Championships, accolades, trophy wins and perhaps another streak ended! That’s what Arkansas’ recruits, players, coaches and support staff have to look forward to as they bust into 2022 with a New Years Day bowl game in Tampa, (Fla.).
What does Arkansas have to specifically look forward to?
Jalen Catalon hasn’t been talked about much but he has the opportunity to come back if his draft grade comes back lower than he wants. The secondary did play well down the stretch. With Joe Foucha having another year of eligibility remaining and Myles Slusher’s return this could be one of the better safety groups in the nation.
How about this for an impact transfer?! The addition of Jadon Haselwood. THIS. THIS. MORE OF THIS! If Arkansas wanted to make a splash before signing day to continue momentum heading into the Outback Bowl, signing day and the offseason this is it. The Razorbacks add a wide receiver in Haselwood with sub 4.5 speed, a large catch radius and a monster when it comes to putting up YAC. Can they pull off more key transfers? It will definitely be something to watch.
There will be a young but very talented defense all around. If you like progression of the youngin’s in a program you’ll more than likely be pleased by a few on the roster. A trio of the more noticeable ones are Taurean Carter, Jashaud Stewart and Zach Williams. Both of them really came into their this season as second and third year players receiving quality snaps. Carter showed the ability to move himself around at defensive tackle/nose guard. Williams boasts an explosive ability to disrupt plays in the backfield. Richard Davenport of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette called Stewart violent when it came to the way he hit his opponents in high school. That’s translated well to the college level and will compete for playing time. These three will definitely play a role in the future of the Razorback defense.
A top 20 recruiting class coming to Fayetteville should also give this team, it’s prospects, staff and fans reason for more optimism. You cannot deny the speed at receiver that is coming in either.. Brining in Arkansas products Isaiah Sategna and Quincey McAdoo. These two are burners and two of the fastest players in the state of Arkansas.
“You can’t coach speed.”
That’s definitely true when you see players ability to get open on routes and getting behind their defender. Coach Kenny Guiton obviously focused on that during the offseason as the passing game became as explosive as any other quality offense Arkansas has produced since 2009. Sategna and McAdoo add plenty of speed to go along with sophomore-to-be Ketron Jackson, star in the making Warren Thompson, converted tight end Trey Knox and a very fast Bryce Stephens. There is plenty to be excited in that position group for ‘22. Replacing all-SEC receiver Treylon Burks will be key issue to be resolved during the offseason.
Then you have the lineman in the 2022 class are also the type many are used to seeing from Pittman and his offensive line staff. Andrew Chamblee (6’6 285), E’Marrion Harris (6’7 370), Patrick Kutas (6’6 303) and Eli Henderson (6’4 290) are your lineman of the future.
With key returnees like Dalton Wagner, Brady Latham, Ricky Stromberg (maybe?) and Beaux Limmer who were all starters this season, Arkansas has arguably the deepest offensive line he has ever coached. Add them in with current highly touted backups Marcus Henderson, Jalen St. John, Ty’kieast Crawford and Ray Curry, Jr. that definitively tell us that Arkansas is serious in the trenches.
When you look for a budding superstar on this team look no further than Jefferson at quarterback. He is the undeniable leader of not only the offense but whole team. It’s been stated that he is the vocal leader of the Hogs. Without question he will be the Razorbacks’ first Heisman contender in a very long time. His 26 total touchdowns this season are the most since Austin Allen in 2016. Jefferson’s ability to extend plays also give him the opportunity for the special “Heisman Moment” that is needed every season. Several times through the 2021 season Jefferson went crazy with his escapability, notably his touchdown to Dominique Johnson versus LSU.
Lastly, the three headed monster at running back spells issue for defenses around the country. Kendal Briles loves to establish a power run game early to set the tone in the first game. The Razorbacks are likely to return at least 70-percent of yards gained on the ground. Another year under the same staff will be beneficial for the Razorback rushing attack.
I could go all day but this Razorback team in 2022 could be the deepest and most talented one since the 2011 season. This could be a team poised to make a run for the College Football Playoff. A monster schedule that actually could benefit the Hogs where they play host to Cincinnati, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. There’s also key road games against Mississippi State, BYU, Missouri and Auburn but plenty of positivity remains.
Yes, it’s early and there’s still signing day, the transfer portal and NFL departures yet to be announced. However, optimism should abound for Hog fans even if we’re still scarred from the past decade. It is okay to dream of 10-win seasons again.
Jacob Davis is the managing editor of Arkansas Fight. You can follow him on Twitter for Razorbacks and other sports takes at @jacobscottdavis. Go hogs!