New Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema will have his work cut out for him in season one in Fayetteville, especially on offense. The Razorbacks return just four starters from last year, when they finished 12th in the Southeastern Conference in total offense. This from a team that was ranked in the Top 10 nationally heading into the season, before the disaster that was the 2012 season.
Not only are seven starters gone, but those seven starters were top-flight players. Included on the list are former All-SEC players like quarterback Tyler Wilson, tight end Chris Gragg, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and guard Alvin Bailey. In addition, Arkansas will have to replace running backs Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis.
Bielema is hoping that this “clean slate” approach might actually help his team. With very few returnees on offense, and with Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney installing a new offense, a lot of players will have a chance to win jobs that might have otherwise been unavailable.
Spring practice begins on March 10 in Fayetteville and Bielema will get a look at the talent that returns for the Razorbacks.
When camp begins in the fall, Arkansas will add 23 players from the 2013 recruiting class that was ranked 27th nationally by Rivals.com. Among those 23 players are four recruits who should be able to help out right away on offense.
Running back Alex Collins, once the dust settled around his recruitment, ultimately signed with Arkansas. The 5-11, 204-pound Collins will certainly have a shot to start as a true freshman.
Other four-star offensive recruits were: tight end Hunter Henry from Little Rock, Ark.; offensive lineman Denver Kirkland from Miami, Fla.; and offensive lineman Reeve Koehler from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Bielema’s journey in Pig Sooey nation will begin with the search to replace offensive weapons no longer with the program. If he can find those answers, his transition from the Big Ten to the SEC could be much smoother.