Auburn 56, Arkansas 3: What They’re Saying

Some of the best commentary following 2016’s “Massacre on the Plains”

Ah, the age-old ugly flip side to winning as a team.
Losing as one.
Boy howdy did Arkansas accomplish this feat Saturday night throughout pretty much the entirety of a 56-3 meltdown at Auburn.
Razorback football insiders point out practically every part of the team, save field goal kicking, deserves strong blame here. Here’s a look at some of their best insight:

  1. Matt Jones, WholeHogSports:

Arkansas’ run defense was supposed to be the team’s strength this season. The Razorbacks returned starters at almost every position from last season’s unit that was a top 15 national run defense. It was a group that held eventual Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to his lowest output of the season, and LSU’s Leonard Fournette to his second-lowest output last year.
With as many as 10 defensive linemen thought to be SEC starting quality, stopping the run was going to be a given with this group, even if the back end continued to struggle to defend the pass.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Arkansas’ run defense is the worst in recent memory. You can say the same for the defense as a whole. The Razorbacks are allowing 8.3 yards per rush attempt in SEC games. That’s almost a first down every time the opponent carries the ball.

2. Trent Wooldridge, Arkansas Fight:

Two years ago I watched a team that was in the middle of an historic losing streak go out every week and play their hearts out. They lost game after game, but it was obvious that nobody wanted to play them because it was apparent that every contest would be a battle. Last night, I watched a ranked Arkansas play a game against a team that was obviously licking it chops before facing the Hogs. I watched Arkansas play a team that knew it could make them quit… Life in this league is short and brutish, Coach, but a 53 point loss stays with you forever. A 53 point loss is so bad that it has Jack Crowe shit-talking you on Twitter.

JACK CROWE LOST TO THE CITADEL AND WAS FIRED ONE GAME INTO HIS THIRD SEASON HERE. AND HE’S TALKING SHIT ABOUT YOU. THAT IS HOW BAD LAST NIGHT WAS.

3. Mitch Petrus, former Razorback offensive lineman:

I’m gonna put it all on the offensive line. I’m gonna take this whole game and put it on the offensive line. It’s all your fault offensive line… I’ve never seen a game where guys don’t care so much — we got our chips down and we just give up. I can’t have that as a coach.

4. Jimmy Carter, WholeHogSports.com:

Like the Alabama game, Arkansas struggled stop the run outside the tackles, which allowed the Tigers to gash the defense for big gains. Too often, corners failed to set the edges and linebackers were stuck inside, either too slow to react and fit outside gaps, suckered in by false steps or effectively walled off by solid blocking. The safety issues, detailed below, didn’t help matters, with 6-yard runs turning into much longer, chunk gains several times.

On safeties Josh Liddell and Santos Ramirez regressing after standout performances against Ole Miss:

Each missed a number of tackles, failing to wrap up on some and going for big hits on others, the latter an area Bret Bielema stressed the coaching staff was working to correct. Against Ole Miss, Ramirez’ late big hit didn’t connect squarely with Chad Kelly but forced the fumble that allowed the Razorbacks to secure the win…

Auburn didn’t have to throw often, but it was able to take advantage of Ramirez for a big play in one key instance when it did. The sophomore left a wheel route uncovered late in the second quarter, gifting Tigers quarterback Sean White a 45-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 28-0…

Receiver Eli Stove scored a 78-yard touchdown on a jet sweep on the first snap of the game. Arkansas didn’t react to the motion at all, leaving Ramirez and cornerback Jared Collins in space as the only defenders with a shot at stopping Stove. Neither did and Auburn quickly gained momentum.

On the linebacker corps featuring Dwayne Eugene, De’Jon Harris, Brooks Ellis and Khalia Hackett at the “SAM” position:

The weakside spot has been a question mark without injured Dre Greenlaw. Ellis struggles in space at times and doesn’t have the luxury of being spelled by a backup. The entire group struggled to fill gaps and get off blocks Saturday, regularly being locked up by Auburn blockers and unable to get off blocks to make a play.

Ex Governor David Pryor Condemns Hogs’ “Nuclear Arms Race” Mentality

On September 8th, University of Arkansas trustee David Pryor cast a “no” vote for the bond issue behind the largest stadium construction project in state history. Below is a detailed explanation of the former governor’s reasoning, as laid out in a letter earlier in the summer.

Ultimately, Pryor’s veto was in vain.  By a vote of 6-2, the UA board of trustees approved the final step needed to launch the Razorback Stadium north end expansion. The other “no” vote belonged to Monticello lawyer Cliff Gibson. I got Gibson’s take on the issue here.


June 15, 2016

Dear Trustee:

For our Thursday morning meeting, I have requested the opportunity to discuss my reasons for opposing the North End Stadium project for the Fayetteville campus.  I write this letter to you and my other colleagues on the Board as time may not allow me to cover the salient points of my argument during the oral presentation before the full Board.  I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts and certainly hope you realize that my position is being taken after much thought, discussion and input.  This is not an attempt to “lobby” you for your vote, but to simply share one Trustee’s belief as to the wrongness of going forward with the North End project.

Whatever the outcome of this important decision by the Board, I will honor your position and the reasons for your vote – regardless of whether you vote to approve or disapprove this enormous commitment for the State of Arkansas.

Some months ago, I proposed that we adopt the “cost/benefit test” as we proceeded to decide this project.  As you know, the stadium expansion will be the largest bond issue in the history of higher education for the State of Arkansas.  It is a monumental commitment of resources, and to some extent, our Board will be establishing by our support that a few luxury boxes and special seats in a football stadium used some six times a year is the highest priority for the institution we all revere and serve.  I personally do not believe this project is the highest priority for the University of Arkansas.

There is a great applause line we all hear and sometimes ourselves repeat:  “We must always put students first.”

The stadium expansion does not put students first.  In fact, the some 26,000 students on the Fayetteville campus will not benefit one iota.  There are no extra student seats added.  In fact, there are no general admission seats added – but only some 3,000 “special seats” for those fans in the upper income levels.

Not one student has contacted me to express support for this project.  To the best of my knowledge, not one student organization, alumni group or chapter, or booster club has voiced their support for the North End expansion.  To the best of my knowledge, not one sports writer or newspaper has endorsed this expansion.  In fact, I have received several hundred e-mails, phone calls and citizen expressions of opposition to this mammoth bond issue which obligates the entire State of Arkansas to support a “chosen few” fans to enjoy an “enhanced game day experience.”

Between 2009 and 2013, our Board chose to support several athletic program projects, establishing a deeper footprint in the Southwestern quadrant of our campus.  In 2013, we voted on the concept of enlarging and improving the North End.  At that time, the estimated cost was not the $160 million price tag of today’s proposal, but $78 to $95 million.  I have yet to see how this enormous cost escalation has occurred in such a short time.  There has been no explanation.

It is now estimated that “only” $120 million will be required of bonded indebtedness, given that $40 million of private funds can be applied to the expansion.  Assuming a bond issue of $120 million, the 20-year cost of principal, interest, and servicing fees, we are facing an obligation of approximately $186 million dollars!

We will not just be endorsing a project costing $160 million but $186 million.

We have just raised tuition, thus adding to the backbreaking debt load our students and their families bear.  With state funding for higher education stagnant, where do we get the dollars for future classrooms for the fast growing student population?  How do we equip our labs and find scholarship support?  Can we continue being in last place in faculty salaries, according to the Southern Regional Education Board (16 southern states).  Are we to accept as a given fact that we are 45th in the nation of those states with the lowest percentage of college degrees?  And, is our answer to these and many other questions going to be, “Let’s use our resources to add 3,000 luxury boxes and high end seats for our football stadium?”

Some have recently said that this addition will help with “recruitment” in enticing prospective Razorbacks to Fayetteville.  Do any of us actually believe that an 18-year-old potential from Conway, Judsonia or Smackover really cares or is impressed by the fact that we have 75,000 stadium seats rather than 72,000?

The Athletic Department states that the expenditure of $160 million on the stadium’s north end will enhance the “game day experience” for Razorback fans.  Will two new elevators, a new Broyles Center, a multi-million video board in the south end, adding some 3,000 new luxury seats truly add any benefit except for a privileged few?

Should we ever decide to issue bonds for classrooms, labs, scholarships, tuition or faculty salaries, count me as a supporter.

A South Arkansas banker e-mailed me that this project is “ill advised.”  Another wrote:  How many student scholarships could we provide with these millions of dollars?  Several former University Trustees have recently stated their opposition to the North end expansion.

In some 8 ½ years as a Trustee, I have voted for many bond issues, every tuition increase and all athletic facilities proposed by the Athletic Department.

I cannot support this proposal.  It makes no sense.  In fact, it defies common sense and fairness that has always been a part of the Arkansas character.  Well known and respected sports writer Nate Allen recently added some true wisdom to this discussion:   “Reserve the Razorbacks just for the rich and they become a brand who fewer can afford and for which they will lose their passion.”

In America, college football has become a nuclear arms race.  Yes, it is BIG BUSINESS.  Fancy stadiums, outlandish salaries, luxury amenities.  We all know that.  On this vote, we now have a rare chance to become the school that takes the bold step of stating what our priorities are really all about.

I look forward to our Thursday discussion of the stadium issue.  You have been kind to read these comments, and to hear me out — and I am grateful.

Respectfully,

David Pryor

Groupies, Drugs & Unbending Love: London Crawford’s Story

Former Razorback receiver London Crawford recently gave one of the more open and raw interviews I have ever heard with a Hog. The 29-year-old didn’t shy away from a single hardball question sports radio host Carter Bryant lobbed his way. Take the following exchange, for example:

Q: You are a handsome guy. Were the girls all over you in college?

 Yeah, sort of. I did my thing when I was in college, man, and you know it was fun. I’m glad I got it out of my system. Now I’m at the point where I need to to be focused on trying to find marriage. That’s what I’m looking for now. In college I did my share of bad things and rip and ran, and went to parties and hung out with girls — like, with a lot girls. I carried myself well so I was liked a lot, but thank God I made it out of there the right way.

Q: What’s it like having groupies?

Man, in that state of mind when I was in college, it was great to have woman all over you — women to love you or women to want to be with you or do whatever but as you grow mentally you think, “Is this worth it? What are you really benefiting from it? What are they giving you that’s going to make you really care or think about them beyond that time?”

Q : I feel bad, London, because I do radio and when people see me they’re like, “Oh my god, you look like this?!” Though I have a lot of listeners, I don’t have groupies man. What do I need to do to step my game up?

It’s not about how you look man, it’s about how you carry yourself. You carry yourself high, you carry yourself with confidence and you dress well, you smell well, you live well, you live clean. A lot of woman are drawn to the mind frame now. It’s not the old days where they’re drawn to how you look or what you got at the time because back in the day it was about, like “Oh, he got this amount of money.” But now it’s like what is his brain like? What kind of mind frame does he have? They want that longevity… They want the guys with the degree, the guy with the secure job, so things changed man.

Bryant also catches up with how Crawford is doing these days as a professional arena league football player. They talk about his young son — “he’s a very smart, handsome guy, love sports, loves video games” — and how grateful Crawford feels to have the opportunity to mentor him, to be the involved dad he did not have at the same age.  Crawford’s childhood was far from stable, but he nonetheless credits the early gang-related activity and street temptations as a source of strength. “Growing up in that tough environment, and growing up going through the drugs, and the fighting, and all of that stuff, it made me a better person. It made me a better man today.” He adds:

I’m happy my father has gotten himself to be able to be the dad in my life that I needed him to be and he’s a great grandfather in his grandson’s life. My mother she’s still having her struggles but I’m not ashamed of her struggles. The drugs are strong man, they take over people, and it’s hard for some people to come back from it… crack addiction is tough and I’ve watched it my whole life within my mother. She had bouts where she gets off of it but she relapses. I know it’s her because she’s asked me for help and I’ve tried, and she just relapses. It’s just something that is hard to control. A lot of people don’t have a strong mind frame like I have. A lot of people can’t overcome a lot of things. With that being said, regardless of what she does, she birthed me. I wouldn’t care if she goes through it for the rest of her life and I would love my mother like she’s always been in my life.

Q: Did it make you want to do drugs? Did you do drugs in high school?

To be honest with you man, I had a time where I went through where I wanted to sell it but for me to use it, to watch my mom go through the things that she went through and to watch me not have the things that other kinds had, to see my mom how bad she was looking when she was on that stuff … Man, I steered away from that.

Carter Bryant also spoke with Crawford about a white couple who essentially adopted him in high school and college. More insight about this unique  situation, often compared to Michael Oher and Lee Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, is provided in an accompany Fox Sports Arkansas piece.

Q: Janice Givens and her wonderful husband Bryan Givens took you in. They’re white, you are black – was there racism? Was there pressure with them to take you in? 

… They treated me as if God never gave any human a color, he gave us a name, that’s how they treated me. They treated me exactly like they treated their two kids, Jonathon Givens and Thomas Given, if not sometimes better to be honest. Anything I needed, they were there. Every football game in high school, once they got in my life, every football game in college after they dropped everything — their jobs, everything to move to Arkansas because they felt like I needed someone to be there for me, they were there. Anytime I needed to talk to them about anything, advice wise, family wise. When I didn’t want to forgive my dad they told me “Look, we love you regardless of what you do. Your mother is your mother, your father is your father. You have to forgive in order to forget.” And I forgave.

janice givens Q: I guess I should rephrase the question. Did they face racism? Were people chirping about them?

Oh man! When I was in high school, there was a lot of people asking “Why is she trying to help him? What is she trying to get out of this?” A lot of doubters man. I’m talking about people that was close to me doubting. And when I got to college it was like, “Okay, they see that he’s a great athlete. They trying to get this, they trying to get this and that, doing this for a payoff for when he goes to the NFL…” Ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. Okay, I went to the NFL. I got hurt. That hindered me. I’m here now, living a wonderful life. I’m happy and they’re in my life everyday now. Where’s the payoff? They’re still the same people they were. It’s not this. They love me more now than they did then. So, no. They faced a lot, a lot of ups and downs. I’m talking about through the media, through social networks, everything. They faced a lot, man, but the love that they had for me never showed that it bothered them, ever. They always told me no matter what goes on them, that “We love you and we’re going to always be here for you.”


Like these “Where Are They Now” type articles with former Razorbacks? I write plenty more at my main site BestOfArkansasSports.com. Sign up for my once-a-week newsletter and never miss another new post:

Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

I recently wrote a piece for OnlyInArk.com supporting the theory that my hometown of Little Rock is the “tight end capital of the world” (in football, not fitness). My theory is supported by four* great college and/or NFL players: Keith Jackson, D.J. Williams, Hunter Henry and Charles Clay. I realize Williams is technically a Fort Worth, Texas native, but for the purposes of this piece he should be considered a Little Rocker — especially since he still lives there.

Little Rock has a population of about 200,000. That means one out of every 50,000 of its native sons is a world-class tight end!

Not just wanting to rely on blind hometown pride, I decided to drop a little research my theory’s way. Thanks to sports-reference.com, I gathered the hometowns of the best NFL tight ends in history — first-team All-Americans since the late 1970s and winners of the John Mckey Award for the nation’s best collegiate tight end (those winners are asterisked below).

The spreadsheet helps Little Rock’s case** by showing how the town produces so much more on a per capita basis than anywhere else. A few places vie for second place. Torrance, Calif. for instance, produced the greatest TE of all, Tony Gonzalez, and a great collegian in Daniel Graham.

St. Louis doesn’t go quietly into the positional night, either, not with Hall-of-Famer Kellen Winslow and three-time Pro Bowler Paul Coffman to its name. But according to the list, at least, these towns don’t have more than two great tight ends. Sure, it’s possible someone moved into the town as a child or young teen (like D.J. Williams did with Little Rock), but I will need to see those cases first before I admit the slightest of doubts that my theory could be wrong.

Continue reading Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

Brandon Allen’s 4th Quarter Dropoffs in Performance Lead the Nation

By Evin Demirel

On the whole, Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen doesn’t deserve the flak he’s received from Razorback fans angry at the regular fourth-quarter letdowns which have marked his career since 2013. It’s all the more frustrating this season because the fifth-year senior has been so good early in games – he’s by far the best first-half passer in the SEC:

Name School Conference 1st Half Rating QB Rating
Seth Russell Baylor Big 12 233.46
Cody Kessler USC Pac 12 210.85
Brandon Allen Arkansas SEC 207.19
Kyle Allen Texas A&M SEC 194.46
Greyson Lambert Georgia SEC 194.43
Skyler Howard WVU Big 12 189.16
Jerrod Heard Texas Big 12 186.64
Jacoby Brissett NC State ACC 182.55
Trevone Boykin TCU Big 12 182.27

Unfortunately, Allen’s consistently hot starts keep coinciding with consistently cold finishes. Two years ago, he was nowhere near as good overall, yet still had a roughly 50 point dropoff in QB rating on average from his first-half performances to his fourth-quarter performances.

Last year, his disparity there was the nation’s most severe among high-use Power 5 quarterbacks:

B Allen

This year, after three fairly close losses in a row, Allen again leads the nation in 1st half-to-4th quarter dropoff in passer rating, according to data on cfbstats.com:

Allen Goff

These stats, of course, need context.

Allen, for instance, has had to adjust to a raft of injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Too many of his teammates are incurring too many penalties. And, under a new offensive coordinator, it has taken at least four games for the offensive line to begin playing with the same coherency and domination flashed last year.

The margin for error is so small at this level. The No. 2 player above, junior Jared Goff, led a struggling California Bears team in 2013 and 2014. Now, despite his relative fourth-quarter letdowns, he and his team has made enough plays (and avoided enough penalties) to stand at 4-0 this season. The Hogs are only a few plays away from being 3-1 on the season.

Brandon Allen believes it’s in the team’s power to still turn it around.

“There’s a mind-set of when we’re in the fourth quarter and we have a lead, there’s a don’t lose mind-set more than a let’s go win it mind-set,” he said. “I think we’ve got to have the same mind-set as we’ve had in the first three quarters when we’ve been moving the ball well and carry that into the fourth quarter.”

So, what do you think – will the Razorback offense’s fourth-quarter struggles continue through October and November?


 

Read more at BestOfArkansasSports.com.

Will Hogs Join Duke, Ohio State & Arizona State to Hit Rare “Player of the Year” Trifecta?

ADG_SPT_UA_BBC_UK1_005_r600x400One opposing SEC coach called  Andrew Benintendi the nation’s best college baseball player. Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.

In the early 1990s, Arkansas joined the SEC and the conference began awarding a baseball player of the year award to complement already established football and basketball MVP titles. Since then, the conference has soared to lofty heights, becoming arguably the NCAA’s most powerful organization. Much of that has to do with stretches of dominance by Alabama, LSU and Florida in football; Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida in basketball and the likes of LSU (five national titles 1993-2009) and South Carolina in baseball.

Many of these programs have produced multiple players of the years in various sports, yet no one school has yet been able to hit a POY trifecta by having a male player win the ultimate individual honor in each major team sport in one calendar year.

That may soon change.

In 2015, the Razorbacks athletic department has a chance make SEC history by sweeping these honors. The push started earlier this spring with sophomore Bobby Portis winning basketball SEC Player of the Year. Then, on Monday, sophomore Andrew Benintendi was announced as SEC baseball’s player of the year. Benintendi, of course, has helped spearhead the Hogs’ surge from a 1-5 start in SEC play to 18-7 finish including two wins so far in the SEC Tournament. The outfielder from Cincinnati, Ohio leads the nation in slugging percentage (.760) and ranks first in home runs. “He’s probably the best player in college baseball right now,” Tennessee coach Dave Serrano told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Bob Holt.

I write more about this unique record in the context of SEC sports and the Razorbacks’ upcoming football season for Sporting Life Arkansas, but here I want to look beyond the SEC.

Specifically,  how many times has a school pulled off this one-year POY trifecta among all major conferences?

Three times – sort of.

Here they are:

1994 Duke

In basketball, Grant Hill secured ACC player of the year and first team All-American honors. But thanks to the Razorbacks, “national champion” was one honor he didn’t grab for the third straight year. Ryan Jackson took home ACC POY honors after setting a single-season school record with 22 home runs. In football, bruising back Robert Baldwin won it after helping lead Duke to its highest national ranking in 23 years.

Baldwin was the last Duke player to win ACC player of the year honors in football, but was the 10th such POY in school history (which is a surprisingly high number to my 33-year-old self. It reflects how un-dominant Florida State once was).

Continue reading Will Hogs Join Duke, Ohio State & Arizona State to Hit Rare “Player of the Year” Trifecta?

Jonathan Williams Takes Back His “Hand’s Up, Don’t Shoot” Pose

This is the time of year when we get comprehensive. What mattered most, what was best, what will be remembered: there is something about the late days of December that puts people in a retrospective mood. So it goes, and so it has gone, and so a storyline has emerged that’s maybe more comforting than true. Anyway, it is almost time to say goodbye to 2014, The Year Sports Reclaimed Its Social Conscience.

To be fair, the ingredients are there — LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Reggie Bush and others wore their “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts, and so made common cause with a massive public movement for more just policing; a cadre of St. Louis Rams emerging from a stadium tunnel with their hands up, in solidarity with the movement in nearby Ferguson, MO; after two police officers were killed in Brooklyn, the New York Giants and Jets took the field brandishing NYPD hats.

Add to that mix entire college basketball lineups that have voiced their opposition — usually through those same comic sans I Can’t Breathe t-shirts — to the verdicts in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, and their support of the movements that rose in their wake. In almost every sport, at seemingly all levels, athletes have openly spoken their minds about police brutality and social justice. In California, the issue sparked a Monday morning protest even at the high school level, after one girls’ program was banned from a tournament for intending to wear “I Can’t Breathe” shirts. The ostensible wall between sports and Everything Else has always been false, but now it was flattened. Athletes in every sport, at the professional level and at every level below, were making it clear that they would not sit this debate out.

Not so fast.

While in the last month the American sports scene has experienced a level of social activism not seen since the Vietnam era, there has been one glaring omission: college football. The story of the Razorbacks’ All-SEC running back Jonathan Williams makes this evident, as I wrote today in The Classical. 

Read more about Williams and the rest of my column, entitled “College Football’s Loud ‘No Comment'”, here. 

Arkansas State’s Coaching Carousel of Success Not So Historic?

Arkansas State fans often feel slighted by media in central Arkansas (despite KATV sports anchor Steve Sullivan’s strong ASU ties as an alum), but reasons for that chip on the shoulder are dwindling. On Christmas Day, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette made an unusual move in naming not one – but 10 individuals – as its “Sportsmen of the Year.” More unusual was the fact the sportsmen weren’t associated with the University of Arkansas.

Reporter Troy Schulte did a good job writing the piece [$$], and he got some interesting insight from ASU linebacker Frankie Jackson, one of the ten fifth-year seniors who persevered despite going through the tumult of five head coaches in five years.  “No matter what came in, it was still, turn to your left, turn to your right and you still have the same players you knew from your freshman year,” Jackson said of his classmates from the 2010 signing class. “It wasn’t the head coach, it was the team that I wanted to be a part. It didn’t matter that Roberts left, Freeze left, or Malzahn left or Harsin left — I was still with my team.”

Those are rare words coming from a player still playing for a mid-major/major Division I football program.

Usually, football program try to sell the coach as the face of the program for obvious recruiting reasons. Putting the coach front and center as the program’s public figurehead also helps boost coaches’ show ratings and sell tickets for booster club meetings. Arkansas State’s situation is so unique, however, that the “players first” slant is the only one that works without coming off as ridiculously out of tune. That being said, it will be interesting to see if the ASU football program makes this article part of its recruiting package to its current high school and junior college targets.

On one hand, this kind of front page exposure and honor seems like something the Red Wolves would want to play up to its recruits – “Hey, look, the Hogs aren’t the only major football player in state, and Arkansas’ biggest newspaper agrees!” On the other hand, if you’re current ASU coach Blake Anderson, what do you do say in response to Jackson’s words here –

“It wasn’t the head coach, it was the team that I wanted to be a part.”

Anderson’s got much bigger things to worry about, of course. He’s leading ASU into the GoDaddy Bowl on Jan. 4 in Mobile, Ala., where it hopes to pick up its third consecutive bowl win. This would cap the fourth consecutive winning season for the ASU, a major accomplishment considering from 1992 to 2010 the program had endured 16 losing seasons.

For the Red Wolves, annual coaching turnover has gone hand and hand with consistent winning since Hugh Freeze took over for Steve Roberts in December 2010.  Schulte points out that in the last 100 years this unusual combination is unprecedented: “The only other known team to go through such change at the sport’s highest division was Kansas State in 1944-1948, but those teams won just four games through that transition.”

Going back farther in time, though, there is one program that likely comes closest to replicating ASU’s combination of high success and high coaching turnover.

From 1895 to 1906, Oregon had 10 winning seasons and two undefeated ones. Still, the Webfoots went through nine coaching changes in that span. Granted, college football coaching was then approximately 6.5 million times less lucrative in that era, so the young men who so often became coaches immediately after their playing college careers sometimes jumped ship simply to pursue a career in which they could make serious money.

Take Hugo Bezdek, who led Oregon to a 5-0-1 record in 1906, his only season there. Instead of returning, though, he returned to his alma mater the University of Chicago to pursue medical school. Still, nobody forgot the Prague native’s prowess. “Bezdek is by nature imbued with a sort of Slavic pessimism that makes him a coach par excellence,” according to a 1916 Oregon Daily Journal article. “His success lies in his ability to put the fight into his men.”

Someone at the University of Arkansas heard about Bezdek’s ability and reached out to the 24-year-old to offer a position as the football, track and baseball coach (Oh, and entire athletic directorship, while he was at it). Bezdek arrived in Fayetteville in 1908 and a year later his team went undefeated (7-0-0), winning the unofficial championships of the South and Southwest. In 1910, the team was 7-1-0. Impressed with the mean-tempered hogs that roamed the state, Bezdek observed that his boys “played like a band of wild Razorbacks” after coming home from a game against LSU. The new name caught on, and in 1914 the Cardinals officially became the Razorbacks.


The Red Wolf Ten

Below are the ten 5th year seniors who have ASU on the cusp of 36 wins – what would be its second-most successful four-year run ever. “It’s a miracle on a cotton patch up here,” former coach Larry Lacewell told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Lacewell, ASU’s all-time winningest coach, led the program to its best four-year run of 37 victories in 1984-1987. Lace well said these seniors “brought tradition and pride back to Arkansas State.”

1. Brock Barnhill; DB; Mountain Home; Former walk-on; special teams contributor

2. William Boyd; WR; Cave City; Walk-on earned scholarship. Caught first career pass this season

3. Tyler Greve; C; Jonesboro; Started 12 games at center this season

4. Frankie Jackson; DB; Baton Rouge; Played RB and LB (917 career yards, 65 career tackles)

5. Ryan Jacobs; DB; Evans, Ga.; Played mostly on special teams; 11 tackles, 1 fumble recovery

6. Qushaun Lee; MLB; Prattville, Ala.; Fourth all-time on ASU’s career tackles list (390)

7. Kenneth Rains; TE; Hot Springs;7 starts; 14-160 receiving, 3 TDs

8. Andrew Tryon; SS; Russellville; 24 starts; 149 tackles, 20 breakups, 3 INTs;

9. Alan Wright; RG; Cave City; 21 starts

10. Sterling Young; FS; Hoover, Ala.; 45 consecutive starts: 268 tackles, 151 unassisted; 7-59 INTs

NB: Defensive tackle Markel Owens also would have been a fifth-year senior this season. He was shot and killed at his mother’s home in Jackson, Tenn., in January, 2014.

Above information taken from Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and ASU athletic department.

Trey Flowers’ Heir Apparent? 4-Star Jeremiah Ledbetter Signs with Arkansas

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Did another future All-SEC defender sign today?

Last month, the Razorback defense played as well over a three and a half game stretch as it had at any point since its 1964 national championship season. Maintaining such intensity and execution won’t be easy, though. Significant losses loom ahead of the 2015 season. The defense loses two all-SEC caliber players in senior linebacker Martrell Spaight and senior defensive end Trey Flowers, and possibly a third in redshirt sophomore Darius Philon.

Philon, the nation’s 14th-ranked defensive tackle, is getting feedback on high how he’d be taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Regardless of whether he leaves, Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith knows it’s vital he restock the cupboard this coming off-season.

Along those lines, there’s good news.

Today, one of the nation’s most highly sought JC defensive linemen signed a National Letter of Intent with Arkansas. Jeremiah Ledbetter, a 6’3″, 280 pound four-star recruit ( according to Rivals.com), will join the team in January after spending the past two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

From Arkansas’ sports information department:

A first-team All-Jayhawk Conference selectee, Ledbetter (@leddy_55) completed his sophomore campaign at Hutchinson with 76 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and two recovered fumbles. Ledbetter concluded his sophomore season as a second-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.

A native of Orlando, Florida, Ledbetter finished his senior year of high school at Gainesville (Ga.) High School, the same high school as Arkansas senior linebacker Daunte Carr. Ledbetter then redshirted his freshman year with the Blue Dragons.

Ledbetter selected the Razorbacks over offers from Georgia, Oklahoma State, Florida, South Carolina, Auburn and Miami (Fla.).

“Jeremiah is another fantastic addition to our growing 2015 class,” said Bielema. “He will bring experience and physicality to our defensive line and joins a group of outstanding future Razorbacks that will make an immediate impact with our team. The sky is the limit with Jeremiah and we can’t wait to see what he’ll bring during spring practice on and off the field.”

According to Rivals.com, Arkansas’ 2015 signing class ranks No. 20 in the nation. Ledbetter joins quarterback Ty Storey (@tystorey4), offensive lineman Zach Rogers (@HebronHawks75), defensive end Daytrieon Dean (@_dwoop) and defensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt (@Y3llur) as Arkansas’ early signees that will enroll January.

Arkansas will travel to Houston to take on the Texas Longhorns in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. The SEC/BIG12 matchup will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN.

To see Ledbetter’s 2014 highlights, click here.

“Woo Horns Sooiee!”: In 2022, More Texans Than Arkansans to Attend University of Arkansas

Numbers after the year 2014 are projections based on 2002-2014 data.
Numbers after the year 2014 are projections based on 2002-2014 data.

The Arkansas Times‘ Max Brantley recently pointed out the changing demographics of UA’s student population mean that, increasingly, resident Texans – not Arkansans – represent the University of Arkansas:

Texas, if anything, feels kindly these days to UA-Fayetteville. It has become a haven for Texas students for the cut-rate tuition we offer Texas students who meet grade and test criteria and for the competitiveness of flagship Texas campuses. Almost half of new freshmen are from out of state at UA, a quarter of them alone from Texas. All told, there are 4,595 Texans on campus at Fayetteville.

Out-of-state and foreign students now comprise almost 46 percent of the University of Arkansas’ enrollment, and Texans comprise the fastest-growing subset of those groups. Nearly 25% of all University of Arkansas freshmen are Texans, with 4,600 Texans now comprising the overall 26,237 student population.

That’s an 803% increase from 2002, when there were 572 Texan students on campus.

The rate of growth among Arkansan residents has been much slower, going from 12,357 in 2002 to 14,629 this year. Given how the Texans have been rolling over the Ozarks in such increasingly large waves, I thought it would interesting to see when they would outnumber Arkansans as students enrolled in the state’s flagship campus.

At the current rates, we’re on track for 2022.

Year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
# Arkansans 12537 12779 13324 13400 12985 13196 13165 13282 13986 14480 14774 14632 14629 14926 15125 15326 15530 15736 15945 16157 16372 16590 16810
# Texans 572 650 808 1044 1265 1495 1830 2053 2444 3107 3723 4147 4595 5042 5940 7013 8299 9843 11700 13939 16645 19925 23907

Perhaps you laugh at this extrapolation*.

True, it would be nearly impossible to maintain such an aggressive growth rate for a simple brick and mortar university, but the UA is increasingly making entire classes digital. Indeed, the University of Arkansas President Donald Bobbitt’s plans to vigorously push the launch of an online UA system university, eVersity, in the fall of 2015.

Success here means the rate of enrolled resident Arkansans should also incease in the coming years. But don’t assume the Texans’ rate of growth will steeply drop off, not with the number of online degree tracks to be rolled out in the next eight years. Plus, Texas has tens of millions of more people than Arkansas and is growing a much faster rate**.  All those people have to get degrees somewhere, and as Brantley pointed out the the UA isn’t shy about extending a fiscal carrot or two to out-of-state parents looking for the best deal.

Should a UA of more Texans than Arkansans be of any concern to Razorback fans? Probably not. In the short term, don’t expect a contingent of Texas-born UA students to go rogue, roll down to the upcoming Texas Bowl in Houston, emerge from a burnt orange bus with repurposed “LIVESTRONG” gear and proceed to sabotage the Hogs’ hopes of a season-ending win. In the long term, expect thousands of the resident Texans who end up enrolling in online classes with eVersity to also be transplanted Arkansans. Many will be University of Arkansas grads looking to pad their resume. Plus, many of the Texans (Razorback players included) who become UA students also become Hog fans.

A more pressing issue is how the proliferation of eVersity, coupled with the increasingly sweet HD TV viewing experience most sports fans are getting accustomed to, will change the live experience at Reynolds Razorback stadium. Let’s say, tens years from now, you’re a UA student who doesn’t attend classes in person. You do support your Hogs, but it’s by representing them in a new, football offshoot of eSports***.  The points you win for the program as a fan play into a highly lucrative meta-point ranking system of which the Hogs’ on-field performance is only a part.

Do you want to attend games in person anymore?


*Future estimates derived from Excel by using the GROWTH function, which provides predicted extrapolations using existing data.

** Texas’ population increased 20.6% from 2000 to 2010, to 25.1 million people. Arkansas increased by 9.1% to 2.9 million people in the same span.

*** Don’t tell me the SEC won’t find a way to grab a piece of this rapidly expanding pie in the next 10 years.

NB – The above post is an update of a previously published post.