Arkansas returns seven starters on offense and three on defense. It’s going to be a very interesting start to the game as most of then newer talent on defense are transfers and guys that have been in the system for 3-plus seasons.
What Arkansas does return is a lot of playmaking ability on offense. Passing and rushing return well over 75-percent of their production. However, defensively, the Hogs have many contributors returning but not as many starters with four.
Here’s how I grade the Razorback depth chart as we are now two days away from the season opener against Cincinnati:
I give this position group a B only because if Jefferson goes down with an injury, the Razorbacks would be in a world of hurt. There’s depth at the position with a few players having experience at the collegiate level. Malik Hornsby is going to be the backup and transfer Cade Fortin (USF) will be ready if anything ever happens.
Jefferson alone gets an A+ due to his efforts last season. Over 3000 total yards and 27 touchdowns give him the hype he deserves, a darkhorse Heisman candidate who can do it on the ground or the air.
Repeat for these other positions, though they don’t have to be quite as long. Let us know, though, who they can’t live without and which backup is the key, might force his way into more playing time, etc.
Running Back: A
This group took a slight hit with the departure of Trelon Smith this past offseason. But, the emergence Rocket Sanders and Dominique Johnson provide their team with a solid 1-2 punch, lighting and a lot of thunder.
Sanders has transformed his body into what looks like a bonafide SEC running back. Think Alabama size for Sanders at 6’2 230 pounds. Johnson returns as the bell cow at around 6’2 245 pounds. He doesn’t have all the speed but his jump cuts and ability to break tackles with ease gives the Hogs everything you want out of your backfield.
Wide Reciever/Tight End: B-
Based off of college experience, expectations and a couple of highly regarded true freshmen this is a solid grade.
Arkansas will trot out a very tall, physical group of wideouts against Cincinnati who all stand 6’3 or above. A pair of transfers in Matt Landers (Toledo) and Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma) will start in week one. Both of them have exceptional skills with Landers height and sipped plus Haselwood’s yards after catch out of the slot.
Pittman has been very high on them throughout summer practice but can they put it together on the field? We will soon find out.
Offensive Line: A
Should I have given them an A+? Well, they had to replace their left tackle this season since Myron Cunningham had his eligibility expire. Insert Luke Jones (6’5 327 pounds) who’s played plenty of snaps throughout his college career. He started his career at Notre Dame and has played on 23 games for the Razorbacks.
Returning starters Brady Latham, Ricky Stromberg, Beaux Limmer and Dalton Wagner round out the unit that led all of Power Five football programs in rushing last season at 227 yards per game.
Defensive Line: C-
A huge question mark you could say after losing their main three starters from last season. Arkansas doesn’t lack for experience though with Eric Gregory, Zach Williams, Jashaud Stewart and Isaiah Nichols all returning but this time as starters.
Don’t discount the abilities of transfers Jordan Domineck (Georgia Tech) and Landon Jackson (LSU). They are both huge additions to the defensive end room for a team that wants to improve its pass rush.
Also, Arkansas State transfer, Terry Hampton (6’3 305 pounds) will be a key cog for plenty of reps. He has a lot of college experience with the Red Wolves and has the SEC size. Is he ready for significant playing time?
Notable underclassmen include Nico Davillier and Cam Ball could also play a few snaps providing Arkansas with quality depth.
Bumper Pool and Drew Sanders could end up being one of the best duos in the country. Chris ‘Pooh’ Paul and Jordan Curtis are quality back up and will have a significant role when rest is needed for the starters.
Defensive Back: A
Myles Slusher, Jalen Catalon, LaDarrius Bishop and Dwight McGlothern are important names to know in this room. They are some of the best players in the Southeastern Conference.
The speed on the backend could pay off this year for a program looking to take the next step in college football. If the defensive line can find a semblance of a pass rush this season it could prove the point above.
Don’t forget about Hudson “Hud Island” Clark. When Arkansas plays in the zone he is a solid tackler in space. It’s been said by Pittman that he had a solid camp. Could this be his breakthrough?