Bret Bielema’s press conference should have just said “I’m just sick of losing, and I’ll turn this ship around”, and stopped there, but it didn’t. Instead, he told the world how he was irritated about fast-paced offenses and how they might endanger players’ safety, and all we here at SEC Football Blog could think was: “Is he that scared of the way the way it’s all changing?”. Anyway, will good things happen in 2014 for the Razorbacks and their suffering support base?

LAST SEASON

Bret Bielema’s first season for Arkansas was probably one he’d like to forget. The Hogs went winless in the SEC, and finished 3-9. And worse than that, Arkansas’ slide seemed to happen after Jen, Bret’s wife, tweeted the word “karma” out there after Wisconsin lost controversially to Arizona State on Week 2. A lot of the players in that loss…played for Bret and were recruited by him before he decided he wanted to take on a SEC role. The next week Arkansas lost laughably to Rutgers, and didn’t win a game after that (even though their schedule was really, really tough), with the two close games being a heartbreaking overtime loss to Mississippi State and a last-second soul-destroyer against LSU after Tigers QB Zach Mettenberger had gotten injured. Karma, eh?

OFF-SEASON

It’s been a quiet time for the police in Fayetteville, with no Arkansas Razorback getting busted by the cops for doing something stupid or even doing something really, really nasty.

Bielema did the only replacing, putting Robb Smith – who has NFL experience with Tampa Bay – in as DC, replacing Ohio State-bound Chris Ash. He also hired Clay Jennings as defensive backs coach from TCU, replacing Taver Johnson. Apparently he’s an ‘ace recruiter’. He also hired E.K. Franks as his new director of recruiting.

RECRUITING

Finished 30th in the nation and 11th in the SEC. Not too shabby if you think about the record. Prized recruits include top players in Arkansas and Missouri in DT Bijhon Jackson and OT Brian Wallace (both 4 stars). Highly-touted WR JoJo Robinson was also signed – although there was drama about an armed robbery charge (that later saw him cleared (It would have been ‘more SEC’ if he’d actually done it)). OT Frank Ragnow, QB Rafe Peavey and RB Juan Day were all highly-rated in their respective states.

AND NOW, THE LOW-DOWN ON ARKANSAS’ 2014 TEAM (AND YES, WE KNOW ABOUT THE SCHEDULE AND ITS BRUTALITY)

WHO’S GOING TO WIN THE QB RACE?

Brandon Allen is the team’s starting QB. While Peavey’s seen as the QB of the future, Allen’s the present. “Sit back and relax because it isn’t going to change”, Bielema said to fans questioning his logic of continuing on with a QB who had 11 starts, threw for 1,152 yards, 13 TDs, and 10 INTs, with a 49.6 completion percentage at SEC Media Days. Allen finished dead last in completion percentage in the SEC, and dead last in QB rating, too. Sorry, Hogs fans. This could be ‘Piiiiig Stinkie’.

AT RUNNING BACK, THINGS ARE BETTER

Sophomore Alex Collins was 8th in the SEC in total yards (1,026), and he’s a freak. We can’t WAIT to see more of him this year. Jonathan Williams is a pretty tidy back-up (10th in the SEC (900 yards)), too. This could be one of the best 1-2 punches in the SEC at the position. And yes, we’re serious. Redshirt soph Korliss Marshall can also expect to see the field. If Bielema’s strategy of ramming the ball down his opponents’ throats works, Arkansas could be pretty competitive.

WHILE AT WR, THINGS ARE WORSE

While we know TE Hunter Henry’s going to be a big-time target for Allen, you can expect Fr. WR JoJo Robinson to get thrown a lot of balls as a much-hyped receiver. Why? You don’t know if Demetrius Wilson and junior D’Arthur Cowan can stay healthy. JUCO Cody Hollister and new recruit Jared Cornelius will add some depth for a side that was last in the SEC in passing offense last year. Personally, we can’t wait to see Robinson play. He had well over 20 offers from schools while he was in high school, and he’s got 4.53 speed for the 40. If Allen can actually connect with his QB, this will be fun.

AND AT OFFENSIVE LINE…

Remember what we said about big, brutal offensive lineman at Wisconsin that helped the Badgers move the ball easily out of the RB position? Well, Bielema’s trying to replicate that at Arkansas. Transfer Cameron Jefferson (LG), Dan Skipper (LT), David Kirkland (RG) and Luke Charpentier (C) will provide the offensive line. Expect freshmen Ragnow and Wallace to provide ample competition in fall camp for a unit that’s getting deeper. Oh, and here’s a FUN FACT: Arkansas was the best team in the SEC in sacks allowed last year. You heard that right.

WHILE THE DEFENSE….

The defense, which gave up over 30 points a game and ranked 98th in the nation, may be much, much better in 2014. DE Trey Flowers can be excellent, but won’t he just be double-teamed by offensive linesmen? JaMichael Winston, Deatrich Wise and Brandon Lewis will all play at DE somewhere along the line, DTs Darius Philon and DeMarcus Hodge are OK, but may see their places usurped by top recruit Bijhon Jackson. Yep, he’s pretty talented. The linebacking corps will be led by JUCO Joshua Williams, and Martrell Spaight, who USA Today said: “..Should make a name as one of the hardest-hitting linebackers in the conference”.

Secondary-wise, Arkansas was the second-most-lousy in the SEC last year in terms of TDs given up (bar Texas A&M), 10th-words in yards given up, 11th in ypg, 12th in INTs….the list goes on.

Safety Alan Turner led Arky in tackles, and will be joined by Tevin Mitchell, Will Hines and DJ Dean at CB. We don’t have a lot of confidence in them.

THE SCHEDULE: EVIL

Aug. 30 – at Auburn
Sept. 6 – NICHOLLS STATE
Sept. 13 – at Texas Tech
Sept. 20 – NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Sept. 27 – vs. Texas A&M (Dallas)
Oct. 11 – ALABAMA
Oct. 18 – GEORGIA
Oct. 25 – UAB
Nov. 1 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 15 – LSU
Nov. 22 – OLE MISS
Nov. 29 – at Missouri

We expect Nicholls State, Northern Illinois (they’ve got a new QB), and UAB to all be victories. We don’t expect the Hogs to beat Auburn – even if the Tigers don’t have Nick Marshall. Or win at poisonous Texas Tech. Or beat Texas A&M (although it’s gonna be a shoot-out between two of the SEC’s worst defenses!). They’ll get slammed by Alabama, Georgia and LSU at home, and lose close ones to the two Mississippi teams. And then lose at Missouri and Maty Mauk. Alex Collins might well be one of the best running backs in the nation, but it won’t help Bielema, bearing in mind the poverty of his starting QB and receiving corps. 3-9 with another 0-8 season in the SEC. Bret, your hot-seat starts here.

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