Flyer predictions for 2012-13 Arkansas Razorback football

Eleven wins, a Cotton Bowl victory, a Top 5 final poll ranking and less one Bobby Petrino. After a roller coaster spring and a scorching summer, the Arkansas Razorbacks (now under the guidance of former Special Teams Coordinator, John L. Smith) are ready for their 2012 season opener versus Jacksonville State.

The Hogs experienced great successes over the past two seasons under the tutelage of former head coach Petrino, but that relatively small chapter has been closed and the Razorbacks are moving forward without a clear plan a to what will come after this season. The pundits and critics alike think Arkansas has a fighting chance this season as the Hogs are currently ranked #10 in pre-season polls. But it will be up to the players – and the near fully in-tact coaching staff from the Cotton Bowl victory – to make sure the season is a great one.

Once again, there are a few notable SEC teams in Arkansas’ way, so we went to current and former Flyers to ask their opinion on this new season:

BOLD Predictions for the 2012/2013 Arkansas Razorbacks Football Season

1. You could say that a lot has transpired for the Hogs since last fall. With Bobby Petrino gone and John L. Smith running the program (for now), what is the outlook for the Razorbacks’ season in 2012/13?

  • Seth Gunderson: So far, the media seems to think that the Hogs haven’t lost much of a step. Stories keep surfacing that Tyler Wilson is really embracing his role as team leader. I start to worry that when the first two cupcakes are done and the ever-imposing Alabama is in Fayetteville, what will happen to the Hogs’ adversity? I still think the Hogs will have a winning season, but I don’t know if they have the chops to put together a National Title run now that Bobby Petrino is gone.
  • Dustin Bartholomew: The Hogs have as much talent coming back this year as I can remember, and if the Cotton Bowl was any indication, it appears as though they’ve made a good choice in Paul Haynes to shore up their biggest weakness in 2011, their defense.
  • Jonathan Haguewood: So hard to tell. We’ve got all the potential to make a serious run at the SEC title and possibly a national title, but with so much uncertainty in John L. Smith, it’s hard to say for sure. We’ll know for sure if we’ve got what it takes come 9/15 when the Tide attempt to roll though Fayetteville.
  • Trip Jones: Expectations are higher than they should be, which is going to lead to a very unhappy fanbase by the end of the season.  Hog fans have been spoiled by the BMFP years, and now seem to believe we rightly belong in the same sentence as Bama and LSU.  Crappy part is, we don’t, but hopefully we get there some day.  Losing Bobby didn’t help.

2. Predict each game’s outcome:

Jacksonville State
Louisiana-Monroe (LR)
@ Texas A&MW
@ Auburn
Ole Miss (LR)
@ South CarolinaLLLL
@ Mississippi State
Win/Loss Totals10-210-29-38-4

3.Is Arkansas going bowling this year? If so, where and who will they play against?

  • Seth: Yes. Cotton Bowl versus Oklahoma State.
  • Dustin: Yep. They’re going to the Capital One Bowl versus Michigan.
  • Jonathan: We’ll go bowling, without a doubt.
  • Trip: Yes, hogs will bowl, against a Big 12 team.

4. Everyone is probably seeing the Alabama and LSU games as the metrics for a successful season. What other games will be difficult/important for the Hogs to win this year?

  • Seth: As much as I think that South Carolina is always overrated, this could be a year that they’re legit. The A&M game could be tough, but I also think that A&M is a perennially overrated team — especially with a first year head coach (albeit one that will have his offense putting up big numbers).
  • Dustin: I think the South Carolina / Mississippi State games back to back on the road are going to be extremely tough for the Hogs.  I think they lose one of those two.
  • Jonathan: Playing A&M at Kyle Field will be another good test of the Hogs ability in September. If we can take Alabama, we’ll be more than a match for the Aggies. Spurrier may also have some tricks up his sleeve when we bring the fight to the best the East has to offer in South Carolina.
  • Trip: A&M. Please don’t lose to A&M.

5. Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Chris Gragg and Knile Davis are back, but and the Big 3 WRs are gone — how does the offense respond this season?

  • Seth: The bad news, no more Bobby Petrino. The good news, we still have Paul Petrino. I expect the play-calling to be a little different than years past, due to Paul calling the shots. Adding in Knile and a slew of young, tall and fast WRs, the Hogs offense shouldn’t really miss a beat.
  • Dustin: The offense is going to be mostly dominant again this year. We’ve replaced some of our speedier, quick receivers with some of the big targets like Cobi Hamilton,  Brandon Mitchell, Mekale McKay, and Keon Hatcher. We’ve got some good tight ends in Chris Gragg and Austin Tate, and a fleet of experienced running backs. It is going to be almost impossible for opposing defenses to defend.
  • Jonathan: I have a hard time with this question. Obviously, if Knife Knile Davis can stay healthy, we’ll look a little more to our running game than years past, but I’m just not sure at this juncture how John L. Smith is going to run the offense.
  • Trip: I think the offense will be good. I bet some new WR stars emerge. Gragg will also keep being super tall.

6a. Arkansas’ Offensive MVP for the year?

  • Seth: Tyler Wilson
  • Dustin: Tyler Wilson
  • Jonathan: Knile Davis
  • Trip: Tyler Wilson

6b. Arkansas’ Defensive MVP for the year?

  • Seth: Alonzo Highsmith
  • Dustin: Alonzo Highsmith
  • Jonathan: Tenarius Wright
  • Trip: Alonzo Highsmith

6c. Arkansas’ newcomer of the year?

  • Seth: Otha Peters
  • Dustin: Mekale McKay / Otha Peters
  • Jonathan: Looking forward to seeing Keon Hatcher in action.
  • Trip: Not John L. Smith

7. Tyler Wilson played lights out last year (3600 yards, 26 TDs and 6 INTs). Can he have another big year like that?

  • Seth: Tyler has all of the ability to have another monster year. With Knile back and a more experienced OL, Wilson could carve up defenses much easier than last year. My fear is that he’ll be overly confident and try to make passes work rather than letting the game come to him. Ultimately, I think Wilson has a much better head on his shoulders than Mallett had, and he’ll have a fantastic senior year.
  • Dustin: He’s going to have a few more interceptions this year. He’ll have more yards and TD’s, too, though.
  • Jonathan: Tyler Wilson is a phenomenal quarterback, but with an inexperienced group of receiver’s as targets (Cobi Hamilton aside) and a powerhouse RB in the mix, through no fault of his own, I’m not sure he’ll put up the same #’s as last year. I do hope I’m wrong, though.
  • Trip: Yup, he put those awesome numbers even though he was getting destroyed for the first half of the season.

8. Should Davis and Wilson both be in the Heisman conversation?

  • Seth: No. I honestly don’t. One of them could end up there, but it’s way too early to even care about that, much less talk about it.
  • Dustin: If the Hogs take care of business, and win the games they should win, I think Wilson should. If Davis can stay healthy, and return to his 2010 form, then there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in the discussion as well.
  • Jonathan: Personally, I think pre-season Heisman talk is a little premature. It’s like predicting what movies will be nominated for an Oscar based on a preview. That said, they do have the potential for Heisman greatness.
  • Trip: Sure, why not.

9. Paul Haynes had the defense playing well in the Cotton Bowl after one month of being on the sideline. How will Arkansas’ defense look this year (22.2 pts/game, 362.8 yards/game, 12 INTs, 9 fumble recoveries and 29 sacks in 2011)?

  • Seth: I expect the defense to play much more cohesive football this year. I keep reading that Haynes is coaching up a good D and teaching them how to think and react. Couple that with the fact that the D has been giving the offense fits in practice and that could be the making of a good defensive season. At any rate, our secondary should play much better than the previous few seasons.
  • Dustin: The defense is going to be much improved. Our defensive line is deep, and I think our linebacking core will be steady too. Our corners will be good again with Tevin Mitchell and Darius Winston. My biggest concern is our safety position, but that’s mainly a depth concern. Behind Eric Bennet and Ross Rasner, can the young guys step up?
  • Jonathan: Paul Haynes did a great job against Kansas State. However, in general, if our defense can’t perform any better than last season, we’re going to get left in the dust by LSU and Alabama once again.
  • Trip: I am nervous about the defense. I think Haynes is an improvement, and I like the new attitude he is giving the defense, but we lost a lot on defense. Bequette, and Franklin our leading tackler. But the biggest concern is at LB, we are thin at that position and cannot afford to be. Bama and LSU are going to run it all day on a depleted Arkansas LB core.

10. With a number of new names in the passing game, who will be the difference maker this year?

  • Seth: Chris Gragg, hands down. Wilson knows how to run through his progressions and with Gragg’s superb route-running, he should make the most difference.
  • Dustin: I can’t wait to see what Keon Hatcher and Mekale McKay can do. I think McKay is the most exciting, due to his size, and leaping ability. He’s going to catch a lot of balls in the red zone against shorter DBs.
  • Jonathan: We’ve got a lot new talent at WR and Cobi Hamilton is coming back for more. I’m hoping Cobi can keep the momentum going from last year at that position.
  • Trip: Chris Gragg.

11. Is this a one-and-done season for Coach Smith?

  • Seth: Unless he wins the national championship, yes, I believe so.
  • Dustin: Yep. Sorry, Coach Smith. That’s what you were brought here for. Win them all, though, and there’s no way you won’t earn another year or two. Go ahead. Try it.
  • Jonathan: The long answer: yes.
  • Trip: Yes, it has to be right? The only way it isn’t is if we win the national championship, and I don’t see it happening. His past is too checkered with continued goofiness. We will lose to Bama, and that will be it for John. Call that Gary Patterson guy, he turned TCU into a national contender.

12. How will Missouri and Texas A&M fare in their first SEC season?

  • Seth: If either team goes .500 in SEC games, I think that’s a success for their programs. Unfortunately, I think both will finish 5-7.
  • Dustin: Missouri will go 7-5. I think Texas A&M will go 5-7.
  • Jonathan: It’s going to be Tough for A&M (6-6), slightly less tough for Mizzou (7-5).
  • Trip: I bet MO does better since the East isn’t as stacked as the West. The Tigers go 7-5, A&M goes 5-7, and their fake army weeps real tears.

So there they are. The Flyer’s predictions for the upcoming season. Should be an exciting one, no matter what happens. What are your predictions?