Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Closing Time: The Petrino Era, Year 1

As I've had a few days to sit back, relax, and reflect on the Bobby Petrino era - year one. I've decided that I will live and that I can move on to basketball season without much regret or guilt on my shoulders on behalf of the football season that didn't quite live up to my humble 12-0 expectations.

Let's face it, the five wins could have easily been seven or eight on the bright side (Kentucky for sure, and it wouldn't have been hard for us to end up winning the Ole Miss game or at Mississippi State).

On the ugly side, the LSU win could have been a loss and had we not rallied in the fourth quarter of the first two games, we could have dumped one or both of those and finished with two or three wins. The five Razorback wins were only by a combined 16 points, whereas the seven losses were by a combined 127 points.

But, bah humbug! Let's think positive!

So, where does that leave the state of Razorback football heading into the '09-10 season?

I'm not going to proclaim a 12-0 season next year... yet. But, I will say this, I enjoyed watching the development of the young skill position players this season.

We all knew Michael Smith had some talent just from the brief glimpses we got a year ago when he would spell D-Mac and Felix on occasion. His share of nice runs and the emergence of Dennis Johnson the past few games looks promising. DeAnthony Curtis got a few carries throughout the season and should be included in the running back battle next season.

I told many at the beginning of the year that I wouldn't be surprised to see freshman Joe Adams as a top notch SEC receiver by the time he's a junior and maybe as soon as next season. DJ Williams (sophomore) should be a pre-season All-SEC selection next season and should garner considerable consideration for first team SEC honors this season after leading all tight ends in receiving yards, and finishing fourth overall in the SEC in receiving yards. Tight end Lucas Miller (the old man - a junior) will help man the tight end position as well, so we are solid there.

I thought freshmen Greg Childs and Jarius Wright got better throughout the year, and should only continue to improve further solidifying our receiver corp.

Nathan Dick (and maybe Tyler Wilson too) got just enough experience this season to make for a quarterback battle heading into spring, but throw Ryan Mallet in the mix and this offense (which finished fourth in total offense in the SEC this season) is a potentially very, very good offense in the making for next season.

But as we all know in the SEC (and in college football in general), games many times are won and lost in the trenches. The Hogs most definitely need to continue to develop and recruit good linemen. That will be a key factor in determining how good next year's team will be considering we are losing the planet's best center as Jonathan Luigs will be graduating.

Defensively, the Hogs were up and down and inconsistent at best. They finished dead last in total defense in the SEC. Hopefully, they can build off of the nice second half performance against LSU. I will say that my favorite player to emerge from the defense was Ramon "My Posse's On" Broadway (soph.) with Jerry Franklin (redshirt freshman) as a close second.

Junior Malcolm Sheppard finished fourth in the SEC with 7.5 sacks. Safety Matt Harris, a junior and son of legendary Dallas Cowboy Cliff Harris, finished fourth on the team in tackling despite starting only four games (he did play in all 12).

On special teams, we'll need to show some definite improvement. Let's hope this was just a sophomore slump for Alex Tejada who has a big-time leg, but missed a lot of field goals this season when he was the starter (just 4-9 on FG attempts this season). We'll have to replace punter Jeremy Davis who finished a respectable third in punting average (just over 43 yards per punt), and find some guys who can return kicks and punts.

(Maybe Coach Taylor will be available to join Petrino's staff sometime in the near future)

Coach Petrino had a first year that probably didn't match his expectations or the players' and even a lot of those in the Razorback nation. But, upon further review, with a new system, young players, and what he was left with, Petrino definitely earned a free pass this year. Let's hope that this year's free pass results in marked improvements next season and a bowl trip somewhere other than Shreveport.

Woo Pig Sooie!


Justin said...

We better put a clause in Coach Taylor's contract that he can't bolt back to Dillon when his wife and daughter decide not to move to Fayetteville with him.

DoubleK said...

As long as he brings Smash and Riggins with him to play here, I don't care where his wife and daughter live, and I say get Jason Street a scholarship and gamble that he will walk again soon and turn into an All-American QB for the Hogs.