Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks finally enter a new era as Brett Bielema was fired at the end of last season. Gone is the archaic offense that worked in the Big 10 but failed miserably in the SEC.
Imagine what it must’ve felt like being an Arkansas fan last season. Every single game your team runs the ball 40 times only to finish the season 4-8. That’s pretty much the definition of running into a brick wall and smashing your face in repeatedly without stopping.
Thankfully for the Razorback faithful, Chad Morris takes over for Bielema. Morris will be implementing a new spread offense this season which will be quite a breath of fresh air.
But will it be successful? The Razorbacks return everyone offense except for Austin Allen at quarterback and one offensive lineman which means they will have an embarrassment of experience for Morris to work with.
With the move to a spread offense I expect whoever wins the quarterback competition to put up respectable numbers. Arkansas returns their top 4 receivers from last season while running back Devwah Whaley is back as well.
Cole Kelley (6’7, 245 pounds) is the supposed favorite to win the job after respectably filling in for Allen last season. He has tremendous size and arm strength, but accuracy is still a question mark.
— SpreadOffense.com (@SpreadOffense) April 12, 2018
Overall, this offense will be much better than it was last season. The new spread offense will help whoever wins the quarterback competition, plus their incredible amount of experience will matter in close games. Brighter days are on the way in Fayetteville.
Like on offense, the Razorbacks return just about everything on defense. They only lose two defensive backs and a defensive lineman, so everything seems to be pointing up on this side of the football as well.
The big news on defense is that Arkansas will be shifting back to a 4-3 after playing a 3-4 last season. It’s obvious this change needed to have been made after the Razorbacks gave up 196 rushing yards per game.
Linebackers Dre Greenlaw and De’Jon Harris both totaled over 100 tackles in 2017 and will be looking to cause more damage in 2018. They are similarly talented players who play incredibly hard and fast.
? LB Spotlight ?
? De'Jon Harris – Arkansas ?
Last season Harris had 115 Tackles, 3.5 sacks, 8.5 Tackles for Loss and 2 pass breakups. Harris has the quickness, the awareness and tackling ability to put up even bigger numbers in 2018. Remember the Name!!! pic.twitter.com/BFsvxY5Myn
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) July 26, 2018
It will be very interesting to see how well Greenlaw and Harris perform in the new defense as they will be depended upon even more this year.
Overall, I see this defense improving this season. The change in schemes will give teams a different look from last season, plus it will give their best players more chances to make plays.
Best Overall Player
My vote for the most interesting player in the SEC goes to my pick for the Razorbacks’ best overall player: Hjalte Froholdt. And yes, I spelled his name correctly.
The crazy thing is that is his first name is actually pronounced “Yelda.” If you don’t believe me, here is the video evidence:
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) August 6, 2017
All jokes aside, Froholdt is a fascinating player. He is actually from Denmark of all places and stands at a massive 6’4, 315 pounds. He possesses NFL-ready speed and toughness at the guard position even with being so huge.
One thing that Bielema did correctly during his time at Arkansas was recruit very talented offensive lineman which is exactly what Froholdt is. He has made just about every preseason watch list for linemen this summer after making the All-SEC Third team in 2017.
Trumain Carroll: “If you had to describe a complete SEC offensive lineman, it would be Hjalte Froholdt”
— Tyler Cass (@5NEWSTyler) July 30, 2018
Froholdt will be one of the most vital pieces of the Razorback offense in what will likely be his last season in Fayetteville. Oh yeah, he can also dish out some great trash talk on the field as well:
Hjalte Froholdt ends some late-game trash talk by telling Mississippi State to check the scoreboard. pic.twitter.com/6LgPGWiZxD
— Jimmy Carter (@NWAJimmy) November 20, 2016
The talent level at Arkansas is still low when compared to the rest of the SEC especially in the West division. Morris has a lot of experience at his disposal, but there is a reason why the Razorbacks only won four games last year.
For crying out loud they only beat Coastal Carolina by one point in 2017. That speaks for itself. Their only other victories were against Florida A&M, New Mexico State, and Mississippi.
Their experience will help counter their lack of talent, but this team still isn’t ready to compete week in and week out with the top teams in this conference. Morris will need multiple seasons to recruit the type of players that can launch the Razorbacks back to near 10-win seasons.
I am high on the Razorbacks this season. I think they will be in the running for one of the most improved teams in the SEC, and I guarantee they will make a bowl game this winter.
Chad Morris addresses the media. “You can feel it in the air, everyone’s excited for football season” pic.twitter.com/UtSwRRIqDK
— Tyler Cass (@5NEWSTyler) July 30, 2018
Their nonconference slate should give them four victories considering the best team they play is Colorado State. In SEC play they get Mississippi, Vanderbilt, and LSU all at home and Missouri on the road. I really do think that the Razorbacks will find a way to win two or three of those matchups.
The blend of experience and new schemes from a team that won just one SEC last season will be a bit of a shock to the rest of the conference. Couple that in with the coaching talent of Morris and I think you have a recipe for a surprising season.