Fayetteville, Ark. – As time for fall football practices draws closer Razorback Nation does not have to go far to read positive comments about the collective talent on the 2012 Arkansas Razorback football team.
Whether appearing on preseason watch lists or preseason All-SEC teams the Hogs are well represented across the board starting with 2011 All-SEC senior quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Wilson was named preseason first-team All-SEC along with junior running Knile Davis and senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton. Arkansas’ 2012 version of “The Big Three” were also named to the Maxwell Award watch list for the country’s best college football player.
Davis was a first-team All-SEC performer in 2010 after leading all conference running backs with 1,322 yards from the line of scrimmage. Despite missing the 2011 season due to an ankle injury, SEC coaches are well aware of Davis’ vast talent and potential entering the season.
Hamilton is the leading returning wide receiver from Arkansas’ prolific 2011 team. He posted 542 receiving yards during his junior season on 34 receptions for a 15.9 yard per catch average.
The departure of wide receivers Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, and Joe Adams to graduation has left an opportunity for several Razorback receivers to have breakout seasons in 2012. One of the beneficiaries should be preseason second-team All-SEC tight end Chris Gragg.
Gragg is the leading pass catcher returning to the Hogs after bringing down 41 receptions for a 12.6 yard per catch average. Gragg found the end zone twice during his junior season and found a rhythm with Wilson towards the end of last year. In a game against Mississippi State Gragg posted career highs with eight receptions for 119 yards with one score.
For the second time in three years the Razorbacks could have the best tight end in the nation on their team. Earlier this week Gragg was listed on the Mackey Award watch list for the top tight end in college football.
Dennis Johnson, a 2010 All-American kickoff returner, was named first-team All-SEC as an all purpose player.
Johnson holds the Razorback career record for kickoff return yards with 2,475. In 2011 Johnson was third in the SEC after posting an average of 25.6 yards per kickoff return on only 18 attempts.
Last year Johnson also led Arkansas with 670 rushing yards on 106 attempts, also a career high for Johnson. He totaled 255 receiving yards with a long of 31 yards for a touchdown against Auburn.
Guard Alvin Bailey and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith were also named second-team All-SEC.
Highsmith ranked third on the Razorbacks’ tackle list last year with 80 behind Jerry Franklin’s team high 101. Highsmith, a junior college transfer from Phoenix Community College (Ariz.), is the only returning linebacker for the Hogs in 2012.
Bailey, a junior, was an All-SEC selection at the end of 2011. Bailey and third-team preseason selection, center Travis Swanson, anchor an offensive line that should be much improved in 2012.
For the second year in a row Swanson was named to the preseason Rimington Trophy list as one of the top centers in the nation. The last Razorback to win the award was Jonathan Luigs in 2007 (also a consensus First-Team All-American in 2007).
Finding two other kickers or punters as good as or better than senior punter Dylan Breeding or junior place kicker Zach Hocker is hard to do but somehow the SEC coaches did placing the two on their third-team preseason lists.
Breeding had the highest punt per average in the SEC in 2011 (45.3). Anytime Arkansas needed to flip the field position Breeding delivered. On 53 total punts he covered 2,500 yards last year.
Hocker was tied for second in the SEC with 21 field goals made in 2011. He also posted the third longest field goal in conference hitting a much needed 50 yarder against Vanderbilt on a grass field on the road.
After finishing his freshman season without missing an extra point, Hocker missed two attempts in 57 tries, second best to LSU’s Drew Alleman’s 62 successful kicks.
Breeding was named to the Ray Guy watch list for the best punter in the nation for the second year in a row and Hocker was named to the Lou Groza Award list for the best kicker in college football.
Arkansas placed 10 players on the Coaches’ Preseason All-SEC team second most to LSU and Alabama with 11 team members recognized on each squad.