FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is set to start Sam Pittman’s fourth season as head coach with several positives and questions surrounding the program.
Arkansas was 7-6 in 2022 after finishing 9-4 the previous year. The Hogs have won back-to-back bowl games under Pittman.
Here’s five positives and negatives at this time less than four months prior to the season.
Arkansas returns KJ Jefferson and that is a huge plus for them. In a year when Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and others are still, to varying degrees, searching for or replacing a proven quarterback that has to be a plus for Arkansas. LSU has Jayden Daniels back as does Mississippi State with Will Rogers. Not only is Jefferson back and set to start for the third season it appears the Hogs have improved the depth behind him. Jacolby Criswell moved over from North Carolina, Cade Fortin returns and true freshman Malachi Singleton seemingly has a very bright future. Last year when Jefferson missed two games the Hogs were in trouble. It’s expected Criswell could step in and give the Hogs a chance to win if Jefferson missed action.
Secondary Depth Concern
The depth in the secondary was a huge concern following the 2022 season and still remains so. The Hogs are searching the transfer portal for some options in the secondary, but the options appear to be somewhat suspect at this time. Add in the car wreck with Quincey McAdoo and the concern grows even more. Alfahiym Walcott, Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson and Jaheim Singletary are additions expected to play key roles. Johnson proved in the spring he can help. Walcott was out all spring due to injury, but he’s expected to be key starter in the fall. Singletary is coming over from Georgia and should also play a big role. The question about how much time McAdoo will miss enters the equation and that adds to the complications surrounding the secondary. Arkansas needs big seasons from Dwight McGlothern, Hudson Clark and Jayden Johnson plus the newcomers both from the portal and freshmen.
Offensive Line Needs to Gel
The offensive line has three new starters and even one returnee is playing a new position. Only Brady Latham at left guard expects to play the same position as last year. Beaux Limmer has moved from right guard to center. He got a headstart in that regard in the bowl game against Kansas. It appears that Joshua Braun and Ty’Kieast Crawford are in a battle at right guard. The tackles will be young and inexperienced, but the good news is they are talented. Young players such as Devon Manuel, Patrick Kutas, Andrew Chamblee and E’Marion Harris are all very talented just lack experience. That is something they will get this season.
Running Back Loaded
The running back position is deep and very talented. Jimmy Smith has done a great job recruiting running backs and keeping them in the program and out of the transfer portal for most part. Rocket Sanders returns for his junior season and is considered among the Top 3 at that position in the nation. AJ Green and Rashod Dubinion proved in the bowl game they can step in and the offense still thrive if needed. If Dominique Johnson is healthy he has proved he can thrive in the SEC. True freshman Isaiah Augustave will report this summer and is expected to be a very talented running back in the SEC. The Naples (Fla.) four-star was a standout in high school and chose the Hogs over a long list of options.
Defensive Line Could Dominate
The Hogs are seeking one more interior defensive lineman from the transfer portal. But they are deep at defensive end and getting Tank Booker inside was huge. The Hogs have such ends as Landon Jackson, Zach Williams, Jashaud Stewart, John Morgan III, Trajan Jeffcoat and Nico Davillier. Cameron Ball, Taurean Carter, Eric Gregory, Booker and others inside make this a very strong position. The Hogs are so deep maybe they can redshirt the talented incoming trio of Quincy Rhodes Jr, Kaleb James and Ian Geffrard. The 10 sacks in the final spring scrimmage weren’t a fluke. Deke Adams has his unit playing outstanding football and he is developing unbelievable depth.