by Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas, fresh off a 9-4 season, enters 2022 with high expectations once again despite tackling what will be a very challenging schedule.
In addition to the normal SEC schedule, the Hogs open the season with Cincinnati, which played in the College Football Playoffs last season. They also host Missouri State with Bobby Petrino as head coach, Liberty and Hugh Freeze as well as traveling to BYU, which was 10-3 in 2021 and returns 20 starters.
The offense is centered about redshirt junior KJ Jefferson. Last season, Jefferson passed for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also topped the rushing charts with 664 yards and six touchdowns. He is backed by redshirt sophomore Malik Hornsby.
The Hogs topped all Power 5 schools last season in rushing. They return all the running backs with the exception of Trelon Smith. Rocket Sanders is a sophomore and back after running for 578 yards and five touchdowns. Dominique Johnson rushed for 575 yards and seven touchdowns. AJ Green is also back after rushing for 227 yards and a touchdown. The fourth back right now is freshman Rashod Dubinion.
Gone at wide receiver are Treylon Burks, Tyson Morris and De’Vion Warren. That trio combined for 105 catches for 1,684 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021. Warren Thompson is the leading receiver returning catching 19 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Two transfers figure to standout at wide receiver. Former Sooner Jadon Haselwood, who led them with 39 receptions for six touchdowns in 2021 and Toledo’s Matt Landers are both now with the Hogs. True freshman Isaiah Sategna, sophomore Ketron Jackson and redshirt freshmen Jaedon Wilson and Bryce Stephens are also in the mix at receiver. Two more true freshmen, Quincey McAdoo and Sam Mbake, also could work their way into the rotation.
Senior Trey Knox is up to 245 pounds and a full-time tight end now. He caught 20 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in 2021. Hudson Henry and former walk-on Nathan Bax are also expected to see extensive action at tight end.
The offensive line returns four starters. Gone is left tackle Myron Cunningham. But redshirt senior Luke Jones is expected to replace him. Ricky Stromberg is considered one of the best centers in the nation. The guards, Brady Latham and Beaux Limmer, both return as does right tackle Dalton Wagner. Junior Ty’Kieast Crawford is pushing Wagner.
The defensive line has senior Zach Williams and junior Jashaud Stewart back at the ends. Transfers Jordan Domineck (Georgia Tech) and Landon Jackson (LSU) are also contending for playing time there. Eric Gregory will play both end and inside.
The defensive tackles took a hit in the spring when Taurean Carter went down on the third play of the April 16 scrimmage with a knee injury that could keep him out all season. Redshirt senior Isaiah Nichols is the leader at defensive tackle. Others in the mix there are Gregory, Marcus Miller, Terry Hampton, Cameron Ball, Taylor Lewis and Nico Davillier.
Bumper Pool returned for his senior season bypassing the 2022 NFL Draft. Pool is joined at linebacker Drew Sanders, a transfer from Alabama. Among the other linebackers who are in mix to play are redshirt freshman Pooh Paul, true freshmen Jordan Crook and Mani Powell as well as redshirt sophomore Jackson Woodard, a former walk-on player who earned a scholarship.
The cornerbacks competing for the two starting spots are LSU transfer Dwight McGlothern, redshirt junior Hudson Clark, redshirt senior LaDarrius Bishop and redshirt junior Malik Chavis. Bishop is from Ashdown and Chavis from Rison.
The safeties are led by redshirt junior Jalen Catalon. Junior Myles Slusher is the nickel back. Several others are competing at safety including former Georgia Bulldog Latavious Brini, sophomore Jayden Johnson and redshirt senior Simeon Blair.
Sophomore Cameron Little is the kicker. He is also competing with Texas State transfer Jake Bates for the kickoff job. At punter, Reid Bauer and true freshman Max Fletcher are still fighting it out there.