There’s nowhere to go but up for the Hogs after they finished last season 2-10, their worst record since 1952.
Arkansas has a 98 percent chance of winning its opener against Portland State, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, but second-year coach Chad Morris has yet to name a starting quarterback.
It appeared Texas A&M transfer Nick Starkel would win the job until Morris signed Ben Hicks, whom he coached for three years at SMU. Morris said last month that Hicks would start if the team had a game that day, but the competition is ongoing.
“(Hicks) has been a quarterback of a football team that went 2-10,” Morris said at SEC Media Days. “So he stood in that team room. He stood in front of teammates before. And he’s also dug a team out of being in that position before.”
The top returning receiver for whomever starts at quarterback is tight end C.J. O’Grady, who caught two touchdowns in the Hogs’ 65-31 loss to Alabama. His 30 catches tied for the most on the team despite not catching a pass until the fifth game due to a team suspension.
“And when you saw him begin to buy in, and you saw what he can be,” Morris said. “And there’s no doubt that he can be one of the best in the country at tight end. And he’s a top play maker we got coming back for us. He’s extremely talented. It’s just how good does he want to be?
The defense looks to make a leap during defensive coordinator John Chavis’ second year in Fayetteville and 25th consecutive year as an SEC coordinator.
Senior linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris made the third-most tackles in the conference in 2017 and 2018 and is on the preseason All-SEC second team. Senior defensive lineman McTelvin Agim is on the third team after recording 10 tackles for loss last year.
Arkansas was picked by the media to finish last in the SEC West again, but oddsmakers have set the over/under for the Hogs at around six wins.
“I wouldn’t say so much slept on. It is understandable. We went 2-10 last year,” Agim said. “… You make the bed you lay in, and now it’s time for us to get out of bed.”
2018 record: 2-10 (0-8 SEC/finished 7th in SEC West)
All-time SEC championships: None
All-time bowl appearances: 42 (15-24-3)
Sept. 1 Eastern Illinois W 55-20
Sept. 8 at Colorado State L 34-27
Sept. 15 North Texas L 44-17
Sept. 22 at Auburn L 34-3
Sept. 29 Texas A&M* L 24-17
Oct. 6 Alabama L 65-31
Oct. 13 Ole Miss^ L 37-33
Oct. 20 Tulsa W 23-0
Oct. 27 Vanderbilt L 45-31
Nov. 10 LSU L 24-17
Nov. 17 at Mississippi State L 52-6
Nov. 23 at Missouri L 38-0
^Little Rock, Arkansas
Starters returning: 13 Offense: 6 Defense: 5 Specialty: 2
Starters lost: 11 Offense: 5 Defense: 6 Specialty: 0
Returning offensive starters: Rakeem Boyd (RB, Jr.), Ty Clary (OL, Jr.), Colton Jackson (OL, Sr.), C.J. O’Grady (TE, Sr.), Deon Stewart (WR, Sr.), Mike Woods (WR, So.)
Returning defensive starters: McTelvin Agim (DL, Sr.), De’Jon Harris (LB, Sr.), Kamren Curl (DB, Jr.), Jarques McClellion (CB, So.), T.J. Smith (DL, Sr.)
Returning statistical leaders
Rushing Att Yards Avg TD
Rakeem Boyd 123 734 6.0 2
Passing Att Yards Avg TD
Jordan Jones 8 18 2.3 0
Receiving Att Yards Avg TD
C.J. O’Grady 30 400 13.3 6
Tackles Total Int Sack TFL
De’Jon Harris 118 0 2.0 9.0
Aug. 31 Portland State
Sept. 7 at Ole Miss
Sept. 14 Colorado State
Sept. 21 San Jose State
Sept. 28 Texas A&M*
Oct. 12 at Kentucky
Oct. 19 Auburn
Oct. 26 at Alabama
Nov. 2 Mississippi State^
Nov. 9 Western Kentucky
Nov. 23 at LSU
Nov. 29 Missouri
^Little Rock, Arkansas