As you guys know, Arkansas is coming off a 6-6 season. That doesn’t sound great (because it’s not), but they did get into a bowl game for the first time since their 2011 season. The Razorbacks had a very young team this year though. Coach Bret Bielema will be entering his 3rd year as Head coach for University of Arkansas. If you ask me, it takes two years for a coach to really settle in, and now most of the players in the locker room were recruited by him. I am expecting relatively big things from the team that has found itself at the bottom of the SEC west for the past couple years. Experience will propel this team to a very successful season next year.
First, I’ll talk about the experience that the Razorbacks have returning on the offensive side of the football. Their Quarterback, Brandon Allen, will be coming back for his senior season next year; their leading rusher, Jonathan Williams, will also return for his senior season. He went for 1085 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he isn’t even their best running back in my opinion. Sophomore, Alex Collins ran for 1024 yards and 12 touchdowns this year. Out of the top five leading receivers, four of them will be returning, the only one who will not be returning is tight end AJ Derby. The only other senior leaving the Arkansas offense is their right tackle.
Their Defense is losing five seniors, and that could be tough to deal with at the beginning of the year, but they do still have an SEC type recruiting class every year. With two cupcakes to start the season, the defense should be able to get on track for their week 3 match up against Texas Tech. That will be a huge test for the defense, and 3-0 start could give them a tremendous amount of confidence heading into SEC play.
Arkansas’ bowl game against the Longhorns is going to be a statement. These guys are good; much better than their record implies. They lost in OT to one of the hottest teams in the nation, in Aggieland, lost by 1 point to the big bad Crimson Tide, lost to a then undefeated Mississippi State team by one possession. Had the Razorbacks won those three games, they would have been deemed “elite.”
Williams is a very good running back, but it is time for Alex Collins to take over the reigns as the starter. I expect them to split time like they did this year (Williams had 188 carries and Collins had 187). But I am looking for those numbers to slightly tilt in the favor of the Sophomore from South Plantation High School in Florida. I project Collins to get upwards of 200 carries and Williams to get around 150. Collins is making a case for himself as the best running back in the SEC and I have hopped onto that bandwagon. These two talented backs leave Brandon Allen with one job: Don’t throw interceptions.
The Bottom line is that Arkansas hasn’t gotten the attention that they deserve. Next year will be a big year for them. I am not going to sit here and predict something silly like a national championship, but even with their very difficult SEC West schedule I will predict a 9-3 season for them next year with an upset or two sprinkled in there. They should also add a bowl win to make it a double digit win season; Arkansas’ first since their 2011 season that was capped off by a cotton bowl victory. Alex Collins is going to have a monster season, and I would be surprised if he passed on next years NFL draft to return for his senior season. Only time will reveal the answer to that concern.
Hog fans, circle your calendars. December 29th marks the coming out party for these men against Texas. Next year is going to be a fun one for you guys.
The rest of you college football fans, remember the name Alex Collins, if you don’t know it yet. It will mean something when Arkansas travels to Alabama and Ole Miss.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Blake Giusti