Photo: Walt Beazley, UA Athletics
There’s not enough sugar available to make Arkansas’ 52-7 loss to South Carolina or its implications more palatable. It was tough to stomach.
However, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier did speak some truth following the game when he said his Gamecocks won’t consistently play as well as they did last Saturday and that the Razorbacks aren’t as bad as they looked. There was a snowball effect to the ballgame following Brandon Allen’s first-quarter interception.
Likewise, Spurrier hit the nail on the head when he said Arkansas coach Brett Bielema and his coaching staff would have to recruit themselves out of the situation in which the Razorback program sits.
Spurrier saw on film and in the game what has been apparent since at least last fall. There is not enough talent and experience in the Razorbacks’ ranks to be truly competitive in the Southeastern Conference.
No doubt the blame for that falls at the feet of Bobby Petrino and his staff. Recruiting reporters and commentators have opined that Petrino did not have a passion for recruiting, and we are seeing the results of that. The Razorbacks lack depth and top-level SEC talent at more positions than not.
Defensively, the Hogs have talent along the defensive front, but with the possible exception of cornerback Tevin Mitchell, one would be hard pressed to name a Razorback starter in the back seven who would get much playing time for other teams in the top half of the SEC.
Other than seniors Travis Swanson at center and Kiero Small at fullback, the Razorbacks’ most promising if not best offensive players are freshmen — Alex Collins, Hunter Henry, Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. The next tier would be sophomores Jonathan Williams, D’Arthur Cowan, Keon Hatcher and Brandon Allen. Yes, Brandon Allen.
Allen has talent, but not only is he hurting from a shoulder injury but he’s also being asked to play over his head. The more deficits a team has, the more its quarterback is asked to do for it to be successful. Allen is not ready to put a football team on his shoulders, and that’s what he’s being asked to do.
Some folks are hankering for a change at quarterback, and it would be a better situation if the Razorbacks had another quarterback who could share time, or even could have taken over the position when Allen hurt his shoulder, but the Hogs do not have that luxury.
Bielema said Allen is the quarterback that gives the Hogs the best chance to win, and until he and his staff decide differently, Allen is the man.
This Saturday when the Razorbacks visit No. 1 Alabama at 6 p.m., it’s likely to be another ugly ballgame. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, like Spurrier, isn’t known for his mercy. If the Hogs are able to keep the game close, it will be on their own merit, not Saban’s charity.
After that the Hogs get an open date to regroup and prepare for their final four games. As it is now, the Razorbacks won’t be favored in any of them with the possible exception of Mississippi State, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance. There is always a chance. Bielema and his staff just have to find a way to make the Hogs continue to believe that.
As for recruiting, the Razorbacks coach staff has perhaps the most attractive bait to dangle in front of prospects — playing time. The Hogs have plenty of that to go around.