OT Shawn Andrews

2002 Statistics

Coach: Houston Nutt
39-23, 5 years
2002 Record: 9-5
at Tennessee LOST 38-41 (6OT)
at Auburn WON 38-17
at South Carolina WON 23-0
at Mississippi State WON 26-19
Georgia LOST 3-30
Minnesota LOST 14-29

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

With a boatload of returning starters, especially on offense, Arkansas has the potential for greatness. The Razorbacks should enter 2003 with a bad taste in their mouths after being exposed in their final two 2002 tilts. The SEC Championship loss to Georgia ranks as a relatively mild disappointment - after all, the Bulldogs were an outstanding team and went on to a convincing Sugar Bowl win over a marginally-credible Florida State team. The same cannot be said for the 15-point defeat at the hands of Minnesota in the Music City Bowl, in which the Hogs were outplayed in every facet of the game.

Recovering from that disappointment will be the focus throughout the off-season for Houston Nutt and his staff. If Cedric Cobbs can keep his head straight while Matt Jones continues his improvement under center, Arkansas' offense will be one of the top units in the SEC.

On defense, replacing Ken Hamlin will be a tall order. But Tony Bua is poised to become their next outstanding impact player. The defense will be dominated by experienced juniors and seniors, most with the talent to make an impact. If questions can be answered up front and some strides made in the secondary, this team area will be responsible for elevating the entire team's results.

The schedule is a tough one, starting Sept. 13 with a trip to Texas. In conference, Arkansas hosts top-notch foes Auburn and Florida on consecutive weeks (Oct. 11 and 18, respectively) and must travel to Ole Miss, Kentucky, and LSU - all 2002 bowl teams with decent shots at returning in 2003 - as well as Alabama.

The difficulty of the schedule means that Arkansas, despite having as much talent as any team in the conference, will be hard pressed to repeat last year's surprising run to the title game. They needed many helpful results to get them someplace they couldn't have gotten alone. Although the Hogs should finish at .500 or better - Tulsa, North Texas, and New Mexico State round out the nonconference slate - it's unlikely that the postseason destination will be an improvement over the Music City Bowl. But, like in recently past years, this squads will lose to a team they shouldn't, and beat one likewise. During the fall months, this team has never let its fans sleep soundly.

Projected 2003 record: 8-4
QB/WR Matt Jones
RB Cedric Cobbs
DE Jeb Huckeba
WR Steven Harris
QB - 2.5 DL - 4
RB - 4 LB - 4.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 4.5
OL - 4.5 ..

Passing: Matt Jones, 234-122-8, 1592 yds., 16 TD's

Rushing: Matt Jones, 129 att., 614 yds., 5 TD's

Receiving: George Wilson, 49 rec., 626 yds., 7 TD's

Scoring: David Carlton, 12-16 FG, 28-29 PAT, 64 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: David Carlton, 12-16 FG, 28-29 PAT, 64 pts.

Tackles: Tony Bua, 131 tot., 77 solo

Sacks: Tony Bua, 4 sacks; Caleb Miller, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Lawrence Richardson, 4 for 25 yards

Kickoff returns: Decori Birmingham, 28 ret., 22.8 avg.

Punt returns: Decori Birmingham, 28 ret., 12.2 avg.


CB Ahmad Carroll


FB Mark Pierce has left the team for the time being and it is unknown whether he will return this year. Pierce had been experiencing personal troubles with the loss of his father and needed to take time off to get squared away.


OFFENSE: Fred Talley-TB, Marcellus Poydras-TE, Nathan Ball-OG, Tarvaris Jackson-QB (transferred)
DEFENSE: Raymond House-DE, Gavin Walls-DE, Pervis Osborne-DT, Richie Butler-P, Ken Hamlin-FS (NFL)

written by Collin Mickle

Woody Hayes would have loved last season's Arkansas offense. The Razorbacks were the quintessential "three yards and a cloud of dust" team - leading the SEC in rushing offense. The offensive strategy is unlikely to change this season, despite the graduation of tailback Fred Talley.

Tailback Cedric Cobb has returned to full health and should be more than ready to step back into the starting job, which he lost after an injury in the Hogs' fourth game. Cobb's career has not been smooth - he had problems with the law earlier in his stay in Fayetteville - but as long as he can stay in good health and in head coach Houston Nutt's good graces, he will be one of the conference's top runners.

If Cobbs does have success in 2003, plenty of the credit should be heaped on the sizeable shoulders of the Razorbacks' offensive line. The unit, by far the best group in Nutt's six years at Arkansas, will start four seniors and a junior, all of whom started last season. The unit averages 6-4, 307 pounds, and is a fearsome match up in the run game.

Other than Cobb, the rest of the offense is based largely on the outstanding physical ability of junior quarterback Matt Jones. At 6-5, 225, Jones has prototypical size, and his ability to contribute both as a passer (1,592 yards and 16 touchdowns) and a runner in the option attack (614 yards rushing, second on the team) gives the Razorbacks a big-play threat from anywhere on the field. In his first year as a starter, Jones suffered some growing pains, but his role in the biggest play of the season - the miraculous touchdown pass that capped Arkansas' 21-20 comeback victory over LSU - showed his potential. Despite its dominance on the ground, Arkansas was hopeless through the air, averaging just over 134 yards passing per game. Part of the difficulty lay with the offensive line. One thing is for sure, OT Shawn Andrews is most likely the best OT in college football...and could easily be the first lineman taken in next year's NFL draft should he decide to leave early.

Still, expect Jones to build upon those flashes in 2003. The Razorbacks are counting on him to do just that. Sophomore Tarvaris Jackson had an opportunity to push Jones as a redshirted 2002 freshman, but eventually appeared lost in his rare game appearances and ended up transferring. Unless senior Ryan Sorahan shows considerable improvement, Jones will be Nutt's only real option under center.

Jones' receiving corps returns en masse. Ten Razorbacks caught more than one pass last season, and nine of them will be returning to Fayetteville. The ground game will remain the primary focus, with Cobb and Jones running the option, but the opportunities for the passing attack will present themselves. It is imperative that these opportunities not be squandered so the field can be legitimately stretched even before the first snap is taken. A constant threat of the deeper routes will back corners off so the option can succeed more as the season grinds forward..

Flanker Richard Smith and split end George Wilson will be Jones' main target(s). The two combined for more than half of Arkansas' catches, yards, and touchdowns in 2002. Junior Decori Birmingham, the co-hero with Jones of the LSU win, came on late in the season and should continue his improvement. Junior tight end Jason Peters is the only player likely to catch more than three or four passes. Someone has to step up, or else defenses will be able to take these two guys out and make stopping the Razorbacks an easily solved, one-dimensional puzzle.

Pass protection was a problem, when the Hogs gave up a sack every ten passing attempts and struggled against speed rushers on the edge. Another year of experience may be the answer. If the line can get its pass-blocking problems ironed out, Arkansas' offense automatically becomes a much more dangerous weapon. But Jones was sacked also due to his own mental wares.

Although Jones appears to have great potential both as a passer and as a runner in the option, he must improve his drop-back passing and play-faking ability. Other than the miraculous ending of the LSU game, the Razorbacks struggled to pick up yards through the air, making it difficult to mount comebacks. He may not have the subtle ability to know, as option QBs must, when to run and when to pass if the option is presented. He may know the other tough ability - of when to take it himself or when to pitch - but this passing/running choice is what keeps this option-team grounded while others use the option optimally to put defenses on their heels and set up the pass.


TB Cedric Cobbs


Returning Starters in bold
QB Matt Jones-Jr Ryan Sorahan-Sr
FB Mark Pierce-Jr Brandon Kennedy-So
TB Cedric Cobbs-Sr De'Arrius Howard-So
WR George Wilson-Sr Steven Harris-Jr
WR Richard Smith-Sr Decori Birmingham-Jr
TE Jason Peters-Jr Jared Hicks-So
OT Bo Lacy-Sr Jason Grimes-Fr
OG Jerry Reith-Sr Tony Ugoh-Fr
C Dan Doughty-Sr Kyle Roper-So
OG Mark Bokermann-Sr Gene Perry-Jr
OT Shawn Andrews-Jr Zac Tubbs-So
K David Carlton-Jr Chris Balseiro-So



written by Collin Mickle

Although Arkansas has been a physical, grind-it-out team on both offense and defense throughout the Houston Nutt-era, the 2002 Hogs allowed more than 25 points per game in five SEC games. Arkansas lost four of those five. The Razorbacks were plagued by defensive inconsistency. They ranked second in the conference in rushing defense, surrendering just over 113 yards-per-game, but were dead last (48th in I-A) in pass efficiency defense. The departure of defensive coordinator John Thompson to take the same post at Florida was part of the problem. Quality opponents were able to take advantage of the Hogs' secondary, which, despite a surfeit of talent, was mostly unimpressive.

The strength of the 2003 defense will be in the middle unit. Arkansas returns one of the conference's top linebacking corps. Bua is the standout, recording 131 tackles, four sacks, and a pair of interceptions as a junior in 2002. A do-everything player from the weakside linebacker position, Bua terrorizes opposing offenses in much the same way as former Razorback Quinton Caver, lining up at various positions on the field and using his remarkable athletic ability to wreak havoc.

Miller, Bua's running mate on the strong side, matched him essentially stat for stat. Both players are seniors who will be starting opposite one another for the third year in a row, so the glue has been set for their symbiotic nature to hold together well, making one plus one equal much more than two.

Junior Arrion Dixon returns as the starting noseguard. Dixon will be the key to Arkansas' rush defense. Senior defensive end Justin Scott, a key 2002 reserve, will be counted on to replace Gavin Walls' output at one defensive end position. He won't be the same force, but should hold his own nicely. At the other end, junior Elliot Harris returns for his second season in the starting lineup. Harris is a big, strong player with a great deal of natural ability - a good candidate for a breakout season. Look for Harris to play inside or outside. The entire front-seven inherits numbers of allowing just 3.15 yards-per-run and 11 TDs all year. Look for these to drop slightly, with similar actual results. Opponents will have to go to the air on this squad for success.

The struggling defensive backfield, which lost its leader and best player when free safety Ken Hamlin declared for the NFL draft, will be under a great deal of pressure. Corners Lawrence Richardson and Ahmad Carroll return - good work by Richardson was offset by Carroll's less-spirited 2002 performance. Both will need to be improved. Senior strong safety Jimmy Beasley has a good nose for the ball. A second year of using the new coverage schemes and knowing each other's tendencies will vastly, yet still only marginally, improve this unit's performance.


LB Tony Bua


Returning Starters in bold
DE Justin Scott-Sr Wes Murphy-So
DT Elliott Harris-Jr Jayson Johnson-Sr
NG Arrion Dixon-Jr Scott Davenport-Sr
DE Jeb Huckeba-Jr Keith Turner-Sr
SLB Caleb Miller-Sr Shane Collins-Jr
MLB Clarke Moore-So Brandon Holmes-Sr
WLB Tony Bua-Sr Desmond Sims-Fr
CB Lawrence Richardson-Sr Eddie Jackson-Sr
CB Ahmad Carroll-Jr Marvin Jackson-Sr
ROV Jimmy Beasley-Sr Bo Mosley-Sr
FS Jimarr Gallon-Sr Vickiel Vaughn-So
P Brennan O'Donohoe-Sr Josh Dennis-Jr




Senior punter Richie Butler, a four-year starter at the position, has graduated. His position will be filled by the most likely candidate, Brennan O'Donohoe, who spent time doubling as a kicker during his tenure.

No uncertainty exists for the placekicking spot, which will be held by junior David Carlton. He also served as the team's KO specialist. Carlton was impressive as a replacement for ineffective Brendan O'Donahue in 2002, making 12-of-16 field goals (but 0-of-3 from 50+) and scoring a team-best 64 points.

Decori Birmingham will return as the top returner on both kickoffs and punts, unless he breaks into the starting lineup at wideout. Birmingham averaged 12.2 yards per punt return and 22.8 on kickoff returns. The coverage units were every bit as solid as the return squads, holding opponents under 10 yards per punt return and 16.8 yards per kickoff.


Most people know, by now, the experimentation that QB Matt Jones has been undergoing at WR. He had a fruitful spring in that transition, while maintaining his QB status. Backup Ryan Sorahan has picked up his play at QB this spring, getting better and better with each practice. This progress leads me to believe the Hogs will eventually insert Sorahan under center and give Jones primary responsibility on the wings. He is an incredible athlete who can pay big dividends with a pocket passer like Sorahan tossing to him. Look for the Hogs to rotate the two to start the season… WR Steven Harris was the big play threat this spring and currently sits as a third receiver… Coaches found the running game very encouraging with Cedric Cobbs breaking off frequent big gainers, and invariably running with authority. He is currently in the making for an outlandish senior season. De'Arrius Howard has been almost equally as impressive and the Hogs should have no trouble on the ground.

Moving Jeb Huckeba from LB to DE paid off this spring, as the coach-described "playmaker" did just that from the rush spot. His addition on the end gives them a solid defensive front and should help maintain a solid pass rush, which the Hogs have been known for the past few years. Seriously- Huckeba will put up some numbers and I expect him to finish All-SEC. NG Arrion Dixon has also picked up his play, helping strengthen this front line… Nutt says he is very pleased with the aggression, but more so, the speed of his linebackers. They have shown they can fly to the ball and disrupt a play before it gets anywhere. The front seven will make this defense one of the better ones in the SEC. LB Michael Robinson is a great tackler, who will give the group a great player off the bench, in the case that one of their stud starters needs a breather.

KRs Lawrence Richardson and DeCori Birmingham will team up one of the better kick return duos in the SEC, as both have the ability to take one deep. Marvin Jackson returns as the punt returner, after sitting out last season with an injury. Placekicker David Carlton had a good handle on his kicks this spring, leading us to believe he will be a worthy candidate for the Groza Award.