The following article is a piece I wrote for NFLMocks.com.
Fayetteville, Ark – The anticipation for Arkansas football over the last two years has been unmatched since the mid 1960’s and in no small part due to the tremendous amount of talent the Razorbacks have amassed on both sides of the ball and the explosive offense ran by the Hogs.
When college football fans near and far think of the Razorbacks the first thing most people think of is quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Wilson followed in the tough footsteps of his record breaking predecessor Ryan Mallett (New England Patriots) but carved his own path in 2011.
Mallett had a gun for an arm and unlike many collegiate quarterbacks he could make any throw on the field necessary with extra mustard on the pass to put the Hogs one play away from posting six on the scoreboard.
Much to the delight of Arkansas fans Wilson not only was able to replace Mallett but has gone on to set school passing records of his own (single game passing record 510 yards vs. Texas A&M) while eclipsing milestones not seen by any other Arkansas player during their tenure in the SEC (first Razorback to earn first team All-SEC at quarterback).
Wilson’s gutty play making places him as the highest rated Razorback with pro potential heading into the 2012 college football season.
At 6’3”, 220 pounds, Wilson has prototypical height and size for a NFL QB. His arm is above average and he has shown the arm strength to make every throw asked of him in Arkansas’ NFL style offense. His knowledge of the game and aptitude to read defense could make Wilson a first round draft pick in 2013.
NFL scouts love Wilson’s poise in the pocket and his ability to take a hit while delivering strikes down field to his receivers.
Wilson led an Arkansas passing attack that was first in the SEC in passing yards per game (300.7), total passing yards (3,909) while throwing 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
The downside to Wilson’s game is his penchant to take sacks, 26 in 2011, and his overall accuracy. He completed 63 percent of his passes during his junior season (third best in the SEC) while hanging tough behind an average offensive line.
Will NFL teams hold situational passing problems against the preseason All-SEC quarterback or be sympathetic to his situation?
Arkansas graduated three senior wide receivers from their 2011 team (Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, and Greg Childs) that accounted for 51 percent of the receiving offense (2,009 total yards).
Wright set a single season school record for receiving yards hauling in an SEC best 1,117 with 12 touchdowns. Who will Wilson turn to on the field to make up for that production and competence in 2012?
Knile Davis is the other potential Arkansas Razorback that could hear his name called in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft if all goes similar to his 2010 season.
In 2010 Davis, 6’0”, 226 pounds, led all SEC running backs with 1,322 yards and added 13 touchdowns complimenting then quarterback Ryan Mallett. An injury in late August of 2011 cost Davis his entire junior season.
After a redshirt season Davis is back to prove he can once again lead the SEC in rushing.
Davis is pound for pound the strongest Razorback player on the team. He is also among the fastest posting a 4.4 forty-yard dash during spring team competition drills.
The downside for Davis is he seems injury prone. Even though the injuries have not been questionable and each has been a complete fluke, NFL teams will poke and prod Davis during the NFL combine should the former All-SEC running back post another 1,000 yard or better season in 2012.
Arkansas has several other NFL prospects that should get drafted in 2013 starting with senior tight end Chris Gragg.
During a breakout season in 2011 after sitting behind Mackey Award winning tight end D.J. Williams for two seasons. Gragg hauled in 41 receptions for 518 yards with two touchdowns.
Wilson found a rhythm with Gragg towards the end of the year in 2011. The speedy tight end appears to be in line for an even better 2012 season with the loss of Arkansas’ “Big Three” receivers to the NFL.
Gragg, 6’3”, 236 pounds, projects anywhere from a low second round pick to a fourth round pick this early in the game. His pass catching skills are not what will drop him in the draft but his capacity to hold off SEC defensive ends and linebackers in the running game will elevate or lower his draft potential.
Another senior for the Hogs that should be a combine invitee is wide receiver Cobi Hamilton.
Hamilton has the size (6’3”, 209 pounds) that NFL offensive coordinators love. His speed is best after 5-10 yards making him a possession receiver with breakaway speed at the next level.
If Hamilton can show crisp pass route running during his senior campaign and steps into Wright’s role as lead receiver for Wilson, Hamilton’s draft status ranges from a low second round pick to a fourth rounder.
Look for SEC teams to double cover Hamilton until a serviceable second or third option becomes apparent within the Razorback offense. The extra attention could slow his numbers down until mid-season when Wilson connects with his talented underclassmen receivers. Scouts will look to see how Hamilton responds to the extra coverage.
Other Razorbacks with draft potential include senior linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius “Tank” Wright, along with junior offensive linemen Alvin Bailey (guard) and Travis Swanson (center).
Senior running back Dennis Johnson has an outside shot of being drafted due to his hard running style, 670 rushing yards in 2011, and All-American background as a kickoff returner in 2010.
How effectively Johnson is integrated into the offense with Davis coming back could alter Johnson’s draft status unless he breaks loose for another All-American season as a kickoff returner.
The depth of talent on the Arkansas defensive line is among the best in the country with D.D. Jones (Sr.), Robert Thomas (Jr.), Alfred Davis (Sr.), and Bryan Jones (Jr.) manning the defensive tackle positions.
At defensive end the Hogs were so deep former starter Tank Wright moved to linebacker spring practices to fill a void left with the graduation of Jerry Franklin.
Defensive ends Chris Smith, Trey Flowers, and junior college transfer Austin Flynn have NFL potential. All three could use one more year of seasoning but a breakout year from anyone of the three could see them off before their eligibility is used up.
All eyes will be on Arkansas and their NFL prospects come September 15. Alabama comes to town with a four game winning streak over the Razorbacks’ former coach Bobby Petrino.
Will John L. Smith be able to get the Hogs over the hump that his former understudy at Louisville was not able to accomplish? If Smith is able to take down the Tide in Fayetteville look for Razorback Nation to erect a statue of the one-year wonder before the season is finished.