The Razorbacks need a running back to emerge in 2010

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 50 views 

story by Gary Brown, president of College Sports Matchups (CSM is a content partner with The City Wire)
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Bobby Petrino has a wish list in life like just about everyone else. It does not involve winning lottery numbers, but somewhere it probably says he would like a running back to step up for his Razorback squad.

Why? In their losses to Alabama and Ole Miss last year, the only two by double digits, Arkansas had their two most disappointing games rushing the football. Those two games were also not the best outings for Arkansas throwing the ball. Against Alabama the Razorback offense completed a miserable 39% of their passes, while the Rebels allowed an even more dismal 35%. This compares to a pass completion average of 56% for all of the 2009 campaign.

Fans may love to see the big plays produced by the explosive passing game Petrino masterminds so well, but winning in the SEC requires a somewhat more balanced approach to keep the best teams just a little off balance. Do you think Alabama was really concerned about being beaten by the Razorback’s backfield last fall?

When he was the head man at Louisville, Petrino ran an offense with considerable more balance. During his tenure at the Cardinal helm his offenses produced 43% of their yards on the ground and 57% through the air. In his two seasons at Arkansas the running game has accounted for only 31% of the offense with the rest in the air. Hardly the balance needed to keep defenses guessing.

Will 2010 be the year that Petrino can bring some balance to his offense in Fayetteville? Obviously the weapons are there at receiver and quarterback to keep the air game more than viable. The key to success for Arkansas this year will be finding a runner who will step up and be the man. With the current talent on hand there is the possibility it can happen.

Start with Ronnie Wingo. When you look at him you see a prototype body for a running back in the SEC, NFL or anywhere football is played. He has plenty of speed and more than enough power. What he needs in 2010 as a sophomore is more carries. As a freshman he gained more than six yards each time he was handed the ball, but that only occurred 49 times.

Another strong contender for the job is USC transfer Broderick Green. He is stronger between the tackles than Wingo and led the Razorbacks in rushing last year with 442 yards and a per carry number of 4.2 yards. His biggest run of the season was a 99 yard touchdown against Eastern Michigan. Now, you can’t remove the long TD from his record last year, but if that one play is not included in his rushing totals he no longer leads the team in rushing and has just over 3.3 yards when he gets the ball. Oh, Eastern Michigan was 120th in the nation against the rush.

While Green and Wingo are the two players most likely to emerge as the back the Razorbacks need to make the offense complete, there are two other returning players to keep an eye on. Dennis Johnson will be a junior and his 107-yard rushing effort against Florida was one of two 100-yard performances against the Gator defense all year. The other won the Heisman Trophy and a national title.

The other intriguing possibility is sophomore Knile Davis. He is a strong back between the tackles, Last season he put up solid numbers and it should be expected he will receive a fair share of carries in 2010. An area he needs to improve in is catching the ball out of the backfield. Wingo and Green both have an edge on him in this department.

Here is the reality. Arkansas has the runners who can create an exciting ground game for the Hogs. They have to prove they can get the job done on the field. Expect at least one of them to step up this fall so Petrino can check running back off his list.