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Spring Football Five Questions: Arkansas

Doc Harper of Arkansas Fight fills us in on how things are going up in Fayetteville.

1. Another strong second half of the season for Arkansas -- did the momentum carry through to spring practice?

It's hard to say because the team lost so much on offense. The team didn't close strongly in recruiting, a lot of players were in green jerseys throughout spring or didn't practice at all.

I don't mean to make it sound like practice didn't go well. It seemed to go fine but I don't think they answered to many questions. They still seemed to be fiddling with the offensive line (we're replacing three starters). The defense looks better, but it's hard to say how much better. The defense was still good last year against traditional offenses like LSU, but struggled against spread teams, and we're not going to see how much they've improved when we only see them going up against Arkansas' offense.

2. The offense loses a ton, both skill players and in the trenches. Is Bret Bielema's program in position to transition quickly at this point?

I'm not as confident as some others are. I think people took Alex Collins for granted last year. There's reason to be excited about the new freshman running backs (four-stars Devwah Whaley and T.J. Hammonds) but it's not reasonable to expect a year like Collins had.

I think the Hogs will be fine at tight end. Jeremy Sprinkle flew under the radar playing with Hunter Henry but he's really good. Arkansas brings back all of last season's receivers, including Keon Hatcher who missed most of the year to injury. They feel great about that group. 

Austin Allen replacing his brother Brandon is the biggest mystery. It seems right now like he'll be fine. Brandon put up some pretty crazy numbers last year over the last few games. I don't expect Austin to reach those heights but he should be solid.

No one knows what to expect from the line. Even though that's what Bielema's known for, Arkansas hasn't met their recruiting goals for linemen the last few years so the depth isn't there right now. 

3. Any pleasant surprises through spring practice?

The quarterbacks (both Allen and his backup Rafe Peavey) seem to have made significant improvements. The defensive line seems really strong, particularly at both defensive end spots. Our top signee is defensive end McTelvin Agim, who enrolled early and made an immediate impact this spring. He's not listed as a starter now but it seems like he probably will be before long.

4. Any question marks or disappointments?

Plenty of question marks. Kody Walker was the only running back on campus expected to see playing time this fall, and he broke his foot in the middle of practice, so we really have no idea what to expect from the running game this spring - especially with the three new offensive linemen we'll be starting. Arkansas does bring back almost everyone on defense, but it was mostly in pass defense and the spring game was 1s vs 2s, so it's really hard to say how much better they might be. I expect them to be better, but we won't really know how much better they are until they play against TCU in Week 2.

5. Arkansas had some higher expectations last year, had that rough start but finished strong again. With 14 starters back, what are expectations for this season? Can the Razorbacks really expect to compete for the West Division?

I think there are too many questions on offense and too unproven on defense to compete for the West this year. If the defense makes a big jump with their experience and the offensive line comes together, that could change but it's how I feel right now. Most people seem to expect the win total to be pretty close to last year, not so much the five SEC wins, but the eight overall wins counting the bowl game. There's talent, but it's mostly all unproven except for the tight ends, receivers, and defensive line.

And kicking is definitely still a concern.