RB Darren McFadden

2005 Statistics

Coach: Houston Nutt
57-40, 8 years
2005 Record: 4-7
at Southern California LOST 17-70
at Alabama LOST 13-24
at Georgia LOST 20-23
at Mississippi WON 28-17
at Lousiana State LOST 17-19

2005 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2006 Outlook

Entering ’06, this Razorback squad will fly under many a radar to eventually surprise the nation as they return to prominence. No, they won’t make BCS talk, but they will again make conversations about the SEC’s best teams. That is what happens when you have 18 starters who are upperclassmen return after they made enough of a splash in 2005 when no one expected anything of a depleted lineup. Their 4-7 record doesn’t tell of how they nearly beat Georgia and LSU on the road and lost three other league games by a combined 19 points.

In the country’s toughest conference, it always comes down to defense, and consistency on that side of the ball was well established in 2005. Only a revamped approach at the safety spots has affected their 34th ranked D, so expect an even better ranking, especially from their (line’s) run-stopping (35th in ’05). Special teams are a specialty here - their superior RBs as kick/punt returners (along with a great punting unit) mean field position battles go Arkansas’ way.

The only thing that would keep UA from the top 25 is their QB situation in the new-look approach. Dick and Johnson did enough in their first year(s) (both started multiple games, with Dick stepping up amply after Johnson went cold) to make us think this campaign’s competition can only help each reach his potential. Dick will initially start, but with Johnson’s strong spring showing, Dick will be on a short leash in their fresh hurry-up mode. With arguably the best RB unit in the nation (led the SEC in rushing three of the past four years), opposing defenses will be primed for the QBs to hit their big, savvy receiving corps early and often. Head coach Houston Nutt only has to establish the deep ball to spread foes out so anything new OC Gus Malzahn calls will have full impact. With Malzahn’s no-huddle philosophy, if/once the ball-moving machine starts to roll behind a huge, experienced line, points will naturally follow. Still, this is Malzahn’s first collegiate call, but expect a quick transition under Nutt to produce impressive offensive results by no later than mid-season. How long the QBs take to adapt will dictate how far Arkansas goes this campaign.

With a schedule that has the Razorbacks going out of state only four times (six games in Fayetteville and two in Little Rock), advantage Arkansas. Nutt’s guys can compete for the SEC West crown if they can get through their first three league games with at least two wins. Against a revamped Vandy squad should be a (payback) win, and taking on Auburn and ‘Bama in this early stretch (before either gets rolling) can also work to their (experienced D’s) advantage. They stayed competitive with both last year, so we think they can at least split these two tilts to make a go at starting out strong this way. The season-ender with arch-rival LSU should somehow affect their half’s title. Anything is possible here, for Nutt has done more with less in past seasons and has two SEC West crowns to prove his worth. Just don’t be surprised after reading this when you see how good Arkansas is in 2006.

Projected 2006 record: 6-6
QB - 2.5 DL - 4
RB - 5 LB - 4
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 4.5 ..

Passing: Robert Johnson, 158-89-6, 876 yds., 5 TD

Rushing: Darren McFadden, 176 att., 1113 yds., 11 TD

Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 38 rec., 402 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Darren McFadden, 11 TD, 1-two pt. conv., 68 pts.

Punting: Jacob Skinner, 50 punts, 41.8 avg.

Kicking: Stephen Arnold, 0-0 FG, 1-1 PAT, 1 pt.

Tackles: Sam Olajubutu, 118 tot., 69 solo

Sacks: Desmond Sims, 5.5 sacks

Interceptions: Michael Coe, 3 for 25 yds.; Michael Grant, 3 for 0 yds.

Kickoff returns: Felix Jones, 17 ret., 31.9 avg., 1 TD

Punt returns: Peyton Hillis, 16 ret., 10.3 avg., 0 TD


LB Sam Olajubutu
OFFENSE: Brandon Kennedy-FB, De'Arrius Howard-TB, Kyle Roper-C, Chris Balseiro-K
DEFENSE: Pierre Brown-MLB, Clarke Moore-MLB, Vickiel Vaughn-FS

The clear-cut starter in Casey Dick, who was un-redshirted seven games into 2005 when RS soph Robert Johnson didn’t run the offense consistently enough. The now-sophomore settled in well and showed enough to make him the incumbent heading into this season. Both are 6’2” and around 215lbs. Still, the prospect of a no-huddle/hurry-up approach could give both reps early until the one who grasps the system best emerges. Whereas Johnson is a step faster, Dick (who was the first UA QB ever to take his first collegiate snap as a starter) is not slow by any means, though he will again be used primarily in a drop-back mode (look for either to be called on to get more ground yards this campaign). Both have a few wrinkles still needing to be ironed out, but the promise of development in both of their second years should give the Razorbacks better leadership from here. Five-star recruit Mitch Mustain, this year’s No.2 drop-back prospect (Rivals), seems to be the future, but he could easily be redshirted himself to keep his availability open longer due to these two being able to handle the helm.

Running Back
After leading the SEC in rushing three of the past four years, a proven pair of sophomores should make it four out of five. SEC Freshman of the Year Darren McFadden proved his five-star status quickly, earning 1100+ yards at a clip of 6.3 yards per try via 4.38 speed and 210lbs of oomph. Classmate Felix Jones may be smaller, but he proved worthy with the same average per carry and more success when in the flat. This one-two punch enters its second season together to terrorize defenses and assure any less than eight in the box won’t do to stop them. Then there is Michael Smith, who was pushing both last spring for playing time before he had to be redshirted due to injury. Smith is smaller than the two proven commodities, but makes for a nice change of pace. Junior Peyton Hillis is one of the nation’s most integral FBs, finishing first on the team for receptions while averaging close to five per carry. With depth here, too, Arkansas will continue to run it nearly 63% of the time.

Junior Marcus Monk is a coach’s dream at wideout. At 6’6” and nearly 230lbs, he wins most matchups and has soft hands – he gets anything you throw his way, exactly what establishing QBs need. His downfield blocking skills are strong enough to guarantee him a job on Sundays. Senior (ex-QB) Cedric Washington is a bit smaller but a hair faster, making him the perfect compliment. This pair of upperclassmen will help procure the QB(s) so the team’s yards per catch can soar past 2005’s modest average of 10.5. Junior Chris Baker returns from a knee injury to join Cedric Logan and quite a few up-and-coming prospects and all will provide experienced, well-rounded depth. Damien Williams is this year’s four-star stud who should also see reps. Remember, FB Hillis was the top snarler in ’05. Besides RBs, this corps provides the most talent on the team as they go four-deep with starting quality.

Tight End
Senior ex-DE Wes Murphy took back his starting spot from Mason Templeton after missing much of last campaign due to injury. Templeton is the better receiver, but Murphy is both a little faster and bigger, making him the every-down choice. We will see more balls come their way after only seven total receptions for Razorback TEs occurred in ’05. Marc Winston will also assure his soft hands produce yards, though he needs improvements in his blocking to see more reps.

Offensive Line
The talent here will complete the offense with experienced blockers. Zac Tubbs brings 330lbs. to bear at right tackle. All-SEC quality (second-team preseason 2005), the senior has missed the majority of the past two campaigns (fibula, ankle), but looks ready to return to his staring spot. The all-important LT is fellow-senior Tony Ugoh, who is solid after spearheading excellent protection in ‘05 even with the freshman QBs (ranked 20th nationally; allowed only 22 sacks). Sophomore Jonathan Lugis started most of his first year. Knee troubles look cleared up for this local frosh all-American (FWAA) to forge the blocking schemes needed so the Razorbacks can again lead the league in rushing. Senior Steve Parker has started at left guard for two seasons, and the former walk-on grades out better than most SEC linemen. Junior Robert Felton at the other inside spot rounds out this group of 300-pounders, and can play tackle, though he is still tabbed for right guard. Consequently, most of the starters can play in other slots as needed, and experience (due to 2005’s injuries) and just as much size in the reserves arguably makes this line one of the SEC’s best.

With the first-year jitters hopefully worked out of the new QBs, the talent positions are poised and ready to make the Razorbacks much improved from last season’s modest 66th total offensive showing. They will have to step into a no-huddle approach, a new for what used to be a conservative offense. Casey Dick takes the helm to start the campaign, and he has the running game behind him to feel confident defenders will be kept honest so that he can develop his aerial qualities even further, which will be needed to keep the starter for much of last year, Robert Johnson, from supplanting him. Still, whichever QB shows he can grasp the hurry-up will get the call. TBs McFadden and Jones are only sophomores themselves, and along with soft-handed junior FB Peyton Hillis, this trio comprises the SEC’s (and possibly the nation’s) best backfield. The WRs will hopefully get the rock more (and for more than 10.5 yards per completion), but they are excellent downfield blockers when not in routes. The deep ball must be established (or at least attempted), and Monk and Washington need to each have 50+ snarls for UA to prove the Razorbacks have taken the next step. The entire corps is too talented not to have Nutt and OC (as well as WR coach and no-huddle guru) Gus Malzahn make the most of their matchup advantages. The huge, versatile line can do it all, and they are experienced enough to take on all quality of comers as they have proven now year-in, year-out. But with all over 300lbs, can they keep up their quality when in hurry-up mode? Really, the QB unit only has to prove its throwing consistent while managing this great talent pool to have the offense reach its potential.


RB/KR Felix Jones


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Casey Dick-So (6-2, 211) Robert Johnson-Jr (6-2, 216)
FB Peyton Hillis-Jr (6-2, 233) Farod Jackson-Jr (6-0, 244)
TB Darren McFadden-So (6-2, 210) Felix Jones-So (6-0, 202)
WR Marcus Monk-Jr (6-6, 227) Chris Baker-Jr (6-1, 202)
WR Cedric Washington-Sr (6-0, 200) Reggie Fish-So (5-7, 154)
TE Wes Murphy-Sr (6-3, 265) Mason Templeton-Jr (6-7, 270)
OT Tony Ugoh-Sr (6-5, 304) Jose Valdez-So (6-6, 311)
OG Stephen Parker-Sr (6-4, 310) Chase Pressley-Sr (6-4, 308)
C Jonathan Luigs-So (6-4, 305) Jeremy Harrell-Sr (6-2, 300)
OG Robert Felton-Jr (6-4, 319) Mitch Petrus-So (6-5, 272)
OT Zac Tubbs-Sr (6-6, 335) Nate Garner-Jr (6-6, 317)
K Jeremy Davis-So (5-9, 195) Stephen Arnold-So (6-0, 186)


Defensive Line
Two converted-WRs, junior left end Jamaal Anderson and senior right end Anthony Brown, will supply as ample a pass rush as well as they do strong run support. Anderson came in after Brown’s left knee went out and proved much, which secured Anderson’s starting place opposite Brown for 2006. Both are superior athletes who are impossible to stop for an entire 60 minutes. The tackles are just as ready with hulksters Keith Jackson and Marcus Harrison. Jackson is a second-team all-SEC senior who accomplished the rare feat of finishing fourth on the team in tackles from an inside slot. Harrison compiled an amazing 15 QB-hurries, but that is expected from a former DE who doesn’t just take up space so others can get the glory. The Razorback’s DL goes go two-deep with experienced guys who all produce, and the entire crew should improve on 2005’s 35th-ranking against the run.

Senior weakside guy Sam Olajubutu has been flooring since his freshman campaign. This former top-ranked wrestler and current second-team all-American (NationalChamps.net) has both speed and squat strength to assure he accomplishes whatever he tries to do (team best 14.5 TFLs). The “Mike” will be classmate Desmond Sims, the team’s sack leader (though he played DE most of ’05). He is more svelte, but no faster than Olajubutu. Both do well as a fifth down lineman. Super sophomore Freddie Fairchild is the quickest of the bunch in his middle spot. He was SEC Freshman of the Year (Sporting News) as well as a frosh all-American and can do it all despite his smaller stature. Top backup Weston Dacus, a former-FB, has the speed-strength combo coaches love. The unit is so stacked that four-star recruit Van Stumon could be red-shirted due to all of the quality depth. This group knows each other well and will anchor any improvements seen throughout the D.

Defensive Back
Things seem “well covered” at corner, but the safeties are not so assured. Given the chance to start, Chris Houston has taken senior Darius Vinnett’s spot. Either can produce, but Houston’s size advantage secures him as the first option on the right side. The left side has Matterral Richardson doing the same thing after he was brought in for fellow-junior Michael Grant. And senior backup Michael Coe is the biggest of them all and tied for the team lead in pass breakups with eight. We feel that this side is even more secure, but any combination will afford coverage schemes that leave these well-qualified CBs on islands. Senior Randy Kelly has the inside track at free safety after starting (though as the SS) six games in ’05. The former JUCO-transfer has speed (4.4 in the 40) and size, as does Elston Forte, a sophomore who can play anywhere. JUCO-transfer John West, slated for the SS slot after earning all-American status last campaign at that level, was outdone by Grant in spring ball, so Grant is now the apparent choice to move back from his nickel slot. Junior Kevin Woods proved much worth with his few chances, while freshmen Kevin Harris (son of NFL great Cliff Harris) and Little Rock-native Kevin Thorton will excel here, too. The deep middle is obviously the closest thing to a soft spot, and is where most foes will attack until the Razorback safeties prove their collective worth.

The front seven will make its mark as superior run stoppers in the ever-tough SEC. But the new-look group at safety has to step up so the LBs don’t constantly have to drop back for zone help. Foes could then bait UA with passing formations that become running plays. The corners can be left to their own auspices, which means safeties in the box when it looks like a run can work the other way (against the Razorbacks) if play-action occurs and TEs are sent deep. That is the “glass half empty” breakdown. “Half full” says they have the experience and talent to improve on last year’s overall ranking of 34th (which was a marked improvement from 2004’s 78th showing). Arkansas allowed only four league opponents to score more than 20 (only Auburn tallied over 30), and they held foes to under 20 the last four games. Finishing the campaign off by holding LSU to 19 gives much promise for this year’s effort with so many starters backs. But they still allowed close to 25 points per game, which means even more consistency is the key to ratcheting it up another notch.


DT Keith Jackson


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Jamaal Anderson-Jr (6-6, 268) Chris Wade-Jr (6-6, 255)
DT Marcus Harrison-Jr (6-3, 315) Ernest Mitchell-So (6-2, 281)
DT Keith Jackson-Sr (6-0, 300) Fred Bledsoe-Jr (6-3, 302)
Freddie Barnett-Jr (6-2, 300)
DE Anthony Brown-Sr (6-6, 235) Antwain Robinson-So (6-3, 250)
SLB Freddie Fairchild-So (6-2, 215) Chip Gregory-Fr (6-4, 215)
Adrian Davis-Fr (6-4, 200)
MLB Desmond Sims-Sr (6-3, 226) Weston Dacus-Jr (6-2, 223)
WLB Sam Olajabutu-Sr (5-9, 229) Wendel Davis-Fr (6-1, 210)
CB Chris Houston-Jr (5-11, 178) Darius Vinnett-Sr (5-9, 168)
CB Matterral Richardson-Jr (6-0, 193) Michael Coe-Sr (6-1, 180)
SS Randy Kelly-Sr (6-0, 194) Kevin Woods-Jr (5-10, 195)
FS Michael Grant-Jr (5-11, 185) Rashaad Johnson-Fr (6-1, 189)
Desmond Williams-So (6-2, 208)
P Jacob Skinner-Sr (6-3, 212) Jeremy Davis-So (5-9, 195)




Jeremy Davis (back-up punter) will focus primarily on the vacant placekicking position. Last season’s place kicker, Chris Balseiro, has played out his eligibility leaving field goals and extra points up for grabs. Brian Vavra will do battle with Davis for kicking duties after his impressive showing as a KO specialist. He gives UA more promise on FGAs over 40. No one on the current roster has attempted a field goal and the starter may not be determined until September.

Senior Jacob Skinner has the job well in hand after his superior ability to control his punts proved worthy of Arkansas ranking 7th in the nation for net results. Jeremy Davis can do the same things, and backs up at PK, too (not that many injuries happen to either). Still, UA is covered.

Return Game
Felix Jones earns third-team all-American status from us after vaulting the Razorbacks to No.1 in the nation for their kick return unit. Jones had nearly 32 yards per try to individually rank second, and backfield mate McFadden also made it all possible with his average of 29. Hillis is slated to again provide over 10 yards per punt return, but with Jones the second choice, how long will it take before the faster Jones garners both return spots?