Arkansas

Beware of the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2015

Jonathan Williams Arkansas Razorbacks

(Photo Credit: Whole Hogs Sports)

Don’t be surprised if the Arkansas Razorbacks win the SEC Championship in 2015.  As Bret Bielema enters his third season as the Head Hog, he has restored toughness, discipline and power to the team.  We had an opportunity to witness the type of team to expect this season in the final four games of last season and against Alabama.  The Hogs won three of their last four games last season, including back-to-back shutouts of ranked SEC opponents LSU and Ole Miss, and the team concluded the season by crushing Texas in the Texas Bowl—not allowing the Longhorns to earn even 60 total yards.  Let’s not forget Arkansas nearly defeated mighty Alabama, losing by only one point.  In every loss last season, the Razorbacks were close to winning and probably should have won each one of those close games.  In the Auburn game, the Hogs were tied with the Tigers at halftime.  However, former Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney abandoned the running game—the strength of the Arkansas offense—and the Tigers were able to capitalize on his misguided offensive strategy (or lack thereof).

The Year of the Hogs?

The Hogs are ready to win the SEC Championship this year.  Although the Hogs surrendered a few valuable defensive players to the NFL, the team returns the core of its offense, defense and special teams.  Last season, Arkansas had one of the best defenses and offenses in the nation.  Based on Arkansas having fundamentally the same squad it had last year, including some talented new players, we can expect the team to continue to improve and surprise many teams in the SEC and stun many college football fans across the nation.  The recently released pre-season coaches’ poll has Arkansas ranked as the #20 team in the nation.  However, Las Vegas gamblers—people willing to put their money where their mouths are—have Arkansas ranked as the #6 team in the nation.

When Arkansas Goes on Offense

Again, Arkansas has the largest offensive line in football: both college and NFL.  The offensive line is not only massive but also highly talented and athletic.  Arkansas has two of the best running backs, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, in the nation—arguably the best running back duo in the country.  This season the Hogs will feature a third solid running back, Kody Walker, giving the Razorbacks a three-headed monster rushing attack.  Bielema is committed to a power running game—just as he was at Wisconsin—and it’s paying tremendous dividends for him at Arkansas and will continue to pay even greater dividends for him this season and beyond.  With new offensive coordinator Dan Enos at the helm, Brandon Allen, Arkansas’ senior quarterback, seems to have made significant improvements during the off-season, and Enos has been a proven-leader in ameliorating passing games and producing quality passing games.  The success the Hogs will have on offensive will aid them immensely on defense as they’re bound to dominate the time of possession in most games this season.

A Tough but Doable Schedule

Again, the Razorbacks will have one of the toughest schedules to combat, but a few huge wins can propel them to the SEC Championship game and give them a chance to play in this season’s National Championship.  It will be difficult to defeat Alabama on the road, but remember the Hogs only loss by one point to the Crimson Tide last year.  Also, it will be difficult to go on the road and defeat Ole Miss and LSU, but remember the Hogs shutout both teams in back-to-back weeks last season.

Teams situated in the SEC West have to win big games almost every week and Arkansas understands this by now.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Arkansas

Open Letter to K.J. Hill: Recommit to Arkansas and Become a National Star

K.J. Hill Arkansas Football Recruit

(Photo Credit: Whole Hog Sports)

Hello, Mr. Hill:

The purpose of this open letter is to urge you (and cause others to urge you) to recommit to playing football for the University of Arkansas. You’re being heavily recruited by the University of Alabama and Ohio State University, but those teams are loaded at the wide receiver position. You, therefore, seriously run the risk of simply sitting on the bench your entire college tenure, squandering an opportunity to live up to your full potential on the football field and make it to the NFL. At the University of Arkansas, you will have the opportunity to emerge as a star, possibly your first season. Although all who follow college football know that Arkansas has a superior power running game—with the biggest offensive line in football (college and NFL)—the team is only an improved passing game away from winning national championships. Arkansas returns a tough defense, a defense that ranked #10 in total defense, holding Alabama to only 14 points and holding LSU and Ole Miss scoreless last season. You, Mr. Hill, will be the featured wide receiver at Arkansas. At Alabama and Ohio State, you will sit on the bench—no matter what the coaches at both schools are telling you right now.

If you’re unaware, one of the significant jobs in college football recruiting, especially among elite football programs, is to not only recruit the best and most appropriate players for one’s team but also to recruit players away from teams to prevent them from progressing. Unfortunately, this brutal recruiting game results in those players never being intended to be used. Nick Saban recognizes the great difficulties he faced against Arkansas last season, which resulted in many Alabama fans calling the team “mediocre” and questioning whether Saban is in decline. Saban understands that Arkansas’ physical play on both sides of the ball is a substantial threat to his team in the SEC West. You’re nothing more than a pawn in his recruiting game.

Urban Meyer and Bret Bielema simply don’t like one another. Meyer isn’t genuinely interested in you—he simply wants to recruit you to anger Bielema. Again, you’re nothing more than a pawn in Meyer’s recruiting war, and he knows his team could face Arkansas in the playoffs, which it’s really possible for both teams to make it there.

If you recommit to Arkansas, you will be just as important to the team as its power running game is to its success. Arkansas has a great tight end, Hunter Henry, who occupies the attention of every defense the team faces. While those defenses are focusing on Hunter Henry, they will open up even more touchdown opportunities and big plays for you. With the recruitment of big-time recruit, Will Gragg, a tight end, defenses will have to concentrate on him as well, allowing increased opportunities for you to gain separation from defenses that will attempt to defend you man-to-man.

Mr. Hill, I have worked for the University of Arkansas’ athletic department and I can honestly attest to the fact that the athletic department has some of the finest facilities in the nation, and you will receive some of the finest academic support inside of the athletic department in the nation. Don’t forget how important it is to have great academic support to maintain your eligibility to play. Too often recruits don’t ask those athletic departments what they’re going to offer them to ensure their academic success. In the academic support center in the athletic department at Arkansas, you will receive tutoring, training, support, and help with your academic work that will ensure your success. If you commit to Arkansas, I make a personal commitment to help you with every assignment you need assistance with completing.

In closing, Mr. Hill, I strongly urge you not to become distracted by offers by Alabama and Ohio State. Those offers are to have you to sit on the bench. Contact Bret Bielema today and make an unwavering recommitment to Arkansas.

I look forward to hearing of your recommitment to Arkansas in the coming days.

Best wishes,

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Arkansas

Arkansas’ Physicality Will Be the Difference against Missouri

Darius Philon

Darius Philon (Photo Credit: SW Times)

In the inaugural 2014 Battle Line Rivalry, Arkansas’ physicality will prove to be too much for Missouri.  Missouri demonstrated that it cannot handle a highly physical team when Georgia demolished the Tigers 34-0 in Columbia, Missouri. Arkansas employs an even more physical style—on both sides of the ball—than Georgia does. On offense, Missouri will be punished by the biggest offensive line in football, including the NFL. Arkansas’ stable of running backs, led by Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, are powerful running backs and difficult to bring down.  The Arkansas Razorbacks have the most underrated defense in the nation. This defense has played well all year. The Razorbacks’ defense gave up only 17 points to Mississippi State, 14 points to Alabama, and shutout LSU and Ole Miss. Arkansas is the hottest team in the country and is far better than its record suggests. The team has played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to the NCAA. If a play or two would have went differently for the team in each game it lost, the Hogs would be undefeated. You shouldn’t, therefore, doubt that the Hogs have a great chance to go on the road and defeat the Missouri Tigers.

Every coach who has played against Arkansas this season has stated that the team is either “great” or “very good”—Nick Saban said Arkansas is a “great team” and he congratulated Bielema on building a great team the right way. Today, the Razorbacks will need to get consistent pressure with its front four to stop Missouri’s potent passing game. The Hogs’ defense has played well against teams this season that have employed the type of offensive strategy the Tigers use. Missouri will not be able to handle Arkansas’ beast on defense, Trey Flowers. Flowers is one of the top three defensive ends in the nation. Also, look for Darius Philon to have a great game for Arkansas on defense.

Offensively, the Hogs should be able to do enough to defeat the Tigers.

Although the Tigers are playing to be SEC Eastern Division champions, the Hogs are hungry and ready to feed on the Tigers. The Razorbacks want to prove what they did against LSU and Ole Miss is going to continue on into next season, and a win will ameliorate the type of bowl game the team will get. Georgia fans, coaches, and players will need to send the Hogs a letter of gratitude after this one is over. The Hogs win in Columbia, Missouri 31-23.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Arkansas

Don’t Count Arkansas out against LSU

Arkansas vs. LSU 2014

(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas is a mighty tough place to play—even more so at night. Although the Hogs have yet to win an SEC game this season, they have been a tough out against every team they’ve faced, nearly defeating Texas A&M, Alabama, and Mississippi State. Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema has his team ahead of schedule and the team is so close to being something special. An SEC win can be the catalyst to propel the Hogs into being a truly elite football team. The Razorbacks are actually slightly favored in this game, and what an excellent way to end its losing streak against SEC opponents by defeating LSU, the Hogs’ greatest rival. This rivalry game is known as the Battle for the Golden Boot. When Arkansas and LSU play one another, throw out all of the records and statistics—only this game matters for the two teams. They simply don’t like one another.

Arkansas plays LSU at the right time: after LSU’s deflating overtime loss to Alabama. The Razorbacks have more hanging in the balance than LSU does: the team is trying to become bowl eligible. The Hogs must win two of the last three games to become bowl eligible. As long as the team performs well in the fourth quarter of each of the remaining games and demonstrates that it has learned how to close out games, the Hogs can legitimately win the final three games (all SEC games) on its schedule.

Both teams have similar styles. On offense, they both like to run the football—and run it often. Arkansas has the edge on offense. On defense, they’re both aggressive, although LSU has the edge on defense.

This game will ultimately come down to which team can perform the best in the passing game. Both teams can certainly benefit from improvement in the passing game. The LSU passing game will struggle against the Hogs because Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers will give LSU’s offensive line nightmares. When this game is over, the person who will have impacted the game the most will be Trey Flowers. He is a beast and will be playing in the NFL next season.

Arkansas will win 24-20.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Arkansas

Arkansas Must Fire Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney

Arkansas Razorbacks Football

(Photo Credit: Whole Hogs Sports)

Although Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had some positive play-calling moments against Texas A&M, he’s not the appropriate fit for the power running game Bret Bielema is establishing at Arkansas.  During the first half of the Auburn loss, Jim Chaney also had some positive play-calling moments. Unfortunately, in losses to both Auburn and Texas A&M, Chaney has demonstrated he cannot stay committed to the power running game.  He seems to be more interested in moving the Arkansas offensive into more of a passing team.  While no one is expecting him to never call a pass play, it’s vital for Chaney to understand when to employ the passing game.  Arkansas isn’t built to be a passing offense with the current players the team has and with the players it has recruited.  Bret Bielema has intentionally recruited players for a physical power running game.  For Chaney to continue to neglect the running game, especially at crucial points in games, is an affront to Bielema’s leadership.

Yes, Brandon Allen has demonstrated he can provide Arkansas with a much needed passing game, but Chaney shouldn’t get carried away with the passing game as he has.  His play-calling has been quite questionable in games against Auburn, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M.  In the Auburn game, his failure to make a commitment to the running game resulted in Auburn defeating Arkansas in the second half.  On the last play in overtime against Texas A&M, the Texas A&M defense dared him to throw the ball by loading the box with 8 to 9 men, and he foolishly ran the ball and Alex Collins was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

Bielema simply needs to transition to an offensive coordinator who will give Arkansas the best chance to win, and this offensive coordinator must be someone who is comfortable making a significant commitment to the power running game.  Although it defies conventional wisdom to transition to a new offensive coordinator at this point in the season, it wouldn’t be a difficult job to find a offensive coordinator who could quickly adjust to the key principles of the current offensive schemes Arkansas employs.  Bielema could even get more active in the offensive play-calling until the new coordinator makes the full adjustment to what he desires for him to do.

Arkansas has proven that it can compete with any of the elite teams in the nation, but it’s unfair for the players to continue to suffer from the poor play-calling of Jim Chaney.  The Razorbacks have a credible chance to finish well in the SEC and make it to a bowl game this year.  Right now, however, Jim Chaney is the enemy within who can prevent the team from having the kind of year its capable of experiencing; he’s already proven it.

If Chaney does not ameliorate his play-calling against Alabama this Saturday, then Bielema shouldn’t give him another chance to hinder the progress of the team.  With Arkansas squaring off against Alabama in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where it’s always a mighty tough place to play, one can only hope Chaney will not harm the team’s legitimate chance to defeat the Crimson Tide.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Arkansas

Why Arkansas Lost to Auburn in the Second Half in Week One

Arkansas Razorback Football 2014

(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

Although several of the Arkansas coaches, including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, got stuck in the elevator during the entire halftime period and didn’t have a chance to meet with the players, it was the failure of Jim Chaney to stay committed to the running game that resulted in Arkansas losing in the second half of the game.  Chaney had to send text messages with his instructions for players to the coaches who were present with them during halftime.  As a coach, I understand how important it is to be physically present with your team during halftime, considering you have a chance to make key adjustments.  Chaney foolishly decided to abandon the power running game, featuring Arkansas’ huge offensive line, and a power running game that Auburn couldn’t handle in the first half, for a greater focus on passing.  While Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen had a good game, the strength of the team lies in its great stable of running backs, led by Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall.

Arkansas has one of the biggest and most athletic offensive lines in the nation.  For Jim Chaney to fail to remain committed to the running game in the second half defies all logic.  Yes, Arkansas did run the ball in the second half, but passing the ball so much in the second half resulted in Arkansas not being able to wear down the Auburn defense as it did in the first half.  When Jim Chaney decides to neglect the power running game, which made Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema one of the winningest active coaches and such a success at Wisconsin, Bielema must step in and refocus Chaney on the running game.

Without question, Arkansas is a much improved team than last year, and the team is going to surprise some teams this year.  Arkansas’ coaches, however, must stay true to who the team is, a power running football team; a team designed to play physical on both sides of the ball.  The NCAA has determined that Arkansas has the toughest schedule in the country.  It will, therefore, be essential for the Arkansas coaching staff to make wise decisions throughout this season.  Arkansas has some really great coaches, including Bret Bielema and Randy Shannon, and those coaches will need to evince their great coaching prowess this season to maximize the team’s success and make it to a bowl game.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bobby Portis: The Nation’s Most Underrated Freshman Basketball Player

Bobby Portis

(Photo Credit: SW Times)

ESPN listed Bobby Portis, Arkansas freshman sensation, as the 16th ranked recruit in the nation.  He leads Arkansas in scoring and rebounds with 13.1 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game.  The 6’10 242 pound freshman has been named SEC Player of the Week 3 times.  Mike Anderson, Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, consistently plays 12 men every game.  Arkansas has a deep and balanced team.  Under Anderson, Arkansas has an aggressive defensive style of play.  The goal is to wear the opposing team down over the course of the game.  With this defense-first style of play, Portis has still been able to average 13.1 points a game and 6.6 rebounds.  Because the Razorbacks have so much talent and balance, they do not have a traditional “go-to” player.  Imagine the numbers Portis could achieve if Arkansas used him as its “go-to” player.

Arkansas has a 18-9 overall record and is 7-7 in SEC play and the team is winners of 5 of their last 6 games.  On Thursday, February 27, 2014 on ESPN, the Arkansas Razorbacks will face the #17 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena.  In the first meeting this year against the Wildcats at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Razorbacks defeated them in a thrilling game.  Another win against the Wildcats and a highly favorable remaining regular season schedule should land the Razorbacks in the NCAA Division I Tournament.  Without Bobby Portis, however, the team would not have achieved its current record and boasted high quality wins against Kentucky, Minnesota and Clemson.

With what Bobby Portis has been able to accomplish this year as a freshman, why has he not received as much national attention as other freshmen have?  Is Bobby Portis the nation’s most underrated freshman basketball player?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison