No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks
Published: Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 5:08 p.m.
Gatorsports counts down our Top 25 Preseason teams heading into the 2010 college football season.
No. 16 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
2009 record: 8-5, 3-5 in SEC (tied for 4th in West); beat East Carolina 20-17 in the Liberty Bowl
Returning starters: 8 offense; 7 defense
Strength: Offense. The Razorbacks are loaded, led by one of the nation's top quarterbacks in junior Ryan Mallett, who has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Arkansas is deep at running back, led by Ronnie Wingo (85 yards rushing, 34 yards receiving, two TDs in spring game), along with Broderick Green and Dennis Johnson. Arkansas also returns its top five passing targets from 2009 in Greg Childs (6-foot-3, 217 pounds), Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton and all-SEC tight end D.J. Williams. The group combined for 169 receptions, 2,901 yards and 25 touchdowns. Backup quarterbacks Tyler Wilson, Brandon Mitchell and true freshman Jacoby Walker all played well in the spring game, as Mallett sat on the sidelines recovering from February foot surgery. Arkansas only lost one offensive lineman from last season. This season's line, led by senior tackle Ray Dominguez (6-4, 329), is very experienced and should be one the SEC's best.
Weakness: Defense. With such an explosive offense, what separates this team from challenging the likes of Alabama in the SEC West is its defense, which in 2009 ranked last in the league in total defense (401.8) and pass defense (251.8). Giving up big plays, especially in the secondary, was the norm last year. Coach Bobby Petrino expects this unit to be much better with the return of cornerback Isaac Madison, sidelined all of last year because of a knee injury, and the addition of defensive line coach Steve Caldwell, who held the same position for 14 years at Tennessee under coach Phil Fulmer. Middle linebacker Jerry Franklin (6-1, 241), who led the team in tackles last season, also returns.
Biggest star: At 6-7, Mallett certainly has the size and the arm strength to challenge any defense. Last year he passed for an SEC-leading 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns and nearly led the Hogs to a road upset at Florida Field. Should Arkansas get off to a great start, look for Mallett's Heisman Trophy candidacy to pick up steam.
Rising star: Mitchell. The redshirt freshman showed his versatility in the spring game as a quarterback (69-yard pass) and lethal run threat (88-yard run). With good size (6-4, 220), expect Arkansas to find a way to get him on the field with Mallett or without.
Toughest game: Sept. 25 at home against Alabama. Should the Razorbacks upset the defending national champions, the race in the SEC West could become interesting.