5 biggest questions facing the 2023 Razorbacks


Earlier in the week, we considered the five greatest strengths for the Razorbacks going into the 2023 football season.

Now it’s time to consider the other side of the coin. What are the biggest questions facing coach Sam Pittman’s fourth Razorback team going into preseason camp?

No. 1 The Schedule — The biggest concern facing the Hogs going into the season this year has been the biggest concern for nearly a decade. It’s the Razorbacks’ SEC West schedule. It’s brutal every year. However, this season circumstances has set up tsunami of monumental proportions for the Razorbacks who face five road games in a span of six playing dates from Sept. 23 through Nov. 4. The Hogs’ only home game in that period is an Oct. 21 date with Mississippi State in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It is also the only game against an unranked team during that run, according to ESPN’s latest preseason Top 25 poll, released on July 5. The road opponents for the Hogs during that run are at No. 4 LSU on Sept. 23, at Arlington, Texas, against No. 19 Texas A&M on Sept. 30, at No. 16 Ole Miss on Oct. 7, at No. 2 Alabama on Oct. 14, and at No. 18 Florida on Nov. 4. Now, that’s an incredible slate of games.

2. Secondary — Arkansas finished dead last in the nation in pass defense last season, giving up 3,831 yards despite finishing eighth in the NCAA and first in the SEC in sacks. No doubt this led to an overhaul at the position with an exodus of players through the transfer portal and the arrival of new Razorbacks, who will hopefully turn things around for Arkansas this season. New co-defensive coordinator Marcus Woodson and secondary coach Deron Wilson plan to to help the Hogs put up more of a fight this year. Freshman All-SEC performer Quincey McAdoo is rumored to be doubtful to play this year after suffering extensive injuries in a car accident during spring. All-SEC performer Dwight McGlothern returns at one corner, though, with returning starting safeties Hudson Clark and Jayden Johnson back for better seasons, too. Transfers Lorando “Snax” Johnson and Al Walcott from Baylor should help. LaDarrius Bishop, who transferred from Georgia last year should be a factor if he is healthy this season as should veterans Jaylen Lewis and Malik Chavis. Jaylen Braxton is a freshman who might help, too. But after last year, teams will not hesitate to test this group early and often. If they can hold their own, it would be a great help to the Razorbacks’ cause.

3. Receivers — All of Arkansas’ top receivers exited the program last year either by going pro or through the transfer portal. Sophomores Isaiah Satenga (5-11, 178) of Fayetteville, Bryce Stephens (6-0, 175) of Oklahoma City, and Sam Mbake (6-3, 203) of Kennesaw, Ga., all have great hands and speed, but played sparingly as freshmen. Transfers Andrew Armstrong (6-4, 201) of Texas A&M Commerce, and Isaac TeSlaa (6-4, 214) from Hillsdale College, and Tyrone Broden (6-7, 197) of Bowling Green all bring excellent size and good hands, but none of them has taken a snap on the SEC level much less made a play. There is talent here, but how quickly and well will it mesh with starting quarterback K.J. Jefferson is the big question. There were promising signs in the spring, but that can be fool’s gold.

4. Offensive Line —This question mark could end up being a strength for the Hogs, but we will have to see. Three-year starter Beaux Limmer (6-5, 306) moves to center from guard and fourth-year starter Brady Latham (6-5, 310) returns to anchor one guard spot. Arkansas had plenty of experience at tackle last season, but the performance there was up and down, particularly in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Devon Manuel (6-9, 310) and Patrick Kutas (6-5, 303) are sophomores but bring an elevated talent-level to the position. At the other guard Florida junior transfer Joshua Braun (6-6, 341), senior Ty’Kieast Crawford (6-5, 317), and freshman E’Marrion Harris (6-7, 297) will wage a battle for the other starting guard spot in preseason. The other two will likely see playing time at guard and tackle as backups. Again offensive line could end up being a team strength, but the youngsters will have to grow up quick, and the unit will need to mesh before conference play begins on Sept. 23 at LSU.

5. Linebackers — Other than Chris “Pooh” Paul (6-1, 230), Arkansas’ linebackers are a question mark going into the season. Paul is a hard hitter with a nasty nose for the ball, who seems to be a perfect fit for Travis Williams’ aggressive scheme. South Florida senior transfer Antonio Grier (6-1, 228) looked to be his probable running mate in the starting lineup in spring practices, but Mani Powell (6-3, 230) of Fayetteville, Jordan Crook (6-0, 223) of Duncanville, Texas; and Carson Dean (6-4, 232) of Frisco, Texas, are underclassmen who should also make an impact this season. Jaheim Thomas (6-4, 245) is a senior transfer from Cincinnati who could earn playing time this fall. Though the position group is fairly young except for transfers Grier and Thomas, Arkansas has not had this much playable depth at linebacker in a number of years. The lack of SEC experience does give some pause, however.