Arkansas Football: Player Predictions


With 16 returning starters to an Arkansas football team that finished 7-6, fans are pumped about the beginning of the season. They certainly should be under head coach Bret Bielema, whose brought toughness and character back to the program.

The Razorbacks play in the toughest conference in the country, but still remain a outside chance to take the SEC West in 2015. A year after playing all eight conference games against a top 25 opponent, the Hogs schedule doesn’t get any easier with road games against Tennessee, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss; all four inside the pre-season top 25 rankings. They also have a neutral site game with No. 20 Texas A&M at Cowboy Stadium.

What will it take to make a run at the SEC West title?

Nov 28, 2014; Columbia, MO, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen (10) throws a pass during the first half against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Catalyst – Brandon Allen

Quarterback Brandon Allen is the catalyst of the offense and the offense must dominate the time of possession throughout the season. Allen is the senior leader and must be poised and continue to improve like he has in each of his first three seasons at Arkansas.

Allen threw for only 2,285 yards in 2014, but tossed 20 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. Although he’s not relied on to pass often, he must complete his passes at a higher rate (56%) than last season.

I’m expecting Allen to have a spectacular season if he can stay injury free.

Prediction: Allen completes 60% of his passes

Nov 22, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks offensive guard Brey Cook (74) and staff hold back offensive lineman Denver Kirkland (55) after a play against the Ole Miss Rebels at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas defeated Mississippi 30-0. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Protectors – Denver Kirkland, Sebastian Tretola, Mitch Smothers, Frank Ragnow, and Dan Skipper

Running behind the biggest offensive line in the country is certainly a luxury for running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, but will the big boys be able to protect on passing downs? Moving the chains is key to owning the time of possession for the Razorbacks and tackles Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland will have their work cut out for them in third down situations. Despite leading the SEC in fewest sacks allowed, I’d say pass protecting was not one of Arkansas biggest strengths in 2014 and it will very important for these five to give Allen more time in the passing game.

Skipper has had some penalty issues in his first two years and Kirkland is making the move from guard to tackle in 2015. The coaching staff is obviously comfortable with the move of Kirkland, but I’m curious to see how he’ll move laterally against the speed of the SEC.

The core is great and I believe we’re the deepest at these positions, making Arkansas one of the best offenses in the country.

Prediction: allow the fewest sacks in the SEC and lead the nation in time of possession

Nov 1, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Keon Hatcher (4) cannot catch a pass against Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Jamerson Love (5) during the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The Spreader – Dominique Reed

Nobody really knows about transfer Dominique Reed yet. I have a feeling we’re going to find out quickly. Reed is a very lanky, gazelle like receiver with tremendous ability. He’ll be brand new to the offense come September, but I expect him to make strides quickly.

Reed probably won’t put up gaudy numbers at Arkansas, but his ability to spread the field will open up lanes for Mackey Award candidate Hunter Henry and leading receiver Keon Hatcher. He’ll also possess one of Arkansas’ only deep threats at 6-foot 4-inches tall.

Although he’s not an every down player, I’d expect the offense to take off when he’s in the game.

Prediction: 4 touchdown catches

Sep 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies running back Trey Williams (1) runs with the ball against Arkansas Razorbacks safety Rohan Gaines (26) and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr (48) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Contenders – Deatrich Wise, Taiwan Johnson, Bijhon Jackson, JaMichael Winston, Tevin Beanum, DeMarcus Hodge, Mitchell Loewen, Jeremiah Ledbetter

I’m calling this group the contenders because these are the players we need to succeed. The defensive line must play better than expected for Arkansas to be a contender in the SEC this season.

Taiwan Johnson and Bijhon Jackson should impress this season, but freshman Hjalte Froholdt could also make a major impact in the run stopping game.

Wise and Winston are slated as the team’s end starters, but don’t be surprised when Mitchell Loewen and Jeremiah Ledbetter see plenty of snaps. Tevin Beanum is also a scary specimen with attributes close to former Razorback Trey Flowers.

Although inexperienced a bit, the defensive line has shown great depth this Spring and will ultimately shape the Arkansas defense in 2015.

Prediction: top 6 in SEC in sacks

Nov 22, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Khalia Hackett (44) motions to the fans during the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas defeated Mississippi 30-0. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Surprise – Khalia Hackett

Brooks Ellis is the only returning starter from the linebacker position and he’s going to need a lot of help. My surprise this season will be Khalia Hackett. With Braylon Mitchell and Martrell Spaight gone, there’s huge shoes to fill and I believe Hackett has the tools to do so.

Josh Williams is slated as the middle linebacker for now and will likely man that position, but the duo will need to impress for Arkansas defense to rank among the fifteen best in the nation once again.

With Hackett’s physicality, I see him putting up tackling numbers that will impress the Southeastern Conference, making him a very underrated player heading into the 2015 season.

Prediction: leads the team in tackles