Four days after Mike Woods announced he was dumping Arkansas fans and hooking up with the Oklahoma Sooners, there’s still no absolute sense of closure on the whole thing.
Yes, we know that the transfer portal, on the whole, has helped Arkansas athletics more than it’s hurt them. The basketball program under Eric Musselman is Exhibit A here. And football has been getting in on the action in the last few days after getting commitments from two gargantuan defensive linemen.
But, for many, Mike Woods’ departure still simply feels wrong.
Sure, they know Arkansas returns plenty of talent heading into next season, but they disagree everything is going to be alright in the wake of Woods’ departure.
That was the general message to Arkansas fans in a recent video from college football analyst RJ Young. He said fans should “chill out” about Woods’ leaving for a few reasons including:
a) the Hogs still have plenty of offensive talent coming back to join some promising freshmen
b) the defense will still be salty under defensive coordinator Barry Odom
Well, we can throw that second reason out the window right now.
In today’s SEC football, if your offense isn’t sufficiently explosive, you can have a top three SEC defense and still get run out of town against half the teams in the league. The days of realistically hoping you can beat Alabama or Georgia, or even Auburn or Missouri, while scoring less than 25 points are over.
Arkansas needs a significantly more explosive offense than it showed in the second half of last season to get into any kind of quality NCAAF bowl game.
As Young sees it through his rose-colored glasses, even without Woods, Arkansas should be good enough to contend in any division in college football except the one it’s currently in. Indeed, he thinks if the 2021 Razorbacks were in the SEC East, they would compete with Florida for No. 2 behind Georgia.
But in his analysis Young brushes over some worries that many fans have about the Razorback offense in the wake of Woods’ departure.
Pig Trail Network’s Ty Hudson brought those concerns up in a recent video covering R.J. Young covering Woods’ decision. (Yes, the modern sports media world is meta madness.)
Hudson points out that Woods did more than just produce — he did so in a way that almost perfectly complemented the route running of Arkansas alpha receiver Treylon Burks.
“It was a big part of the reason why you were able to stretch the field out and why you had quarterbacks feeling pretty good about throwing the deep ball,” Hudson says in the below video.
“The separation that these two guys created between themselves and the corner or the defender was top notch going into the 2021 season... Your one and two receivers could be one of the best, not the best, in the SEC in the veer-and-shoot offense with Kendal Briles.”
Arkansas is skilled and deep enough at wide receiver to find a No. 2 behind Burks who will get at least 35 catches in 2021. Maybe that ends up being Trey Knox, De’Vion Warren, John David White, Jaquayln Crawford, Ketron Jackson or somebody else.
Regardless of who it is, there’s no shortage of candidates who could take that role.
The question is whether that next receiver will have the speed, balance and route running chops to help open up the offense as consistently as Woods did.
That’s a big wait-and-see. Knox seems like someone who is eminently capable but, as Hudson points out, will Arkansas get the 2019 or 2020 version of him?
True freshman Ketron Jackson has all the tools, but is on the mend from a knee injury.
De’Vion Warren showed out in the first half of last season before a season-ending injury ACL tear. Will he get back to where he was?
There are too many lingering questions for Arkansas fans to totally chill out about Mike Woods’ hasty departure. Not only about his replacements but about the timing of the exit.
If he knew he wanted to upgrade his draft status by heading to Oklhaoma, why did he wait until late April to do so? He could have left after a spring practice or two.
As Hudson asks: “Why wait until the end of spring camp, when other guys could have had the opportunity to run with the ones to get their opportunity to get in sync with KJ Jefferson, the presumed starter at quarterback?”
These are the kinds of issues that will gnaw at fans until Woods’ replacement does enough to show he won’t be missed after all.
For more on Arkansas fans and Mike Woods, see: Mason Jones Gets Blasted After Congratulating Mike Woods on “Smart Move” to Oklahoma