If the Arkansas football team wants to have better than a 3-9 record again this year, then some key players on both sides of the ball are going to have to step up.
With team leaders like Travis Swanson, Chris Smith, and Kiero Small departing for the NFL, this team is in desperate need for guys to fill the void that these guys left on, and off the field.
Here are few players that I think the team really needs to have step up and be playmakers for the upcoming season.
The first and most obvious choice is QB Brandon Allen. Say what you want about his competition, but I think that it will be very unlikely that he doesn’t start at the beginning of the season. His little brother Austin may push for the starting spot, but at the end of the day his experience will be too valuable for the other candidates to overcome.
It was no secret that last season Allen struggled more often than not. While some of the problems may be from the shoulder injury, which is now fully healed, staring down receivers and being late on throws became detrimental to his and the offense’s success a year ago.
Last season Allen threw for 1,552 yards and 13 touchdowns, but also had 10 interceptions. He will definitely have to improve on those numbers and he should with a completely healed up arm and another year of experience.
Allen will have to become the leader on the field and in the locker room which comes with his quarterback position.
The defensive side of the ball has been a burden on the Razorbacks for a while now and new coordinator Robb Smith is in desperate need of some playmakers, particularly in the back seven.
One of those players that could really come into his own this year and step up is LB Otha Peters.
Peters appeared in 10 games of his freshman year, starting the last three, on his way to SEC All-Freshman Team honors.
Last season was a bit of a disappointment for Peters after suffering a broken arm in summer camp. He saw action in seven games, but just was not the same, especially playing with a splint on his arm some of the year.
This season could really be his breakout year. He has good size, speed, and coverage ability. Also he is not afraid of contact and brings some physicality to the lackluster defense.
If the Hogs want to have any shot at stopping the offenses in the SEC then guys like Peters, particularly linebackers, will have to step up.
Sticking with the defense, the cornerback spot has been held by Tevin Mitchel for the past three years. Although he has great experience playing since he was a freshman, Mitchel’s play last year was very sub-par.
He recorded 47 tackles with an interception in 11 games a year ago, but gave up numerous touchdowns because of inexcusable missed tackles.
Mitchel has tremendous athletic ability, but just could not seem to make plays when the team needed it most. He will have to step up and become a leader on the defense in his final season as a Hog or else he will lose his spot for good.
I do believe that he will be improved this season, however. There’s a reason that he was an Army All-American and on the SEC All-Freshman team and the Razorbacks need him to be that lockdown corner that he could be.
It’s going to take a lot more than just these three players to avoid another losing season for the Arkansas football team, but it all starts with leadership and a number of playmakers like them, emerging from mediocrity.
Who do you guys think will need to step up in order for the Arkansas football team to be successful this season? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, or questions.