Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. Timing is tricky
It's hard to get all your ducks in a row, especially when you're not signing elite recruiting classes. You need some diamonds in the rough to thrive at the same time on both sides of the ball. You need your classes balanced so that one unit isn't rebuilding as another peaks. You need to peak in-season as the biggest games arrive.
In three years as Arkansas' head coach, Bret Bielema has cleared quite a few hurdles. He's won big road games, established a physical identity, clashed with colleagues, and provided quotes both maddening and wonderful. He has made an impact in all ways good and bad.
But he has yet to master the art of timing.
Eight programs have finished in the S&P+ top 15 in each of the last two years. But while Ohio State, Alabama, and Michigan State have combined for only nine losses in this span, and Baylor, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Stanford have averaged a 20-7 record, Arkansas is 15-11.
The Razorbacks began 2014 with a 3-4 record before hitting fifth gear, then began 2015 2-4 before doing the same. They have been one of the best November teams in the country but have sabotaged their goals with shaky Septembers.
2015 saw them solve one problem just in time to watch another emerge. A team with Arkansas' 2015 offense and 2014 defense would have had an S&P+ rating of plus-28.1; that would have ranked second in the country last year. But just as the offense hit its cruising altitude, the defense sputtered.
So for the second straight year, the Razorbacks had to settle for knowing they were very good, without the record to prove it.
Residing in the toughest division in college football, while playing solid non-conference slates, hasn't done them any favors. It might be nice to know you are taking on the best, but winning more than eight games is nice, too. In two years, the Hogs have played 12 games against teams that finished with at least nine wins. That they've won five is proof of their caliber. But that means they've still lost seven others.
So does this cycle ever end? In the most competitive environment, can Bielema ever break through with the type of win totals he managed at Wisconsin (12 wins in 2006, 11 in 2010 and 2011)? And if so, might it happen in 2016?
In a way, the answer depends on assumptions. In terms of experience, perhaps the biggest questions the Razorbacks have to answer this year are at running back and on the offensive line.
Arkansas' identity is premised around bruising running backs and a meaty offensive line; if we assume a Bielema team will have quality options in these two areas, then everything else could fall into place. Arkansas will be starting a new quarterback, too, but returns its top four wide receivers and a big-play tight end. And the defense has all of the experience it didn't have a year ago -- six of the top seven tacklers on the line, every linebacker, and eight of the top nine defensive backs return.
Experience alone doesn't dictate quality, but it helps, and Arkansas will have plenty of it. But the running game drives the bus, and if there is any major drop-off there, then that could gum everything up. At the least, it could lead to another slow star.
If there's a massive breakthrough coming, it probably won't happen in 2016. This might be another "clear quality and five losses" season.
|Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 11 | Final S&P+ Rk: 15|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|26-Sep||vs. Texas A&M||34||21-28||L||54%||35%||-3.2||+0.5|
|7-Nov||at Ole Miss||5||53-52||W||56%||17%||+12.5||+12.0|
|2-Jan||vs. Kansas State||81||45-23||W||88%||99%||+5.8||+11.0|
|Points Per Game||35.9||27||27.4||68|
2. If Bielema ever fixes the shaky starts...
In 2014, Arkansas' average percentile performance was 71 percent for the first seven games of the year and an incredible 91 percent for the final six. Last fall, the Razorbacks didn't quite hit the same elite level late in the year, but they came awfully close. And they did so after starting even more slowly.
- First 4 games:
Record: 1-3 | Average percentile performance: 67% (~top 45) | Yards per play: Hogs 7.0, Opp 6.5 (+0.5)
- Next 5 games:
Record: 4-1 | Average percentile performance: 73% (~top 35) | Yards per play: Hogs 6.7, Opp 6.2 (+0.5)
- Last 4 games:
Record: 3-1 | Average percentile performance: 84% (~top 20) | Yards per play: Hogs 6.8, Opp 5.5 (+1.3)
Now, these starts are only so shaky. Arkansas outgained Toledo by nearly 200 yards in one of the flukier losses of the season, and while the performances against Texas Tech and Texas A&M left something to be desired, the fourth loss in the 2-4 start was by 13 points in Tuscaloosa (minimal shame in that). And it followed a win in Knoxville.
Still, for the second straight year, Arkansas was far better late than early. That would suffice if the schedule was harder late than early; instead, it's hard throughout. And with September games away from home against TCU and Texas A&M, nothing changes in 2016.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||51.7%||2||Succ. Rt. +||134.2||1|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||28.0||29||Def. FP+||26.6||11|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||5.3||5||Redzone S&P+||134.5||1|
|Q1 Rk||2||1st Down Rk||2|
|Q2 Rk||1||2nd Down Rk||3|
|Q3 Rk||5||3rd Down Rk||7|
3. They added a deep ball
The 2014 Arkansas offense was rugged, physical, and mostly effective. But the Razorbacks were either unable or unwilling (or both) to stretch the field with the deep ball. That meant opponents could keep most of their defenders near the line of scrimmage, which rendered the run game relatively inefficient.
This also allowed opponents to adapt as a game wore on; Arkansas ranked third in first quarter S&P+ and 12th in Q2 but plummeted to 60th in Q3 and 82nd in Q4. To say the least, that can make a difference in close games against good teams, and Arkansas lost in overtime to Texas A&M, by one to Alabama, and by seven to Mississippi State and Missouri. (For more evidence of this, see 2015 Tennessee.)
The offense was good, but as adaptable and solid as coordinator Jim Chaney can be, when he left for Pittsburgh, he left successor Dan Enos with a clear way to improve things.
To his everlasting credit, Enos did just that. Arkansas completed 24 passes of 30-plus yards in 2015 (27th in the country), up from 10 (114th) the year before. In 2014, the top six wideouts combined to average 12.8 yards per catch; in 2015, that improved to 15.3.
That made all the difference in the world. Despite losing 2014 leading rusher Jonathan Williams to injury in the offseason, then losing leading receiver Keon Hatcher two games into the year, Arkansas improved from 15th to second in Off. S&P+. Meanwhile, the quarterback in charge of the No. 1 Passing S&P+ offense wasn't Deshaun Watson or Jared Goff or Baker Mayfield -- it was Brandon Allen.
If you are good enough at establishing an identity, you probably know how defenses are going to try to defend you. That gives you a chance to counter punch. Under Enos, Arkansas both maintained a run-heavy identity and mastered every counter. (Enos also used end arounds and jet sweeps for misdirection on occasion -- three wideouts combined to carry 15 times for 165 yards.) And even with a new quarterback, the Hogs will do so again in 2016 ... if they can establish the run well enough.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Austin Allen||6'1, 209||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8950||1||3||35||1||0||33.3%||0||0.0%||11.7|
|Rafe Peavey||6'1, 203||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8844|
|6'3, 214||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9602|
|Ty Storey||6'2, 212||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9088|
|Cole Kelley||6'7, 258||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8485|
|Kody Walker||RB||6'2, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8568||90||394||6||4.4||3.2||40.0%||2||0|
|Rawleigh Williams III||RB||5'10, 223||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8659||56||254||1||4.5||5.1||28.6%||0||0|
|Jared Cornelius||WR||5'11, 212||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8441||7||112||2||16.0||15.3||71.4%||0||0|
|Damon Mitchell||RB||6'2, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8333||4||29||0||7.3||2.8||75.0%||0||0|
|Dominique Reed||WR||6'3, 175||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8635||4||24||1||6.0||2.2||75.0%||0||0|
|Drew Morgan||WR||6'0, 193||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7891||4||20||0||5.0||2.3||50.0%||1||0|
|Juan Day||RB||6'1, 214||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8528||4||17||0||4.3||1.9||50.0%||0||0|
|Chris Jones||FB||5'11, 249||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Devwah Whaley||RB||5'11, 216||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9523|
|T.J. Hammonds||RB||5'10, 197||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9072|
|Hayden Johnson||FB||6'3, 248||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8380|
Williams' injury gave Alex Collins a chance to become the bellcow, and he thrived. Averaging more than 20 carries per game, he improved both his efficiency and explosiveness numbers, and while he still fumbled a bit too much, his fumble rate decreased, too.
He also left, drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks. And it appears three backs could be in line to split carries this fall: sophomore Rawleigh Williams III, sixth-year senior (and former fullback) Kody Walker, and four-star freshman Devwah Whaley.
Walker was a best-of-all-worlds back with good size and speed. Williams proved reasonably explosive in the open field but was dreadfully inefficient as a freshman. Walker was nearly as efficient as Collins but showed no top-end speed. Whaley might have both but is just a few months removed from prom.
Perhaps Williams will prove well-rounded with more experience, or perhaps Whaley really is ready from day one. (It should be mentioned that Walker has dropped about 15 pounds since last year, which could give him an extra boost in the speed department.) But this could turn into a situation where Enos must make pretty clear, situational choices -- Walker in short yardage, for instance. That can make the offense a bit more predictable.
The run game is where the other major question mark emerges. Enormous all-conference tackles Dan Skipper returns, as does starting guard Frank Ragnow (who appears to have moved to center). But the other three starters are gone, and since Arkansas has been mostly injury-free up front, no one else has really factored into the first-string with any regularity.
There's still plenty of size and talent up front. Among the 10 non-starters listed below, five were four-star recruits per the 247Sports Composite, and four are listed at 318 pounds or (much) larger. And Bielema inked two JUCO transfer to make sure this unit wasn't too green.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Drew Morgan||WR||6'0, 193||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7891||80||63||843||78.8%||22.3%||10.5||58.8%||66.2%||1.55|
|Keon Hatcher (2014)||WR||6'2, 207||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9017||78||43||558||55.1%||22.5%||7.2||44.9%||52.2%||1.51|
|Dominique Reed||WR||6'3, 175||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8635||47||28||535||59.6%||13.1%||11.4||51.1%||46.8%||2.36|
|Jeremy Sprinkle||TE||6'6, 256||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8677||45||28||408||62.2%||12.6%||9.1||73.3%||53.3%||1.61|
|Jared Cornelius||WR||5'11, 212||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8441||36||24||393||66.7%||10.1%||10.9||55.6%||61.1%||1.78|
|Damon Mitchell||RB||6'2, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8333||7||6||84||85.7%||2.0%||12.0||85.7%||57.1%||2.21|
|Cody Hollister||WR||6'4, 209||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8069||5||4||65||80.0%||1.4%||13.0||60.0%||80.0%||1.30|
|Deon Stewart||WR||5'11, 164||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8545||3||1||4||33.3%||0.8%||1.3||66.7%||0.0%||0.00|
|Anthony Antwine||TE||6'4, 222||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Cheyenne O'Grady||TE||6'4, 251||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9172|
|Will Gragg||TE||6'4, 254||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9160|
|Austin Cantrell||TE||6'4, 269||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8647|
|La'Michael Pettway||WR||6'2, 216||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8616|
|Jordan Jones||WR||6'1, 184||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8666|
|D'Vone McClure||WR||6'2, 219||Fr.||NR||NR|
5. If the run works, the pass will work
I shouldn't understate the importance of the quarterback change, but I think the passing game should be fine if the run game is doing its part.
Veteran Austin Allen (Brandon's brother) has been around for a while and has by most accounts had an excellent offseason. And he basically has two No. 1 receivers returning: Keon Hatcher was Brandon's security blanket before suffering a foot injury last year, and Drew Morgan exploded in Hatcher's absence. They're both back, and the next two wideouts on the list (Dominique Reed and Jared Cornelius) combined for 928 receiving yards at a whopping 11.2 yards per target in 2015.
Plus, while the prolific Hunter Henry is gone, that just means more opportunities for Jeremy Sprinkle, who emerged as a major target over the second half of the season; after catching 13 passes over the first eight games, he caught 14 for 167 in the last five games. And there are quite a few talented young tight ends on the roster to back Sprinkle up.
This might be putting too much faith in the younger Austin, but the potential quality of the passing game might give Enos a chance to lean on the pass while the run game gets its sea legs.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Sebastian Tretola||LG||13||24||2015 All-American, 2015 1st All-SEC|
|Dan Skipper||LT||6'10, 319||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8625||13||34||2015 2nd All-SEC|
|Frank Ragnow||C||6'5, 319||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8913||13||13|
|Johnny Gibson||LT||6'4, 344||So.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Zach Rogers||RG||6'1, 306||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8863||0||0|
|Jake Raulerson||RT||6'4, 301||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9432||0||0|
|Brian Wallace||RT||6'6, 335||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9574||0||0|
|Hjalte Froholdt||LG||6'4, 318||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9339||0||0|
|Jalen Merrick||RT||6'4, 327||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9057|
|Colton Jackson||LT||6'6, 300||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8637|
|Paul Ramirez||RG||6'6, 299||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8517|
|Deion Malone||LG||6'3, 296||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8337|
|Jake Heinrich||OL||6'4, 295||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8954|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||47.9%||119||Succ. Rt. +||91.1||99|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||33.0||12||Off. FP+||33.6||9|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.8||104||Redzone S&P+||90.3||107|
|Q1 Rk||80||1st Down Rk||87|
|Q2 Rk||106||2nd Down Rk||120|
|Q3 Rk||93||3rd Down Rk||24|
6. Bouncing back from a collapse
While the Southwest Conference became known mostly for offensive innovation and scoreboard fireworks, Arkansas was based on defense during Frank Broyles' long run.
But the identity the Hogs have established over the last decade has been a little bit different.
In the last 10 years, Arkansas has ranked in the overall S&P+ top 20 six times; Houston Nutt, Bobby Petrino, and Bielema have utilized different styles but have put major offensive talent onto the field all the same.
The defense has been a constant drag on the Hogs' prospects. In this 10-year span, the Hogs have only three times ranked in the Def. S&P+ top 35. They surged to sixth in 2014 with a dynamic run front that featured end Trey Flowers, tackle Darius Philon, and linebacker Martrell Spaight, but all three left, and the 2015 defense simply couldn't match the same level of firepower.
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith had the same immediate impact in 2014 that Enos had in 2015, but it all fell apart last season. The Hogs fell from 11th in Rushing S&P+ to 59th and from 26th in Passing S&P+ to 115th. The Razorbacks were able to slow down limited offenses -- Tennessee managed just a 106.7 passer rating, Auburn 118.6, Missouri 51.7, and Kansas State 108.0. But good passing games wrecked shop. Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State combined to complete 83 of 113 passes (73 percent) for 1,234 yards, 10 touchdowns, and one interception. Passer rating: 192.6.
To the extent that inexperience was an issue last year, it won't be this fall. The front seven is loaded with mostly juniors and seniors, and the freshmen and sophomores that populated the secondary are now sophomores and juniors. Now we'll see if there's enough actual quality in the pipeline.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jeremiah Ledbetter||DT||6'3, 280||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8919||13||39.5||5.9%||7.5||2.0||0||1||0||0|
|Deatrich Wise Jr.||DE||6'5, 271||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8785||13||24.0||3.6%||10.5||8.0||0||3||3||0|
|Tevin Beanum||DE||6'2, 284||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8206||13||20.5||3.1%||7.0||2.0||0||1||0||0|
|Taiwan Johnson||DT||6'2, 284||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8980||13||20.0||3.0%||5.0||1.5||0||2||0||1|
|JaMichael Winston||DE||6'4, 260||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8596||13||15.0||2.2%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Karl Roesler||DE||6'1, 256||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||13||9.5||1.4%||3.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Bijhon Jackson||DT||6'2, 335||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9622||12||5.0||0.7%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Armon Watts||DT||6'5, 293||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8535||11||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Brandon Lewis||DT||6'4, 274||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8450|
|Daytrieon Dean||DT||6'3, 281||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8547|
|T.J. Smith||DT||6'3, 285||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8294|
|Michael Taylor II||DE||6'3, 245||So.||NR||NR|
|McTelvin Agim||DE||6'3, 289||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9868|
|Austin Capps||DT||6'4, 309||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9133|
|Briston Guidry||DT||6'3, 294||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8983|
|Jonathan Marshall||DT||6'4, 299||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8595|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Brooks Ellis||MLB||6'2, 245||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8682||13||73.5||11.0%||8.0||1.5||1||3||0||1|
|Dre Greenlaw||WLB||6'0, 226||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8522||13||70.5||10.5%||3.5||1.0||0||1||2||0|
|Josh Williams||SLB||6'1, 249||Sr.||NR||NR||5||10.5||1.6%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Dwayne Eugene||WLB||6'1, 235||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8244||9||8.5||1.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Harris||MLB||5'10, 239||So.||NR||NR||12||7.0||1.0%||1.0||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Khalia Hackett||SLB||6'2, 223||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8358||13||7.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kendrick Jackson||MLB||6'1, 255||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8398|
|Alexy Jean-Baptiste||LB||6'2, 231||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8564|
|De'Jon Harris||MLB||6'0, 255||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8547|
|Giovanni LaFrance||LB||6'1, 255||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8497|
7. No push
The run front was a strength of the 2014 unit; Arkansas ranked fifth in Adj. Line Yards, 34th in power success rate, and ninth in stuff rate. In 2015, those rankings fell to 23rd, 123rd, and 46th, respectively. The Razorbacks were still reasonably invasive but were pushovers in short-yardage situations. Meanwhile, they basically had a one-man pass rush -- if Deatrich Wise Jr. wasn't getting to the quarterback, no one was.
In theory, there won't be any more short-yardage oomph in 2016. Perhaps enormous tackle Bijhon Jackson is ready to play a larger role, but the top two returning tackles, Jeremiah Ledbetter and Taiwan Johnson average just 282 pounds. They are quick and active but don't pack a lot of mass. But short yardage only matters if your opponents are creating third-and-2s instead of third-and-6s. The front seven is full of veterans and could indeed be supplemented by youngsters like Jackson and blue-chip end McTelvin Agim. If Arkansas can get back to make serious waves against the run on first down, short yardage won't matter as much.
Of course, you still have to stop the pass, too.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Henré Toliver||CB||6'1, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8700||13||49.0||7.3%||4||0||1||8||0||0|
|Josh Liddell||FS||6'1, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8341||13||40.0||6.0%||1.5||0||2||3||1||0|
|Jared Collins||CB||5'11, 173||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8432||13||36.5||5.5%||0.5||0||1||9||1||0|
|Kevin Richardson II||NB||6'0, 178||Jr.||NR||NR||13||33.0||4.9%||0||0||1||3||0||0|
|Santos Ramirez||SS||6'2, 205||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8482||12||28.5||4.3%||0||0||1||3||0||0|
|DJ Dean||CB||5'11, 199||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8249||12||28.0||4.2%||1.5||0.5||2||3||0||0|
|Ryan Pulley||CB||5'11, 198||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8327||10||8.0||1.2%||0||0||1||2||0||0|
|De'Andre Coley||SS||6'1, 214||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8163||13||7.5||1.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryder Lucas||DB||6'0, 190||So.||NR||NR||6||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Cornelius Floyd||DB||5'11, 176||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8392||1||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Reid Miller||FS||5'9, 197||So.||NR||NR||12||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Nate Dalton||FS||6'3, 190||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8449|
|Britto Tutt||CB||6'2, 177||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8367|
8. Experience will help, part 2
Eleven Arkansas defensive backs averaged at least half a tackle per game; seven were either freshmen or sophomores. Unless you're loaded with blue-chippers, that's going to hurt you. The cornerback position, fronted by Henré Toliver, Jared Collins, and DJ Dean (combined: 6 TFLs, four INTs, 20 break-ups), showed quite a bit of potential. But while the SEC is loaded with exciting safeties, Arkansas' were lacking in both play-making and play-prevention.
As with the defensive front, the Arkansas secondary lacks in size compared to its peers, but you can get away with that if you can take full advantage of your speed. The Razorbacks did not. And they really might have the weakest set of safeties in the conference.
|Toby Baker||6'3, 215||Sr.||43||41.2||2||16||15||72.1%|
|Cole Hedlund||5'10, 171||So.||4||32.0||0||0||0.0%|
|Cole Hedlund||5'10, 171||So.||58-58||8-11||72.7%||1-4||25.0%|
|Dominique Reed||KR||6'3, 175||Sr.||10||22.2||0|
|Jared Cornelius||PR||5'11, 212||Jr.||7||13.3||0|
|DJ Dean||PR||5'11, 199||Sr.||7||13.3||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||109|
|Field Goal Efficiency||118|
|Punt Return Success Rate||21|
|Kick Return Success Rate||122|
|Punt Success Rate||4|
|Kickoff Success Rate||106|
9. What of the legs?
Arkansas' special teams unit certainly wasn't boring last year. The Razorbacks had one of the most successful punters in the country in Toby Baker -- he averaged only 41 yards per kick but allowed few returns and almost no good returns. Meanwhile, Jared Cornelius and DJ Dean were both dangerous in punt returns.
Meanwhile, they stunk at pretty much everything else. Opponents got return opportunities on nearly every kickoff, kick returns were mostly ineffective, and Cole Hedlund was a freshman kicker who ... looked like a freshman kicker.
Hedlund's a sophomore now, and Baker and Cornelius/Dean are back. But Arkansas still has a lot to prove in kickoffs and place-kicking.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|24-Sep||vs. Texas A&M||25||2.8||56%|
|19-Nov||at Mississippi State||21||-1.9||46%|
|Projected wins: 7.3|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||21.5% (27)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||25 / 31|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||7 / -0.2|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+2.8|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||63% (37%, 89%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||8.6 (-0.6)|
10. All about the tossups
A 55 percent win probability at TCU; 56 percent against Texas A&M at Jerry World; 50 percent against Ole Miss at home; 48 percent at Auburn; 46 percent at Mississippi State.
I'm not sure there's a team in FBS that will have its fate and narrative decided more by 50-50 coin-toss games than Arkansas. The Razorbacks once again face an incredible schedule -- three games against projected top-7 teams, eight against the top 31 -- but the home-road split gives them only two likely losses. And even those games (32 percent against Alabama, 37 against LSU) are within reach.
There's a big season on the table here, but it will require the rebuilt run game to find its groove (and a potentially strong passing game to carry weight until then), and it will require the defense to not be absolutely awful against good pass offenses.
With just a little bit of variance in quality, Arkansas could be either 5-0 or 3-2 when Alabama comes to town and anywhere between 8-1 and 3-6 when LSU visits.