden and Rakeem Boyd) that could be ready to eat into his touches. But if he gets back on track this year, he makes the Hogs’ offense that much better.
- Santos Ramirez. As I noted in my preview of John Chavis’ defense, the Chief loves active safeties. Ramirez seems like a natural fit for his scheme. I want to see all the ways he lines and all the ways he impacts the game. Eastern Illinois hired former Texas Tech assistant Scott Parr to install an Air Raid offense, so the Hogs may need an active secondary.
- Gabe Richardson and Randy Ramsey. The Hogs will start two undersized pass-rush specialists at defensive end. It fits the mold of an aggressive defense, and Steve Caldwell cranked out some good ends during his first stint with the Hogs (2009-2011), so I’m excited to see what these two can do.
- Connor Limpert. Limpert was 8 of 9 on field goals last year, including the game-winner against Ole Miss. He’s earned a scholarship, but placekicking has mostly been a debacle on the Hill since Zach Hocker’s career ended in 2013. If he misses a kick inside of 45 yards on Saturday, listen for the loud “here we go again” groan throughout the stadium.
Anything else you’ll be watching for? Let us know!