2020 Record: 3-7
6th in the West
Sam Pittman’s 3-7 start to his tenure in Fayetteville might not be warmly welcomed in a normal year. But last season has fans hopeful for further improvement this season. The Hogs had a pair of impressive wins over the Mississippi schools as well as a convincing win over Tennessee at home.
Three different games came down to the wire and nearly put Arkansas in the win column with another play or two. Arkansas fell to LSU and Missouri at the end of the year by just a field goal or less and were severely undermanned in both games. They also arguably had Auburn beat before a botched call by the officials cost them the game.
All in all, that’s a very successful start for a team that hadn’t had an SEC win since 2017. There’s a lot to be optimistic about as Pittman gets the guys ready to kick off the 2021 season
Experience Leads the Way
The good news is Arkansas returns most of their starters from a year ago. On the offensive side they have all five guys on the line back from 2020. They struggled last year to protect the quarterback, allowing 34 sacks. Offensive line is Sam Pittman’s strong point though so expect the front to look much better this year.
Also back are leading rusher Trelon Smith and top target Treylon Burks. Burks returns as the SEC’s second leading receiver with 820 yards last year and seven touchdowns. He was selected to the First Team All-SEC team this past week.
The Hogs also return most of their starters on the other side of the ball. Second Team All-SEC selections Grant Morgan and Jalen Catalon spearhead a defense that will look to build on their improvements from last year in Barry Odom’s second year.
Success or Failure Rests With KJ Jefferson
Ultimately the success of this season will be on KJ Jefferson’s shoulders. He did enough to secure the starting position and the spot is his to lose now. The Hogs benefited mightily from transfer veteran Feleipe Franks last year who helped stabilize the program under the new coaching staff.
Jefferson enters his third season at Arkansas with just one game of meaningful minutes in his tenure. He made the most of that time, filling in for an injured Franks against Missouri. He picked apart Missouri’s defense going 18-for-33 274 yards and three touchdowns along with 32 yards on the ground and another score.
Pittman and company really like this kid. His duel threat ability makes him a better fit in Kendal Briles’s system. If Jefferson lives up to his potential, expect the Arkansas offense to make a leap this year. The offense showed flashes of greatness at times last year but lacked consistency that this year’s team should improve upon.
It’s too early to expect Arkansas to compete for a division title but do expect the Razorbacks to compete with the giants on their schedule a little better this year. The Hogs have this year’s toughest schedule and will be tested early with a September 11 contest at home against Texas.
Their biggest challenge may be depth. Yes it was a COVID year last season, but Arkansas’s lack of depth was very obvious and cost them several games. We know the starters have the ability to hang with the conference but some better guys behind them may be the difference between a bowl game and a losing record.
Overall it’s not too crazy to think Arkansas can make a bowl game. A surprise upset of Texas might be asking too much but crazier things have happened up in Fayetteville. Sam Pittman has the Hogs trending in the right direction and should be exciting to watch this year.
“From Our Haus to Yours”