Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Predictions will have Hogs lagging in SEC
Arkansas coach Chad Morris (left) instructs freshman defensive back Devin Bush during a practice Friday, March 1, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Phil Steele doesn’t expect much from the University of Arkansas football team this fall.
Steele is the publisher of the cleverly named Phil Steele’s College Football Preview.
His 352-page publication is packed with information. Although he is not a household name, the dude is celebrating 25 years of publishing his magazine.
There is a reason the magazine has an association with the Football Writers Association of America. It’s good.
He picks the Razorbacks where every logical person is going to pick them — last in the SEC West. He leaves no doubt why: talent, or a lack thereof.
The magazine lists 12 SEC first-team offensive players and 12 first-team defensive players.
Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State didn’t have anyone on first team anything. Texas A&M had a couple on special teams.
Those four teams all play in the West Division, and he picked the Aggies to finish third behind Alabama (of course) and LSU. The Bulldogs, with just 11 starters back, were picked fifth; the Rebels, with 13 starters back, were picked sixth.
Arkansas has 12 starters back and was picked a solid seventh in the division.
The Crimson Tide had nine players named to the first team — six on offense and three on defense.
Georgia and LSU tied for second with three each, and all of the Tigers were on defense.
Steele went four-deep on his all-SEC teams, and the Hogs had two second-teamers on defense: McTelvin Agim and De’Jon Harris, who averaged 9.8 tackles per game last season, a league high.
Connor Limpert was named second-team kicker.
Cheyenne O’Grady was third team at tight end.
Rakeem Boyd was fourth team at running back, and De’Vion Warren is the fourth-team kick returner.
That is not a lot of preseason star power, but it is the preseason.
Last year at this time, most thought the Heisman Trophy would go to Bama’s Tua Tagovailoa; instead, it went to Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.
The magazine does state the Razorbacks were better than their 2-10 record a season ago, and Steele listed them as tied for 10th for most improved teams this season.
The magazine reports Arkansas has the 20th-toughest schedule in college football, but that seems a bit gracious when you are hosting Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State and Western Kentucky.
Those teams were a combined 11-36 last season. Yes, Colorado State came from behind to beat Arkansas last season, but that game just illustrated how a lack of discipline had led to too many out-of-shape Hogs. The Ole Miss game settled the argument.
Of course, any time your schedule includes Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M, you are going to get some extra credit.
On paper, Arkansas does look better. While the SEC is not generally a league for freshmen, the Razorbacks had a lot of kids get on campus early.
There will be more team speed, but there couldn’t be less.
Conditioning supposedly has improved drastically, and there were some guys who contributed last year.
And there was some addition by subtraction.
It is too early to make predictions, and next week about a thousand journalists will descend on Hoover, Ala., for SEC Football Media Days.
A lot of predictions will be made, and two seem pretty obvious: Arkansas will be picked last and Alabama will be picked to win the West and SEC championship.
The reason is simple: talent. Alabama has more talent than any other team in the SEC and as much or more than any team in the country.
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