Arkansas Football: 5 Bold Predictions for 2013
Arkansas Bold Predictions
As the Bret Bielema era at Arkansas is about to unfold this weekend, very few people around college football know what to expect from Arkansas when that pigskin gets kicked off Saturday against Louisiana in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas fans are ready to forget about their team's 2012 horrible campaign that saw Bobby Petrino get dismissed and their team going 4-8 overall, 2-6 in the SEC with interim head coach, John L. Smith. After the disheartening 2012 season, Arkansas hired Wisconsin head coach, Bret Bielema to take over the Razorback program. Bielema, who was 68-24 in seven seasons, winning three straight Big 10 Titles in his time in Madison, takes over a program in shambles.
The Razorbacks offense will have an all new philosophy this season, transitioning from a prolific passing offense to a balanced, smash-mouth approach under new offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney. The Hogs will start a first-year starter in redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen to direct a offense that's lacking depth and playmaking ability at wide receiver. And the offensive line is transitioning from heavy pass blocking in the Petrino offense to more dominant run blocking in Bielema's new scheme. The defensive line will be the strength of the defensive as all four starters return from a season ago.
Arkansas built a winning program under Petrino, only to see it burn to the ground in 2012, but the new staff brings the opportunity for Arkansas to start fresh in 2013. The Razorbacks must endure a brutal four week SEC schedule this season with dates against Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama in consecutive weeks. The expectation that Bielema brings is to compete for national championships every season, but this season expectations should be to at least get to a bowl game.
See what possibly could happen in Bret Bielema's first season in Fayetteville.
5. Center Travis Swanson Wins Rimington Award
Hardly ever will you find an SEC team that’s best overall player is in the interior of the offensive line. The Razorbacks have no shame with Travis Swanson because he fits one of the most important positions with what Arkansas wants to do on offense. It’s great that Arkansas’ powering run game met its groom with Swanson.
Swanson has been named to the SEC media and coaches first team at his position. No matter who you talk to about Swanson, he still isn’t being considered as the nation’s top center. That should quickly start to fade, Swanson will become an All-American first or second teamer with his outstanding play in an eventual balanced offense of Arkansas. Swanson should overtake Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard and Kansas State’s B.J Finney for the nation’s top honor for a center. He will join Jonathan Luigs as another Arkansas center to win the award.
4. Hogs Will Feature One All-American
Arkansas’ physical play in the trenches in the SEC, possibly will make a lot of their starters stand out and will leave elbow room for someone to have a major splash the way J.J Watt did in 2010 for this coaching staff. Arkansas is going to have one of the league’s breakout performers, whether or not you know who it is, remains to be heard. The Razorbacks likely sources could be center Travis Swanson or defensive ends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers.
Smith and Swanson were named to the SEC media and coaches first team, stepping up to the dish even more might not be a chore for either one of them. The brand of offense football, Bret Bielema played at Wisconsin won’t be cut throat to the very same thing for the Hogs, but don’t lose sight at the opportunities that running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins will be given.
3. Hogs Will Beat a Top-10 Opponent
The style that Arkansas plays on both sides of scrimmage, lends a hand to staying into a ballgame late and keeping pace with better opponents. Arkansas has a chance with the nation’s toughest schedule to get a few bounces and come up with a shocking upset. You can talk until you're blue in the face about the notable four-game stretch, against Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama, that might be the hardest stretch ever assigned to a SEC team since the 1992 merger. All four of those teams will be ranked in the top ten when Arkansas meets them, so will LSU potentially in that Black Friday game.
It only takes one day that either one of those five teams don’t dot every "i" and cross every "t", and Arkansas ball-control style of offense and simple gap controlled defense starts a panic attack. Arkansas will play as hard as any team in the nation and will cut down on penalties and turnovers that has plagued them in years past. You will have to beat them based on pure athleticism.
2. Chris Ash's Defense Will Be in the Top 25
Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema hired present Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash three years ago, while at Wisconsin to defensive backs coach. Three years later, Wisconsin has gone to the three straight Rose Bowl games. In 2011, Ash became Wisconsin’s co-defensive coordinator and they ranked 13th in the country back to back years.
Ash will lead of the biggest surprises in the whole SEC, which will be Arkansas becoming a very tough defensive group, that doesn’t get scored upon in high bunches. It’s going to be a complicated procedure, Arkansas was 113th nationally against the pass and ranked at the bottom side of the SEC in overall defense last season. Yet, Arkansas’ number one defense in every scrimmage hasn’t allowed a single touchdown against Jim Chaney’s first team offense. Arkansas’ formula to win will not be what Arkansas fans have accustomed to the last five years.
1. Freshman RB Alex Collins Will Run for a 1,000 Yards
Collins, will prove this season to his mother that Arkansas was in fact a great choice for him. Collins, the once Miami commit was the number one 2013 running back prospect as a high school senior in the country by 24-7.com and the No. 57th overall prospect out of the ESPN 150. Collins ran for over a 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior season at South Plantation High School in South Florida.
Collins has already proved to Razorback spectators in Arkansas’ first team scrimmage, that even after just starting football in the 11th grade, he has the burst and raw athleticism to excel in a new scheme full of downhill running. Collins, and number one running back Jonathan Williams have to get an increased workload, with a first-year quarterback and three receivers out for a long period of time. No growing pains for Arkansas rushing offense and Collins.