SEC me­dia days hit early for Hogs

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TOM MUR­PHY

FAYET­TEVILLE — The ear­li­est SEC me­dia days ever will kick off Mon­day in Hoover, Ala., with Com­mis­sioner Greg Sankey open­ing the show at 11:35 a.m., fol­lowed by Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and the Ra­zor­backs.

Quar­ter­back Austin Allen of Fayet­teville, cen­ter Frank Rag­now of Vic­to­ria, Minn., and de­fen­sive back Kevin Richard­son of Jack­sonville, all se­niors, will speak for the Ra­zor­backs.

Bielema — who be­came a first­time fa­ther Satur­day — likely will field ques­tions about his wife, Jen, and daugh­ter, Briella Ni­c­hole, as well as ques­tions about his fifth edi­tion of the Ra­zor­backs, who are look­ing to im­prove on a 7-6 record from 2016.

The Ra­zor­backs have a new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in Paul Rhoads, who served as de­fen­sive backs coach last sea­son, and they have switched to a base 3-4 front in an ef­fort to im­prove their run de­fense. Arkansas ranked No. 94 in the FBS af­ter al­low­ing 205.5 rush­ing yards per game and also gave up a school-record 39 rush­ing touch­downs in 2016.

The Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville is also fac­ing a back­field in tran­si­tion af­ter the SEC’s No. 3 rush­ing Rawleigh Wil­liams suf­fered a ca­reer-end­ing neck in­jury dur­ing the Red-White spring fi­nale. Sopho­more Devwah Whaley is ex­pected to take over the

top tail­back spot from Wil­liams, who rushed for 1,360 yards and 12 touch­downs and av­er­aged 104.6 yards per game last sea­son.

Rag­now leads an ex­pe­ri­enced of­fen­sive front that blocked for the na­tion’s No. 54 of­fense, which put up 428.4 yards per game and al­lowed 35 sacks to rank No. 103 in the coun­try at 2.69 per game. The Ra­zor­backs av­er­aged 264.2 pass­ing yards per game and 164.2 rush­ing yards per game.

Allen led the SEC with 3,430 pass­ing yards, ranked second with 25 pass­ing touch­downs and third in pass­ing ef­fi­ciency.

Richard­son is com­ing off a lost sea­son af­ter suf­fer­ing a torn pec­toral mus­cle in the Ra­zor­backs’ sea­son-open­ing 21-20 vic­tory over Louisiana Tech. Richard­son’s loss left Arkansas short-handed at de­fen­sive back and con­trib­uted to the team’s No. 76 ranking in to­tal de­fense.

Allen will be one of six quar­ter­backs at SEC me­dia days, join­ing Ken­tucky’s Stephen John­son, Ole Miss’ Shea Pat­ter­son, Mis­souri’s Drew Lock, South Carolina’s Jake Bent­ley and Van­der­bilt’s Kyle Shur­mur.

The house­hold names among play­ers in Hoover will be Ge­or­gia’s se­nior tail­back tan­dem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel; LSU tail­back Der­rius Guice; Alabama re­ceiver Calvin Ri­d­ley and de­fen­sive back Minkah Fitz­patrick; and Texas A&M re­ceiver Chris­tian Kirk and de­fen­sive back Ar­mani Watts.

Bent­ley and Pat­ter­son will be the only sopho­mores in at­ten­dance.

Arkansas, Auburn, Mis­sis­sippi State and Ten­nessee are the only schools bring­ing all-se­nior con­tin­gents to me­dia days, while Ole Miss and South Carolina are the only teams not bring­ing a se­nior.

Only 16 of the 42 play­ers sched­uled to speak at me­dia days play on the de­fen­sive side of the ball, and only three of them — LSU’s Chris­tian LaCou­ture, Ole Miss’ Bree­land Speaks and Ten­nessee’s Ken­dal Vick­ers — play on the de­fen­sive line.

Of in­ter­est to Arkansas fans will be the pres­ence of Mis­souri line­backer Eric Beisel, who ad­vised the Ra­zor­backs not to come to Columbia, Mo., for their game on the day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing last year. Mis­souri Coach Barry Odom called Bielema to apol­o­gize for Beisel’s com­ments, but the line­backer’s smack talk held up with Mis­souri ral­ly­ing for a 28-24 vic­tory by shut­ting out the Ra­zor­backs in the second half.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN­JAMIN KRAIN

Se­nior quar­ter­back Austin Allen will be among the play­ers rep­re­sent­ing the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs at SEC me­dia days Mon­day, along with of­fen­sive line­man Frank Rag­now and de­fen­sive back Kevin Richard­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.