Three unanswered Arkansas football questions we have as game week arrives
It’s almost time for Arkansas football’s 2022 season, with the No. 23 Razorbacks kicking off against No. 22 Cincinnati on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CT, ESPN). As Arkansas wraps up its preseason practices, however, some questions remain that might not be answered until the Razorbacks take the field.
WATCH 2022 COLLEGE FOOTBALL LIVE
Here are our three biggest questions and concerns as game week begins.
DEPTH PROJECTION:What will Arkansas football’s depth chart look like in season opener? Our final prediction
MORE:3 bold predictions for Arkansas football’s 2022 season, including ‘College GameDay’
NEWCOMERS5 freshmen to watch from Arkansas football recruiting’s highest-ranked class since 2015
How will Arkansas’ secondary shape up?
Coach Sam Pittman said earlier this preseason that the biggest position battle was at corner, and that remains true a week out from Game 1. It seems redshirt junior Hudson Clark has secured one of the starting cornerback spots, but the second remains up for grabs.
Candidates to start include redshirt senior LaDarrius Bishop, redshirt junior Malik Chavis and junior LSU transfer Dwight McGlothern. Pittman said he’ll likely rotate through all three early on to see who fares best in live competition. He expects to make a decision on the Week 1 starter by Tuesday.
“We’re confident in all those guys, but we’ve got to find that guy,” Pittman said. “It’s more important to the kids who runs out there the first time, honestly, than it is to the coaches if they’re that close.”
How good are these wide receivers, really?
Wide receiver was a big concern for Arkansas this offseason. Pittman and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles said the group has made big strides in preseason practice, however, and they feel much more confident in their wideouts as the season approaches. Pittman and his staff know they aren’t going to replicate a receiver like Treylon Burks and instead are looking to replace him “by committee.” But how strong is that committee?
The probable starters are veteran Warren Thompson, Toledo transfer Matt Landers and Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood. Haselwood has missed two practices because of an undisclosed injury. Pittman said he “feels strongly” that the redshirt junior will be back for the Cincinnati game, but there’s no precise timeline for his return. If Haselwood isn’t able to start, Ketron Jackson Jr. will likely take his place.
Landers excelled in the second half of Toledo’s 2021 season with 486 yards in five games. Since his arrival at Arkansas in June, teammates and coaches have touted Landers’ “SEC speed.” Thompson played in all 13 games last season, starting in three, and had 304 yards and two touchdowns on 19 receptions. Pittman said the redshirt senior is a better player now than he ever thought he’d be.
But it’s hard to tell how these preseason evaluations will age once Arkansas starts playing real competition, making the receiver group as big a question mark as ever ahead of Week 1.
Just how ‘banged up’ is Arkansas’ offensive line?
Pittman described his offensive line last week as “banged up,” which isn’t ideal with the season opener days away. Left guard Brady Latham missed some practices last week with an undisclosed injury. As with Haselwood, Pittman said he was optimistic Latham would be back in time for Cincinnati.
Right tackle Dalton Wagner was limited in spring practice because of a back injury. He’s back and healthy, but Pittman indicated that the veteran won’t play every snap in all 12 games. Ty’Kieast Crawford seems to be the pick to split time with him. Crawford might have to be moved around, however, depending on how depth at the other line spots shapes up.