The Arkansas Razorbacks concluded spring practice on Saturday in front of a record crowd over 51,000 fans. Based on what happened during this scrimmage, it’s safe to say that the Hogs will return to the postseason in 2013.
A closer look at yesterday’s action will bear this out.
Surprisingly, the Razorbacks have picked up Bret Bielema’s power running game much quicker than I expected. Sure, the Hog running backs only averaged 3.3 yards per carry, but remember that they were playing against the first-string defense, which finished 19th in the nation against the run last year. Considering that the ground game gained more yards against the defense than LSU, South Carolina and Tulsa did last year, it’s tough to view Saturday’s effort as anything other than a victory.
Likewise, the passing game is in good shape, as both quarterbacks turned in a solid showing. Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell combined to complete 23-of-33 passes for 296 yards and two TDs. While Allen has a slight lead in the race heading into a fall camp, Mitchell has proven that he’s capable of moving the sticks as well.
In other words, don’t expect a huge drop off at the quarterback position this season.
However, the biggest surprise of the spring has been the play of the Arkansas secondary. I won’t sugarcoat it: the Razorbacks were absolutely awful against the pass last season, giving up a whopping 285 yards per game through the air. This spring has been a completely different story, as Chris Ash has transformed the Hog defensive backs into a bunch of ball hawks. In fact, the secondary picked off a total of five passes in the Apr. 6 scrimmage and Saturday’s Red and White contest.
Why’s that number important? It represents just one fewer interception than the Razorback secondary recorded for the entire 2012 season.
Make no mistake about it: Arkansas still has a long way to go in order to get back to the level it was under Bobby Petrino.
But based on the first 15 practices of the Bielema era, the Razorbacks aren’t as far away as people think. That’s got to come as welcomed news to a rabid fan base that’s eager to make it to a bowl game this season.
Terry Johnson is a college football writer for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TPJCollFootball, like him on Facebook and/or add him to your network on Google+