Head Coach: Bret Bielema
2015 record: 8-5 overall, 5-3 SEC West
2015 Postseason results: Beat Kansas State 45-23 in the Liberty Bowl
2016 returning starters: 4 offense, 9 defense
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 130/1
Odds to win 2016 SEC Championship Game: 57/2
Odds to Win 2016 SEC West Division: 14/1
Regular season wins: under 7 1/2 -145 / over 7 1/2 +145
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The Arkansas Razorbacks began last season 2-4 but would rebound to win 6 of the last 7 games. In the second half of the season, the Razorbacks upset LSU and Ole Miss, the latter in a 53-52 shootout in overtime. The only blemish was a 51-50 loss to Mississippi State. Arkansas ended the season with a 45-23 win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.
The Razorbacks look to build on that momentum heading into 2016. However, they only get four starters back on offense for coach Bret Bielema.
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Arkansas had a balanced offense last year averaging 466 yards per game including 268 passing and 197 rushing yards. The Razorbacks scored 36 points a game. Only four starters are back for coordinator Dan Enos.
Quarterback Brandon Allen is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He threw for 3,440 yards with 30 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and also rushed for 107 yards with a touchdown. His younger brother Austin was his back-up the last two seasons and now takes over as the starter as a junior. There are four other quarterbacks on the roster but all are freshmen, none were listed on the second string on the depth chart.
Running back Alex Collins is now with the Seattle Seahawks after rushing for 1,577 yards on 271 carries with 20 touchdowns, and making 13 catches. The Razorbacks will use a committee of running backs to replace the workhorse Collins. The top two returning running backs are coming off injuries. Kody Walker suffered a broken foot in spring practice but is probable for the start of the season. He had 90 carries for 394 yards and 6 touchdowns. Rawleigh Williams III is coming off a neck injury and rushed for 254 yards and a touchdown last year. Damon Mitchell and star recruit Devwah Whaley will also get some carries. Kendrick Jackson will be the fullback.
Receiver Drew Morgan is back after making 63 catches for 843 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is coming off shoulder surgery but is ready for the season. Tight end Hunter Henry is now with the San Diego Chargers after making 51 catches for 739 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dominique Reed had 28 catches for 535 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is questionable with an ankle injury. Jared Cornelius had 24 catches for 393 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jeremy Sprinkle takes over as the starting tight end. He had 27 catches for 389 yards and 6 touchdowns. Keon Hatcher entered last season as the go to receiver but missed all but two games last year with a foot injury. He had 13 catches for 198 yards with 2 touchdowns, but he made 43 catches and 6 touchdowns in 2014.
The line gets right tackle Dan Skipper back along with Frank Ragnow who moves to center. Hjalte Froholdt moves from defensive tackle to left guard. The line only allowed 14 sacks last year.
Arkansas allowed 392 yards per game on defense, including 275 passing and 116 rushing yards per game. The Razorbacks allowed 27 points per game. Nine starters are back for coordinator Robb Smith.
End Deatrich Wise had 10.5 tackles for loss including 8 sacks last year. He will split time with JaMichael Winston at one end. Tevin Beanum and freshman McTelvin Agim will split time at the other end. Jeremiah Ledbetter and Taiwan Johnson will start at the tackles.
Linebackers Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw combined for almost 200 tackles last year. The problem was there wasn’t a lot of depth behind them. The Razorbacks look to address the depth issue by adding four high touted recruits.
The cornerbacks will be Jared Collins and D.J. Dean. The two combined for 79 tackles last year. Josh Liddell and Santos Ramirez will be the safeties. Henre’ Toliver will be the nickel back.
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Kicker Cole Hedlund made 9 of 15 field goals last year. Punter Toby Baker averaged 41 yards per punt. Cornelius will return punts and T.J. Hammonds will return kicks.
Schedule and Outlook
Arkansas opens the season at home against Louisiana Tech before a game at TCU, and then comes another home against Texas State. The Razorbacks play Texas A&M in Arlington, TX and Alcorn State in Little Rock. Arkansas hosts Alabama and Ole Miss. The Razorbacks then travel to Auburn before home games against Florida and LSU. Arkansas closes the season with road games at Mississippi State and Missouri.
That stretch in the middle of the season is brutal and the Razorbacks could lose all five games from Alabama to LSU even though four of those games are at home. That doesn’t leave them very much margin for error to even get to six wins and bowl eligibility. There are a lot of questions on offense with a new quarterback and running backs. I think the Razorbacks squeak into a bowl though.
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