While the Hoop Hogs are dancing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend, and the Omahogs are looking true to form as the #1 team in the nation, things are starting to heat up on the gridiron. Coach Pittman announced that Razorback Stadium will open up on Saturday for the public to get their first look at the 2021 team.
The Razorbacks are not the first team to open up a scrimmage like this to the public. Earlier this week, Mizzou also announced that they would be hosting their spring football game this Saturday in Columbia. This move will reap tremendous benefits as the Hogs are trying to ramp up their 2022 recruiting efforts before the summer starts to hit.
Large Boost to Recruiting Efforts
While the NCAA has extended the recruiting dead period through the end of April, recruits are still allowed to visit campuses on their own dime. They cannot interact with the coaching staff, which limits Coach Sam Pittman’s recruiting ability, but for the Hogs, just getting recruits to Northwest Arkansas can swing the odds in their favor.
While there is hope on the horizon that the NCAA will lift the dead period at the beginning of June, the football staff are wanting to get a head start on things, and an open scrimmage will allow recruits to see what the football team has to offer and give them a first-hand look as to how things are shaping up heading into their recruitment.
One of the recruits that will be in town this weekend is 4-Star Quarterback Braden Davis. Davis, 6’5”, 195 lbs, is a dual-threat quarterback out of Delaware and has all of the tools that you want out of a QB. The Hogs would receive a huge boost in their recruiting class if they can seal the deal for Davis.
Things I Am Looking For This Weekend
This will be the first look we get at the 2021 Hogs this season, and with some question marks surrounding the team, here are a few things to look for this weekend:
- Quarterbacks - Following the departure of Feleipe Franks to the NFL Draft, we should be looking at an aggressive quarterback battle that lasts through fall camp. Coach Pittman has already said that they are running with KJ Jefferson as the starter, but the battle is far from over. Freshman Malik Hornsby has made significant strides since getting onto campus, and with the addition of walk-on transfer Cade Renfro, KJ will have to battle, and battle hard for his spot. Regardless of what he did against Mizzou late last season, Coach Pittman is not the type to simply give someone a starting job for the heck of it.
- Offensive Line - Coach Pittman has made an entire career out of coaching up offensive lines, and during his first stint in Fayetteville under Bret Bielema, he had a front line that could rival the best teams in the nation. Last season, they battled through injury, and a shortened off-season to get big and strong for the 2020 season. This weekend, I want to see how each of the pieces of that unit has sized up since last season. Specifically, I want to see transfer Ty’Kiest Crawford and the impact that he can make on the field.
- Runningbacks - There hasn’t been another position group on the Hill with as much attrition as the runningback group, with Rakeem Boyd moving on to the NFL, Amontae Spivey transferring, and Josh Oglesby being injured all of last season. Trelon Smith was a bright spot in the backfield, and he will likely be getting the majority of the snaps in 2021. The freshman class looks bright though, with AJ Green and Javion Hunt looking really solid. Another piece is athlete Rocket Sanders, who has been moved to runningback. If you haven’t seen Rocket, think of Darren Mcfadden his freshman year. Sanders can play just about every position on the field, but he truly could be a Hog legend if he sticks to it with the other runningbacks.
- The Defense as a Whole - Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom had his hands full last season with a lack of quality depth across the board, but he has added some key pieces since the 2020 season started, and with the new additions, we could very easily see the defense throwing some different looks at opposing offenses this season. Last year, the defense basically sat back in a zone defense and had a bend-but-don’t-break mentality. That worked out really well, and it resulted in a lot of interceptions thrown (6 of them courtesy of Matt Corral and the Ole Miss offense), but it also led to teams with stronger offensive lines and veteran quarterbacks picking apart the zones and being unable to get off the field on third down. This season, I expect the defense to be stronger and more efficient and get off the field to give the offense a chance to score some points.