Sunday, February 21, 2016
2015 Look Back/2016 Look Ahead: Arkansas Razorbacks
2015 Record: 8-5 (5-3, SEC West)
2015 Bowl: Liberty Bowl, Defeated Kansas State 45-23
What Went Right: For starters, the second half of the season was much stronger than the beginning. Arkansas won six of their final seven games to get to the Liberty bowl, and finished third in the SEC West, which nobody saw as a possibility with the way the played in the first half of the season.
Brandon Allen ended up passing for 3440 yards and 30 TDs, and averaged 264.6 yards per game on the season. Once the Razorbacks started leaning on him more, the team started winning around him.
Alex Collins was a machine, rushing for 20 scores on the season to go with his 5.82 yards per carry and 1577 rushing yards. The combo of Allen's passing and Collins' rush attack gave the Hogs something to build on during their run.
Drew Morgan became a star of sorts, catching 10 TD passes at WR, while TE Hunter Henry lived up to his billing by hauling in 51 passes for 759 yards.
Defensively, Arkansas held opponents to 24 points or less six times, and during those six games, they looked like a solid unit. Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw were tackling machines with 102 and 95 tackles respectively at LB. Deatrich Wise was a force on the line, picking up 10.5 TFLs, 8 of which were sacks. Greenlaw forced a pair of fumbles as well, while DB Jared Collins defended 9 passes. Henre' Tolliver added 8 pass defenses.
Punter Toby Baker averaged over 41 yards per punt on the season to be the star of the kicking game.
What Went Wrong: Ugly early season losses to Toledo and Texas Tech nearly derailed the Razorbacks in 2015. Arkansas was a team that, on paper, looked like they should have been able to compete for the SEC West title, but those early losses crumbled faith, and it seemed like the Razorbacks never truly believed in their ability until the season was half over, and that is when they finally turned on the jets. The offense stumbled early on, even when the defense was playing well, and that didn't help either.
The defense was largely hit and miss, and was one of the more frustrating parts of the season. Arkansas ended up in too many shootouts, and even though they won some big games that way, that's still not Arkansas football. In wins over Auburn and Ole Miss, Arkansas scored 54 and 53 points, but gave up 46 and 52. They also scored 51 against Mississippi State, but gave up 50. Luckily, Arkansas won all three of those games, but it was all luck in the end, and luck never lasts forever.
Special teams had their own nightmare in the PK game, as Cole Hedlund connected on just 9 of 15 attempts. True, he was just a freshman, but that number has to severely improve in 2016.
Looking Ahead: The Hogs may have missed their window. Allen and Collins are both gone, as is Hunter Henry on offense. There is little to no experience coming back at QB, and Both Kody Walker and Rawleigh Williams III combined for 146 carries in 2015. Morgan returns as a senior at WR, but who will get him the ball, and who will step up to take over the load the Henry carried? Other than Morgan, no other receiver caught more than 28 passes last season.
Defensively, the unpredictable performances have to be a thing of the past. Nobody finished with more than 2 picks last season, and only Wise finished with more than 10 TFLs. Those numbers are concerning heading into 2016, as the defense will likely have to make up for an offense that may be trying to find its way early on.
Special teams are a mess on the PK side, and that is concerning as well with an inexperienced offense coming back.
The non con schedule has some trickiness to it early with games against Louisiana Tech and TCU, but wraps with games against Alcorn State and Texas State.
2016 Projection: 5-7, No Bowl