As college football teams begin workouts this week, it’s a time of optimism from sea to shining sea.
Even in the SEC. I actually heard someone from Ole Miss call a talk show this week that predicted a 10-2 record for the Rebels that included beating Alabama.
Seriously. That’s how crazy it gets.
Fans desperately want their team to win. They spend the weeks after SEC Media Days convincing themselves this will finally be the year.
Hope springs eternal.
And, to be perfectly honest, it’s hard to tell anything from the first days of fall practice. That’s because if players stand out from the crowd you never really know if it’s because they are that good or the backups they are doing it against aren’t.
If you’re looking for some deep insight to this year’s Razorback team here, I don’t have it. Bret Bielema doesn’t have it, either.
He spent over 20 minutes (longer than most Monday press conferences during the season, which is the longest of the week) talking about position moves and how high certain players can jump. In case you’re wondering, some of them can jump really high.
The two most important positions on the field, I’ve learned from coaches over four decades, are offensive tackles and defensive backs, particularly cornerbacks.
The Hogs have guys that look good in shorts and helmets at those spots, but so does everybody else. They may even look good in early scrimmages.
But how will they look against Texas A&M on Sept. 23? That’s the first real test. Oh, TCU on Sept. 9 might be a little exam, but what counts is what happens in the SEC games and the Aggies will be the first one of those.
Maybe the most promising thing about this team came during Bielema’s press conference and fans should really take notice of it.
In my opinion, experience is over-rated and a grasp from fans trying to convince themselves players get better the longer they stay. The reality is most don’t improve enough to make much of a difference from year to year.
“The worst thing to have is a bunch of players coming back from a six-win team,” legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant said one time.
Talent beats experience nearly every time.
Which is why one little nugget Bielema dropped is very, very important.
“The older guys better wake up,” he said in the first press conference of the season. “Some guys who have been here just three months have shown that they can get it right.”
For fans looking for a positive right off the bat, that’s it.
If the talent is equal, experience provides a little edge.
Last year’s national championship game proved that. Clemson’s junior quarterback Deshaun Watson beat Alabama’s rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts because, well, he knew how to win the game in the end. He had about 60 seconds worth of experience over a player nearly as talented.
A year ago, Watson was playing in the national championship game while Hurts was wrapping up a high school career in Texas.
For Bielema, who talks about fifth-year seniors in an effort to keep hopes alive as he enters his fifth season, the fact is he is recognizing that some newcomers may be better.
Which means the recruiting is better.
Which also means the team could be better.