2009 Arkansas Razorbacks Football Preview
2008 Record: (5-7, 2-6)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Bobby Petrino (5-7 at Arkansas, 46-16 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Paul Petrino
Defensive Coordinator: Willy Robinson
Other Key Returnees: WR Joe Adams, DE Jake Bequette, LB Freddy Burton, DE Adrian Davis, LB Wendel Davis, OT Ray Dominguez, S Elton Ford, CB Isaac Madison, WR Lucas Miller, DT Zach Stadther, K Alex Tejada
Key Losses: P Jeremy Davis, QB Casey Dick, CB Jamar Love, C Jonathan Luigs, OT Jose Valdez, S Dallas Washington
Arkansas may have finished with a 5-7 record, but they still have momentum heading into the 2009 campaign. The Razorbacks finished the year by beating LSU and three of their final four losses came by just three points or fewer. Coach Bobby Petrino’s squad could have just as easily been 7-5 and playing in a bowl game and the whole team knows it. That is the goal this time around.
Ryan Mallett, a transfer from Michigan, is expected to be the best quarterback that Arkansas has seen in quite some time. Casey Dick was a decent signal caller, but Mallett can win games for the Razorbacks while Dick just did what he could not to lose them. With tight end D.J. Williams and receivers Joe Adams, London Crawford and Lucas Miller all returning, Mallett should be in for a big, big year. And the passing attack will get plenty of help from the rushers in the backfield. The diminutive Michael Smith ran for over 1,000 yards last year and there is plenty of depth behind him just in case his hamstring injury develops into a big problem. Dennis Johnson was the team’s second leading rusher last season, but recruits Ronnie Wingo and Knile Davis will also be in the mix, as well as USC transfer Broderick Green.
The offense is all well and good, but the defense was plain awful last year. The team ranked last in the SEC in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense. The front seven returns intact, but that might not be a good thing. The unit was extremely young last year and some improvement should be expected across the board, but somebody has to step up and become the leader of the unit. Sophomore linebacker Jerry Franklin is the likely candidate after leading the team in tackles last year. The lone bright spot, if one can really call it that, was in the secondary, but now strong safety Dallas Washington and cornerback Jamar Love are gone. There are some young playmakers like sophomore safety Elton Ford and junior corner Isaac Madison returning, but the unit needs to find a few more impact players.
The Bottom Line for the Razorbacks:
Assuming Mallett lives up to his hype, the Arkansas offense should be in good shape. In fact, now that Smith has emerged as an elusive running back, the Razorbacks could put up a ton of points in a hurry. The difference between a trip to a bowl game and another disappointing season will be the play of the defense. If they can improve and at least not rank last in the conference in total defense, this is a team that should make it to a bowl despite a tough schedule.
By Joel Welser
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