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Countdown to kickoff: Hello, Arkansas

8/17/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, David Helman previews Arkansas with Matt Jones of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Q: Arkansas returns running back Knile Davis after losing him to injury in 2011. But the Razorbacks also lose three of their top four receiving targets from last season. Which of those two changes will matter more?

It's getting Davis back in the running game, because when you think of the passing game they still have a lot of options. Cobi Hamilton has had a couple of good seasons, and they have recruited really well at wide receiver. That's a position they can afford, probably more than any other, to lose as many guys as they did. Getting Davis back is going to be the key. Arkansas could not run the ball against big, physical defenses (in 2011) when it didn't have Davis in the lineup, and teams were able to focus on the passing game and take it away.

Q: Defense has been the primary problem for Arkansas against elite competition. The Razorbacks are 1-5 against Alabama and LSU in the last three years, with the defense giving up lots of points in several of those. Does this year's unit look any stronger?

They've lost a lot of guys and it makes you hesitant to say the defense is going to be better. I don't know if it it will be any worse than it has beent the last couple of years, but they've just lost so many of their playmakers from the last two years. Depth is going to be a big question mark for them and being able to stay healthy -- that's going to be key. If they have an injury or two at linebacker or an injury or two in the secondary -- I think their defense will take a big dip.

Q: What's the mood of the fan base in Arkansas now that people have had time to react to Bobby Petrino's ouster? Are fans tempering their expectations with John L. Smith in charge, or has the new coach earned their confidence?

People are nervous because of what happened with Bobby. I've heard it said -- I don't know if I agree with it -- but it's said that Bobby Petrino is worth two extra wins per year. To an extent that might be true, but there's no way to say. I think fans are nervous because it looked like the perfect storm -- they had eight starters back on offense and seven back on defense. Because that was disrupted, there's some cause for concern. But there are so many three, four and five-year players in the program, the players' maturity is more equipped to handle what happened than other teams.