With 10 days till kickoff of the 2017 Razorback football season, I thought it would be a great time to pose, in order of importance, the 10 questions that are in need of being answered.
You didn’t think this would be on the list did you?
In spite of all the hype and hullabaloo surrounding senior signal caller Austin Allen, the facts are he just had a good, not great, year in 2016.
He must lower the interception total and get touchdowns when the Hogs enter the red zone (we’ll hit on that again later).
Also, the over 30 sacks last year are not all on the O-Line. Some of that is on Allen to make sure he isn’t holding the ball too long or is getting the line into the right protections.
The backups have almost no experience, so if Austin goes down, the season will go with him.
Allen must protect himself better because he got too close to missing game time last season and without him, no bowl game.
2. Special Teams
Arkansas hasn’t had a dependable kicker since Zach Hocker.
Honestly, the kicking game has been a tire fire since Bielema took over, with the exception of good punters and a Tretola pass for a 2-point conversion. It is really shown this is an after-thought and not a priority here.
If it is not addressed, look for the Hogs to drop more close games because of the inability to make a big kick to add to a lead or take a lead in a close ball game.
While this is the most experienced group, it is also the group that has disappointed the most.
Young guys like Chevin Calloway and Camren Curl are gunning for playing time to replace older vets who just simply cannot get the job done.
With youth comes inexperience and the new guys will get burnt a few times before they learn.
It could be a risk Paul Rhoads is willing to take in order to get better talent on the field as soon as possible.
4. Mental Fragility
Bret Bielema said at halftime of the Belk Bowl, with his team leading big over Virginia Tech that “it wasn’t going to happen again.”
You can’t even plant the kernel of the seed that it will happen again or it is going to come true. If you brain thinks something is going to happen chances are it will.
This team has said all the right things about using last year’s late season collapses as motivation and not dwelling on those failures but the truth is not even the coaches know if that is true or not.
Like a golfer, you never know if you are going to make that three-foot putt to win a championship until you stand up on that green and do it. They aren’t over the collapses until the have a big lead and don’t cough it up.
5. Offensive Line
This group was just not very good in 2016. Most of those guys are back.
This leads to the age-old football question: Does experience mean you are getting any better? While they were not totally responsible for the beating Austin Allen took last year, they carry most of the blame, in my opinion.
Now, they are struggling to get any sort of run blocking going in training camp … against the 2nd team defense! From the limited things I have seen, this group still has a ways to go before they become an average SEC offensive line.
Are we sure Denver Kirkland can’t come back for one more year?