If having a second-year head coach won’t get you excited for Arkansas football then I don’t know what will. Not only that, but how about the job Sam Pittman did in his first season with the Hogs? Did you see the difference in energy and effort from one season to the next? It was night and day.
Maybe the fact that two of the top coordinators in football are standing on the Razorbacks’ sidelines every Saturday will get your blood pumping. Barry Odom was one of the most sought after defensive coordinators in the country this offseason after an exceptional turnaround a season ago. Head coaching experience and a high FBI (Football Intelligence) will do wonders for a defense that was the laughing stock of the football world prior to Odom’s arrival. Not to mention, one of the brightest young minds in the game in Kendal Briles is ready to take Arkansas’ offense to a level that Hog fans haven’t seen since the Petrino family roamed the sidelines inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
You still think Arkansas is going to stink? How about a quarterback that proved he can light up an SEC defense? Put a signal-caller with the raw talent that KJ Jefferson possesses in a Briles’ offense that is wired to put up points and that equals entertainment. That alone should equate to wins, but we know at the very least it will make for some unbelievable moments.
KJ’s stats in his lone start last season against Missouri (FINAL MIZ 50 ARK 48): 18-33 passing for 274 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions…Also, a rushing touchdown on 13 rushing attempts for 32 yards…
You’re still not excited? I’ve gotten that a lot from Razorback fans recently. “Bleh, I don’t care. Show me the wins.” Well, let me reintroduce you to Arkansas’ own Treylon Burks. This Warren (Ark.) native can take over games from the wide receiver position with his shear physicality. Only one dude, a little guy named Darren McFadden, has demanded the attention of fans on the gridiron since the turn of the century more than Burks has. With two years of starting full-time under his belt, saying the sky is the limit for Burks may very well be an understatement. Not to mention, the Hogs also have a sleeping giant in Trey Knox at the other wide out spot, a shifty running back ready to carry the workload in Trelon Smith and a tight end with a legacy to protect in Hudson Henry.
Are you old school? Is defense the only thing that wets your whistle? The best player on the defensive side of the ball for the Hogs is Jalen Catalon, a safety. Talk about somebody with all the tools…Catalon is a ballhawk, he proved that last season. He is one of the better cover safeties in the SEC, he also proved that in his first full season playing every snap. Most importantly, the kid is an enforcer that can absolutely lay the wood. Put Brian Dawkins’ clone alongside an experienced duo of blood-thirsty linebackers with valuable years of experience between them in Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan, and you have got yourself a very solid defensive core.
Anything else I can say? How about experience and depth along the offense line? Yes, Arkansas lost some key players (see Jonathan Marshall and Feliepe Franks), but the Hogs are returning the bulk of their starters. Are there still some question marks surrounding the team heading into a season in which Arkansas will once again play the hardest schedule in college football again? Absolutely. However, for the first time in a long time, I see more answers than questions heading into the throws of summer.
If you follow the Hogs and you’re a glass-half-empty kind of guy or gal, then I’m in in no position to judge you. I’ve spend my entire career as a journalist covering disappointment on the football field. Generating excitement was never my job, but as a fan, I felt obligated to bring us together and give the football team everything we have to offer as one of the greatest fan bases in the nation. What follows? Failure after failure after failure. If you’ve given up, and you are unable to buy the hype after everything I’ve mentioned up to this point, I can’t blame you. That being said, give me one last chance to draw you in.
I’ve tried to type this out using my best Chuck Barrett or Bruce Buffer impression, but there is no other way to say this…the Texas Longhorns come to Fayetteville to play the Razorbacks on Sept. 11, 2021. If that doesn’t put the fire into your loins, then I give up. One of the oldest and most hated rivals of the Razorbacks with their hoity toity traditions will storm onto the Hill with the nation watching. Now, I don’t know why Texas football is still relevant, but they are tagged by national media as “back” due to Steve Sarkisian taking his coaching “talents” to Austin. The nation will be watching, and Arkansas will be in comfortable territory as the underdog.
I can already hear it on the airwaves for years to come, “The turnaround point for this program came on Sept. 11, 2021 when Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks took it to Texas on the national stage.” It’s music to my ears. There is no better way for Arkansas to reintroduce themselves and earn the respect that was thrown away by Chad Morris than to beat a perennial “powerhouse.” Not just any blue-blood program, freaking Texas.
There is no need to worry about the passion and hatred being there for these players after years of not playing the Longhorns. A lot of these guys were born in the Natural State, a place where burnt orange is considered the devil’s cloth. Not to mention, Pittman spent his high school years coming to camps in Fayetteville as an impressionable kid from Oklahoma. If anybody can ignite the spark, it’s Pittman.
Allow me to leave you with this…DWRRS will be at full capacity after a year (Stupid COVID) in which Hog fans were deprived of putting their passion into practice. Arkansas has a chance to turn things around and restore a once proud program against the Longhorns to ignite what could be a statement season. If you don’t care about THAT, you are absolutely not allowed to call yourself a Razorback fan.
P.S. If you can’t excited about the product on the field, at least look forward to the tailgate. I know that I’ll be there. It’s the first can’t-miss football game that we’ve experienced in what feels like an eternity.
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