College football fans were witness to a car wreck of a season for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2012. It all started with the loss of their head coach Bobby Petrino under what could best be described as questionable circumstances. This put the entire program into a tailspin that wasn’t helped when John L. Smith replaced him. It was all downhill from there and long story short, the team went 4-8 in 2012 and big changes had to be made.
The biggest change for the 2013 Arkansas football team is the hiring of former Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema. Bielema comes in with a strong resume of success and the ability to recruit strong physical football players that fit his power system. Bielema has his work cut out for him as the cupboards are bare in terms of experience on this football team, especially at the skill positions. But what will Bielema’s new look Razorbacks really look like? Let’s take a guess.
The quarterback position is going to be missing Tyler Wilson, who is headed to the NFL, but this position is in good hands as sophomore Brandon Allen appears poised to take over and have success. Behind him is senior Brandon Mitchell who is bigger and provides nice experience at the backup spot. But make no mistake, this is going to be Allen’s team.
The running back situation is a slightly more questionable as the team’s top two rushers from last season are gone. So, the competition for which back or platoon of backs will carry the load for the Razorbacks. The top incumbent at this point is Jonathan Williams. Williams is an exciting player with good size and is really dangerous in the open field. He’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and looks to be to be the guy who can carry the load for the Razorbacks rushing offense. Beyond Williams, there are several young players who should vie for playing time, but I haven’t seen enough of any of them in any meaningful time to know if they will be able to supplant Williams, so at this point I have a feeling it’s going to be his show.
The wide receivers and tight ends on this roster did no one any favors last season. The only dependable target on the roster was wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and he’s headed to the NFL. The top two returning receivers are sophomore Mekale McKay and senior Javontee Herndon, and I think with some good coaching and some stability on the team, both will be able to really flourish. Both are big athletic targets who will really benefit from the system Bielema is going to put in. At tight end I consider it wide open between senior Austin Tate and sophomore Alex Voelzke. Tate is the bigger target, but Voelzke is more athletic and I won’t be shocked to see both players on the field next season at the same time.
The final piece of this puzzle is the offensive line. If there was a weak link in this chain last year, it might have been the play of this group. You can bet Bielema is going to work hard to make sure he’s got the five best players on the field for 2013. One thing Bielema likes are big, strong farm boys who can beat people up at the line of scrimmage, and by in large, the Razorbacks weren’t that last season. Seniors Alvin Bailey at guard and Travis Swanson at center at the only two jobs I can see as safe at this point. Spring is going to be telling for who wants to play and is willing to put in the work and earn their spots. Nothing will be taken for granted.
In the final analysis, I think this Razorbacks team will be ok. They are going to go through some growing pains early, but Bielema has some nice athletes on offense and if he can put together a good offensive line, guys like Allen and Williams will be able to move the football. There should be lots of optimism among Razorbacks fans, because this team is going to get better in a hurry.
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