NWADG College Football


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34 NWA COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW | 8.28.2022 that led us to nine last year. We've got the quarterback situation, we've just got to be better in situational football so when those situations come up in a game, we win them more than we lose them. We're going to have a lot of close games. That's just how it is in this league." Jefferson and other team leaders were posed the same question early in camp. "As an offense, a high-powered offense, a spread tempo offense, the main thing is you have to be consistent and stay ahead of the chains," Jefferson said. "You can't take too many negatives in this league. "And then as a team, just doing the little details right, and the main thing is as we get tired and adversity starts to set in, we look to one another and just encourage one another and bring each other up. That's going to get us through the tough times." Jefferson will work behind an offensive front that returns four starters in Dalton Wagner, Ricky Stromberg, Brady Latham and Beaux Limmer and is likely to add senior Luke Jones at left tackle. Additionally, Raheim Sanders leads a deep tailback corps that should add Dominique Johnson back from a knee injury at some point. The receiving corps clearly took huge strides during camp, giving Jefferson numerous top targets like Jadon Haselwood, Matt Landers, Ketron Jackson Jr., Warren Thompson and tight end Trey Knox. Junior safety Jalen Catalon's return from shoulder surgery was a boost for a unit that lost top pass rusher Tre Williams, standout defensive tackle John Ridgeway, top linebackers Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry, and ace cornerback Montaric Brown. Catalon said the key to advancement is pushing ahead. "I'd say it's not riding on last year," Catalon said. "We put last year behind us. I mean, last year was a great year. We had a lot of great success. We brought the pride back, the excitement back. "But like I said, 2022 is a new year. Records don't matter. When you start on Sept. 3, you're 0-0, not 9-4. You've got to have that approach going in. That's the approach we have going into fall camp. We're not worried about what we did last year."The Razorbacks will open the season ranked No. 19 in Yhe Associated Press Top 25 and No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches poll. This is the first time since the 2015 Razorbacks opened at No. 18 that they have a spot in the preseason poll. Fifth-year senior Bumper Pool has seen the Razorbacks ratchet their win total from 2 his first couple of seasons up to 9, with a sweep of all three of the program's trophy games against Texas A&M, LSU and Missouri, plus a 24-10 Outback Bowl victory over Penn State. "There's always building blocks to get to those 10 wins, 11 wins and 12 wins," Pool said. "I think it starts in the offseason. "I think there's a certain level of work you've got to do early on in the year to get to the point of 10 wins. But I think we have such a good group and we know what it takes to get to nine. There's a lot of things we could have cleaned up from last year. So this fall camp is looking back at last season and what we need to work on. Continuing to fix those mistakes, but also grow as a team and just continue to get closer." Stromberg, the fourth-year starting center, contemplated an early departure to the NFL before electing to return. "Obviously we tasted success last year when we were 9-4, so we know what it takes to get there," Stromberg said. "I think doing the little things better will take us above the 9-4 barrier. Just keep working on the little things." The little things for the Razorbacks include reducing their penalty count and penalty yardage (where their 63.1 yards per game ranked 103rd among 130 FBS teams), executing more crisply on offense, dropping fewer passes, putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, defending the run better and holding up more successfully in man coverage. Tight ends Coach Dowell Loggains, the only former Razorback on the staff, said the team has to consistently play to the best of its abilities. "Obviously that starts with recruiting and getting the right kids on campus, the right mental makeup kids, the kids that fit Arkansas that have that chip on their shoulder that play hard," Loggains said. "And it's development." Strength and conditioning coach Jamil Walker and his staff drew praise for how they prepared the Razorbacks to take on camp, which Loggains touted. "[It's] the way we practice, and it's everyone buying into the aspect of getting better every day," he said. "It's a million little things of doing the right thing all the time and building trust amongst the team and building accountability. … The easiest way for me to say this is you get the right people, you get the right environment and you develop your people." The Razorbacks played five games last year that were decided in the closing moments, and they went 2-2 in those games, all against SEC West competition, with wins over Mississippi State and LSU and losses at Ole Miss and Alabama. In their other two division games, the Hogs upset No. 7 Texas A&M 20-10 to snap a nine-game losing streak in the series and fell 35-23 to Auburn. There's little denying the Razorbacks are playing their most intriguing schedule in many years, possibly ever. Arkansas will open on Sept. 3 by hosting College Football Playoff semifinalist and preseason No. 23 Cincinnati. The Hogs will also travel to preseason No. 25 BYU and host Missouri State and Liberty, teams coached by offensive gurus Bobby Petrino and Hugh Freeze, respectively, whose attacks have lit up SEC defenses. Petrino's presence at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, after guiding the Hogs to a 34-17 record in four seasons (2008-11) is sure to attract a crowd. Pittman, speaking again to Bazzel, who created the Frank Broyles Award, the Golden Boot and other trophies, suggested the Razorbacks again have the nation's most difficult schedule. "It's the third year in a row that we won the trophy. You need to make one because, hell, we seem to win it every year for the hardest schedule in football," Pittman said, drawing laughter. "Somebody has been trying to fire me ever since I got here. But we're hanging tough. All 12 of our opponents played in the postseason last year." The Razorbacks' lone non-conference road game is at BYU, which has a 21-4 record the last two years and has plenty of starters returning for Coach Kalani Sitake. The Razorbacks have their usual gamut of SEC West opponents, plus a home game against up-and-coming South Carolina and a road date at Missouri, where they have not won in four tries since the Tigers joined the SEC. Getting to 10 wins looks like a difficult road for the Razorbacks this fall, but as Pittman would say, you never know until they play the games. Building n Continued from Page 11 Bumper Pool | Arkansas linebacker File Photo

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