SEC media days hit early for Hogs
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.
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.