The Arkansas Razorbacks Should Not Be Overlooked This 2022 College Football Season

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Arkansas Razorbacks Should Not Be Overlooked This 2022 College Football Season

Football

The Arkansas Razorbacks Should Not Be Overlooked This 2022 College Football Season

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Julio Aguilar/Getty Images 

In 2021, the Arkansas Razorbacks had a 9-4 record with their four losses coming against Georgia, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Alabama. Of the four the worst loss was against Georgia where they lost 37-0. Otherwise, the loss to Ole Miss was 52-51, Auburn was 38-23, and even Alabama was close with a final score of 42-35. For a team that went 3-7 in 2020, the 2021 season showed immense improvement. They can now improve on this in 2022 and be a team that should not be overlooked.

 

A key factor for this is the culture that head coach Sam Pittman has started to build there in Fayetteville. His first season with the team was the 2020 season which didn’t go exactly great but it was also a weird year with the coronavirus pandemic. If his second year in 2021 was any indication, being able to have a bit of normalcy was what Pittman needed to truly start his culture shift with the program. When Pittman accepted the job he didn’t take it for the money as he knew if he got the program in the right direction it would come down the line. He instead wanted the job for the love of the game and the program. There will be consistency for the most part on the coaching staff heading into the 2022 season as every coach is returning besides defensive line coach Jermial Ashley, and cornerbacks coach Sam Carter. Pittman has turned the Razorbacks into a place where coaches want to stay and even come to coach.

This culture that Pittman has instilled with the coaching staff has led to the players buying in. One of those crucial players is quarterback K.J. Jefferson. In his first year as a starter, he completed 67.3% of his passes for 2,676 yards, 21 touchdowns, and only four interceptions. He also ran the ball 146 times for 664 yards and six touchdowns. Jefferson will be working with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles for another year which should lead to Jefferson improving more. 

The Razorbacks were also a team that actively used the transfer portal to upgrade their team. They got wide receiver Jadon Haselwood who over his three years at Oklahoma had 62 receptions for 736 yards and seven touchdowns. The redshirt sophomore is the perfect fit to come in and help the team fill the large void at wide receiver with Treylon Burks heading to the NFL. 

The next key transfer is linebacker Drew Sanders who is coming from Alabama. Sanders is a starting-caliber linebacker and the reason he transferred to Arkansas was for the fact that Alabama has so much depth at the position that it was going to be difficult for him to see the field. Sanders only played in eight games during the 2021 season but still made an impact with 24 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, and had two passes defended. They also had cornerback Dwight McGlothern transfer from LSU. McGlothern brings the experience of already going against SEC opponents. He also saw limited playing time but still accumulated 34 tackles and one interception. All transfer players are bound to make an instant impact. 

The next area to look at for this Arkansas team is that they have immense depth. On offense in 2021, they prided themselves on being able to run the ball effectively. They were the seventh-best team in the nation in terms of rushing yards. This was due to star running back Dominique Johnson who had 575 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. They also have another stellar athlete in second-year player Raheim Sanders who had 114 rushing attempts where he put up 578 yards and five touchdowns. At the wide receiver spot Haselwood will be paired with Warren Thompson and Ketron Jackson Jr. and behind them are Bryce Stephens and Jaquayln Crawford. The Razorbacks’ offense is filled with plenty of talent to build off of the 2021 season. 

The depth continues on defense specifically in the defensive back portion. One thing Arkansas wants to do this year is blitz and blitz in a variety of ways. For how they want to blitz they need cornerbacks who can hold up on the back end and they have just that. They have two returning starters in Hudson Clark and LaDarrius Bishop who are now paired with transfer star McGlothern. They also have developing young players like Keuan Parker, Chase Lowery, and Malik Chavis. Chavis has switched over to play cornerback after playing at the safety spot prior. He is athletically gifted and it would not be a surprise to see Chavis be the most versatile player on the defense. 

Their safety duo is also among one of the best heading into 2022 with Jalen Catalon and Simeon Blair. Catalon had four pass breakups and two interceptions while Blair also had four pass breakups and a sack in 2021. This duo paired with the cornerbacks and their defensive line will make for one heck of a defensive unit. 

The one knock on the Razorbacks is that they have one of the toughest schedules. They start off the season against the Cincinnati Bearcats, then South Carolina. After week three against Missouri State, they face Texas A&M and Alabama in consecutive weeks. The next two games after they face Alabama are Mississippi State and BYU. After their bye week on October 22, they come back to face Auburn, Liberty, LSU, Ole Miss, and end the season with Missouri. Their schedule is a gauntlet, but with the culture coach Pittman has built, and the talent on the team they could surprise the nation and end up with a better record than expected with a few upsets along the way.

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