Spring is one of my four favorite seasons in Northwest Arkansas, but springtime weather truly is a mixed bag and can be a bummer sometimes.
Just this year we’ve seen the thermostat pulse into the 80s one afternoon and then plummet to near freezing in less than 12 hours. I still remember waking on May 1, 2015, and being greeted to a dusting of snow when I walked out to pick up the newspaper.
So Forrest Gump’s box-of-chocolates adage of never knowing what you’re going to get holds true for springtime weather in our fair portion of the state. This appears to be one of those bummer weekends.
The forecast for heavy rain and flash flooding this weekend has reeked a bit of havoc on the Razorbacks’ plans for a big sporting weekend.
With the possibility of eight inches falling over the next 36 hours on already saturated ground and full drainage areas, it’s a safe bet at least some will experience flooding in the area.
That potential has the Razorback baseball team squeezing in a three-day baseball series into less than 24 hours. Ole Miss blitzed the Razorbacks, 9-1, Thursday night. The final two games will compose a double-header, starting at noon Friday. Hopefully, both games will be played.
While the baseball series is ultimately the Hogs’ most important event scheduled for the weekend, I was actually looking more forward to the Red-White scrimmage.
The scrimmage is still on, and the SEC Network is still televising and streaming the practice at noon Saturday. However, the weather forced Arkansas to close it to the public. The scrimmage may be played in Razorback Stadium or it might be moved onto the indoor practice fields of the Walker Pavilion.
With that much rain coupled with the construction in the south end zone, discretion was the right call.
Why risk having fans drive from other portions of the state when there is a chance the weather will force the scrimmage indoors where there is not enough room for fans to watch?
If the flooding gets as bad as the forecast suggests it could be, travel could be dangerous throughout the Northwest Arkansas area on Saturday.
So Hog fans can avoid getting soaked outside by soaking up the SEC Network’s coverage of the scrimmage.
Former Razorback quarterback Clint Stoerner is part of the coverage crew, and while he still bleeds Razorback red, he does not mind offering his candid opinion of what he observes. Chris Cotter and Kris Budden compose the other two-thirds of the broadcast team.
While I prefer the elevated vantage point from the stands for a full view of the field, football almost feels like a sport created to be watched on TV. With this being the only taste of Razorback football until August, I’m going to enjoy the hitting and play making no matter the circumstances.
While Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said the scrimmage would be basic vanilla, just like spring scrimmages have always been, here is a rundown on what I’m personally looking forward to watching.
Quarterback — Fayetteville High grad Austin Allen is the unquestioned starter as a fifth-year senior. Yeah, I want to see him, but I’m more interested in seeing what sophomore Ty Storey of Charleston and redshirt freshman Cole Kelley of Lafayette, La., can do. Kelley has a big arm, and Storey was nothing but a winner as a prep star. I’m sure offensive coordinator Dan Enos will carry the competition for Allen’s back-up into preseason practices, but I’m interested in seeing what they both look like from under center.
Receivers — Behind Jared Cornelius, who is nursing a hamstring injury, it’s a who’s who of near unknowns. I’ll be paying attention to any and everything at this position. Will this be a breakout season for La’Michael Pettway or Deon Stewart? Can junior college transfers Brandon Martin (6-4, 211) and Jonathan Nance 96-2, 187) make an instant impact?
Running Backs — Rawleigh Williams Jr. and Devwah Whaley are known quantities, but evidently freshman Maleek Williams (6-0, 230) is turning heads with his power running. Bielema could have a three-headed monster to attack opponents with this season.
Offensive Line — To me, this is the group that could make the difference between the Hogs being a mediocre six- or seven-win team to possibly winning eight or nine games. Arkansas played a lot of linemen last year in trying to find a stable five. Maybe the experience gained will pay off this season.
Tight End — The position has gained some renown at Arkansas with D.J. Williams, Hunter Henry, and Jeremy Sprinkle taking their turn making plays over the last decade. Who will be the next Hog to step up and make a name for himself? Austin Cantrell is a proven blocker and pass-catcher, but the potential of Fayetteville grad Cheyenne O’Grady and Will Gragg still intrigues. The Hogs could use big seasons from all three sophomores.
Defensive Line — Again football is won on the line of scrimmage, and if the Razorbacks are going to improve as a defense, the line must play better in the new 3-4 scheme. McTelvin Agim could come into his own as a sophomore this season, and the Razorbacks need senior Bijhon Jackson to fulfill all the promise he brought with him to campus four years ago.
Linebackers — With Fayetteville grad Dre Greenlaw out for the spring with a foot injury, other players have been given a chance to gain experience at the inside linebacker spots. On the outside, Arkansas is deploying a Hawg LB on the strong side with a bigger athlete, and a Razor LB on the weakside with quicker athlete. Arkansas won’t show any of the bells and whistles of it new scheme, but it will be nice to see how the front seven is fitting together.
Secondary — Junior cornerback Ryan Pulley was a true bright spot on an otherwise fairly dismal defense last season. It will be interesting to see if his fellow defensive backs can rise to his level. The return of Kevin Richardson from injury as a nickel back and corner back should make the entire secondary better. Safeties Josh Liddell and Santo Ramirez have played a lot of football. Will they make that experience pay off? Britto Tutt is a name familiar to faithful Hog followers, but it will be good to see the sophomore cornerback in action after last year’s season-ending injury.