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Arkansas’ Season-Ending Report Card
The Morning News/Razorback Central
Posted Dec 4, 2008
Quarterbacks — B- Casey Dick opened his senior season with a pair of 300-yard passing games, giving the indication that he was bound for a big year. That wasn’t necessarily the case, though. He threw two interceptions for touchdowns in a loss to Alabama, struggled with his decision-making and lost the starting job for the final two games of the season.
But after a strong debut by his younger brother, redshirt freshman
, Casey Dick came off the bench and threw a “miracle” pass to beat LSU in the season finale.
Running Backs — B
For nearly half the season, Arkansas tailback Michael Smith led the Southeastern Conference in rushing. He gained 176 yards in a win at Auburn, then followed that up a week later with 192 yards before getting injured in the final minutes of a loss at Kentucky. Smith finished with 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns, but a slew of injuries slowed him down over the final few weeks of the season. None of the other tailbacks helped pick up the load until freshman Dennis Johnson ran for 127 yards against LSU.
Wide Receivers — B
It’s hard to imagine that a tight end would lead the Razorbacks in receiving, but sophomore D.J. Williams had a breakout season with 61 catches for 723 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman Joe Adams got off to a fast start, but then cooled down. Fellow newcomer Jarius Wright was the opposite, struggling at first and then picking it up later. But it was juniors Lucas Miller and London Crawford who made the big catches down the stretch.
Offensive Line — C-
Simply put, Arkansas’ offensive line wasn’t as dominant as it has been in the past — even with All-American center Jonathan Luigs anchoring the front line. The Razorbacks gave up a nation’s worst 46 sacks, and while some were Dick’s fault, the offensive line must take the blame for the bulk of them. Injuries also took a toll on the offensive line, forcing changes to be made at the guard and tackle positions.
Defensive Line — B-
Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard showed he could be a major force next season. He got pressure on the quarterback, stuffed the run and finished with 6 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for loss. But Arkansas’ front line wasn’t dominant when Sheppard wasn’t making the plays. Defensive end Adrian Davis looked good when healthy and nose tackle Zach Stadther was solid as a freshman, but offenses still had big days running at the Hogs.
Linebackers — C
Arkansas had some difficulty finding a consistent rotation at linebacker because of injuries. Redshirt freshman Jerry Franklin stood out from the bunch, leading the team with 87 tackles and showing he could play multiple linebacker positions. But senior captain Elston Forte wasn’t the force that coaches had expected, and middle linebacker Wendel Davis was slowed by injuries.
Secondary — C
The Razorbacks had their problems in pass coverage, especially in the final minutes of a loss at Kentucky. But it was the missed tackles that were more noticeable. Safety Matt Harris made several key stops to help beat Tulsa, but he and Rashaad Johnson had their share of costly misses in back-to-back losses at South Carolina and Mississippi State. Cornerback Ramon Broadway, meanwhile, proved to be a bright spot at times while emerging as a starter.
Special Teams — D
It was a long season for Arkansas’ special teams. Starting with the first game of the season, the Razorbacks had trouble. Kicker Alex Tejada got benched after his dismal performance against Louisiana-Monroe, then earned the job back right before Shay Haddock quit the team. But Tejada was still unreliable for the most part, and Arkansas’ coverage team gave up some big yards. Punter Jeremy Davis averaged 43.2 yards per attempt to have an impressive year, though.
Coaching — B-
In his first season as Arkansas’ coach, Bobby Petrino faced the challenge of taking over a team filled with unproven backups and freshmen. He showed he was a gutsy playcaller, but he could do only so much. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Willy Robinson had trouble getting his players to be physical and stick to their assignments. But he got the job done in the season-ending win over LSU.
Nov 19, 2008
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