Dan Enos is Facing a Similar Situation that Robb Smith Faced with the Arkansas Razorbacks Defense Last Year


The Arkansas Razorbacks fans came into 2016 with high expectations and a preseason top 25 ranking, thanks in no small part to the dominant play by the 2014-2015 Hogs defense led by Robb Smith. The defense couldn’t recover from losing so many starters. Can Dan Enos and the Hogs offense continue to thrive?

Arkansas Razorbacks fans are nothing if not optimistic. Last year, the Hogs lost several NFL caliber players off their defense, and the results on the field were evident. The defense was last in the SEC in pass defense, and didn’t have much of a pass rush.

Looking back, that should have been so surprising, but the hype around Robb Smith was huge after his first year. He had the Arkansas defense playing and looking as good as any unit we’ve seen in the last 2 decades in Fayetteville.

Feb 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks tight end Hunter Henry catches a pass during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks tight end Hunter Henry catches a pass during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

But upperclassmen were the key elements of that unit, and they were gone for 2015-2016, and it showed. Smith is a very good coach, but the talent had been depleted and it would take another year to build it back up.

The situation surrounding Robb Smith last year is frighteningly similar to the one Dan Enos is facing for 2016-2017. Enos turned a run first offense that had struggled on third down and in overtime into a conversion machine that won big games in pressure situations. He went from being an unknown hire to Hog fans to being the best OC we’ve had in 10 years.

However, just like Smith last year, Enos has lost A LOT of talent in major positions. Brandon Allen, Alex Collins, Johnathan Williams (who Enos never even had, technically), Sebastian Tretola, and Denver Kirkland all ended up in the NFL, and Kirkland was the only one not drafted. It was one of the best offensive draft classes for the Hogs in some time, and while that is exciting, it also leave massive gaps to fill across the unit.

More from Razorbackers

Is the Arkansas offense deep enough to fill all those holes? That’s the key question heading into 2016-2017. In my opinion, I think the offense will struggle in a lot of ways, especially early in the season.

Austin Allen is talented, but he has limited game experience. Kody Walker, Rawleigh Willilams, and true freshman Devwah Whaley have the talent to be a great running back unit, but none of them have been featured in an SEC offense before. Walker is the most unlucky person I’ve ever seen when it comes to injuries, Williams didn’t get to finish last season due to injury, and Whaley is a true freshman.

What can we realistically expect from them on the field? Add to that the loss of an All-American lineman in Tretola, and an All-Conference lineman in Kirkland. The Hogs bring back Skipper and Ragnow off of last year’s line, and the 3 replacement guys will have little to no game experience.

So, you’ve got an untested QB with some talented but previously limited running backs, all lining up behind an offensive line that only brings back 2 starters. I know I’ve been accused of being negative on social media before, but I think this situation is definitely a concern for Bret Bilelema, Dan Enos, and all of Hog nation.

It’s hard enough for Arkansas to replace players without them all being NFL quality guys. But the fact is, in the last 2 years, the Razorbacks have put 9 guys into the NFL draft, and several others onto NFL rosters. It’s hard to replace guys like that, especially when you’re coming off of a rebuild.

The Razorbacks won’t be rebuilding in 2016-2017. They are past that, thank goodness. They should definitely be going to a bowl game when the season ends. But don’t be surprised if the offense looks a little….underwhelming when the season starts. It shouldn’t be that surprsing if they struggle. They lost so much, and the roster just isn’t that deep yet.

But it’s getting there. It just takes time.