Despite Saturday night’s loss to top-10 Texas A&M, Bret Bielema and Arkansas put on quite a show for the recruits on hand, the 72,613 fans in attendance and a national television audience.
What Arkansas’ loss Saturday night showed that may be overlooked, however, was a pleasant glimpse into the future of the Razorback football program.
The top three performers on the offensive side of the ball for Arkansas were all underclassmen as the Hogs’ young talent was on full display.
Redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen had a career-best game against the Aggie defense, setting career highs in completions (17), passing yards (282) and touchdown passes (3).
Allen’s performance, even against a suspect defense, can do nothing but give Arkansas fans confidence moving into future contests, such as the ones against Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and LSU.
Arkansas’ other top performers were both freshmen. Hunter Henry, who hauled in four passes for 109 yards, led all Arkansas receivers, and Alex Collins again ran for over 100 yards for the fourth time in his first five games.
Jonathan Williams and Keon Hatcher, both sophomores, showed signs of star ability, too, and reeled in all three of Allen’s touchdown passes.
What Arkansas displayed Saturday night was a product of tremendous player development by a newly assembled coaching staff.
New running backs coach Joel Thomas, previously at the University of Washington, has done a superb job of coaching a very young stable of backs up to speed so quickly.
Wide receivers coach Michael Smith and tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. have done wonders in coaching up two very inexperienced groups with lots of young players.
In the limited amount of time this new coaching staff has had with this team, they have fielded a positive product faster than anyone could have possibly imagined.
Most Arkansas fans knew Texas A&M’s defense was susceptible to the run, but Brandon Allen and the Arkansas skill players proved they were more than just a one-dimensional, ground-and-pound offense.
And while executing a balanced offensive gameplan, Arkansas’ young talent was the centerpiece for Jim Chaney and Bret Bielema’s attack.
But before we go giving all of the credit to the skill players and Brandon Allen, we should realize it all started with great play up front, especially from freshmen Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland, who earned their first career starts.
Skipper, the 6’10” freshman, already made a name for himself before Saturday, lining up over the center on defense during field goal attempt and blocking a kick at Rutgers.
There are definitely plenty of positives that can be taken away from the loss to Texas A&M, especially on the offensive side of the football with all of the young talent.
Sure, Arkansas still has a ways to go with its rebuilding process, but what we all saw Saturday night against the Aggies was sure an uplifting sight.
I have complete confidence in this coaching staff and will remain patient, realizing this group of coaches and players, with time, have the ability to be forever remembered in Razorback history to be the class that brought Arkansas football back to national prominence.