FAYETTEVILLE — It’s easy to scoff at the possibility of program that has won four games combined the past two seasons winning six contests in one year against a tougher schedule.
But it could happen though many things will have to fall into place for Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks. It won’t be easy to be among the teams in a bowl game following the 2020 season, but here’s five things that if they happened the Hogs might just be there.
Get Consistent Quarterback Play
Arkansas started five different quarterbacks in 2019 and have started eight the past two seasons. If that type inconsistency continues in 2020 then one can forget any chance at a bowl game. This isn’t to put it all back on the quarterbacks either there’s other factors resulted in their inconsistent play. But there’s no reasons to rehash all the things that have been discussed over and over for two years. The point now is the Hogs need one of the three returning quarterbacks or a newcomer to take control of the position and play so well the coaches can’t take them out. Here’s hoping Kendal Briles can develop the quarterbacks to the point they can show that type improvement.
Defense Be Much Improved
The defense hasn’t been good at all the past two seasons. Barry Odom has replaced John Chavis as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator. The defense has lost some key players such as Sosa Agim, T.J. Smith, Scoota Harris and Kamren Curl from last year so Odom has his work cut out for him. But several players that played last year will be a year older and Arkansas is also bringing in some recruits that may help in the fall. At this time, it’s know that Odom, Rion Rhoades with the linebackers and Sam Carter cornerbacks are the defensive coaches. Arkansas still has to announce a defensive line hire and there’s expected to be one more hire on defense as well. The coaches will have to get the defense to playing at a much higher level than it has in recent years. It won’t be easy, but it’s a necessity to get the team into discussion for a bowl game.
Get Ball in Hands of Playmakers
That was one thing that Briles did at Florida State. On Tuesday in the bowl game he was missing Cam Akers, who opted to not play, and it showed. He had very few offensive weapons to utilize. At Arkansas that won’t be the case. He will have senior running back Rakeem Boyd and wide receivers such as Treylon Burks, Trey Knox and Mike Woods to target. One suspects tight end Hudson Henry will burst onto the scene after redshirting in 2019 as a true freshman. Too many times in 2019 the main weapons on offense didn’t touch the ball as much as they should have. Hopefully that will change this fall.
Offensive Line Play Continue Improvement
The offensive line play in 2019 was better than it had been in the previous 2-3 seasons. It wasn’t where it needs to be, but at least it got better. The improvement came despite the Hogs losing one of their best linemen on the first day of preseason camp. Noah Gatlin tore his ACL in shorts and that was a blow. Pittman has got to get his strength coach put some weight back on the offensive linemen. They were too small this past season. Ricky Stromberg will return for his sophomore season and will be bigger and stronger. The Hogs will be missing Colton Jackson and Austin Capps, but should have the majority of the others back this fall. One suspects the presence of Brad Davis and Pittman will help the offensive line. Dustin Fry did a good job considering the situation he inherited in 2018 when the numbers were so low on the line they weren’t even two-deep. It’s hard to imagine a team associated with Pittman not being at least decent on the offensive line. In 2013 when he had to play two true freshmen, Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, out of position at guard the line still was competitive. It only got better each year until 2015 when it was one of the better units in college football.
Don’t Lose Winnable Games
While there’s no doubt the schedule is tougher in 2020 than it has been the previous two seasons there’s still winnable games on it. The non-conference schedule includes Notre Dame, but the other three are in Fayetteville. Teams such as Mississippi State, Missouri and Ole Miss are ones the Hogs should be able to compete against. One of these days the Hogs are gonna click on that last drive of the game and beat Texas A&M. It hasn’t happened since Bobby Petrino was the head coach, but there’s been several close calls with the Aggies in the past eight seasons. The past few years the Hogs were driving at the end with a chance to possibly win the game. It won’t be easy to win any of the games on the schedule, but if the Hogs show marked improvement in several areas it won’t be impossible.
Click here for 2020 Razorback Schedule.