WR Marcus Monk (PHOTO: University of Arkansas)

2004 Statistics

Coach: Houston Nutt
55-33, 7 years
2004 Record: 5-6
at Florida LOST 30-45
at Auburn LOST 20-38
at South Carolina LOST 32-35
at Mississippi State WON 24-21

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

The 2004 Razorbacks did something that has not been "achieved" for seven consecutive seasons in Fayetteville: they missed out on the postseason. The Razorbacks expected rebuilding and then dealt with it. But this year will likely prove that was an aberration.

The O-line is again stocked with proven guys who specialize in the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust style favored by Nutt. While Jones will be tough to replace, none of the candidates need to do what he did - carry the offense, and therefore be anticipated and stoppable, as Jones was. But a suspect defense means shootouts, so look for progress here to soon equal bigger numbers, but not necessarily more wins.

The defense won't again be an Achilles' heel; it was so much so in 2004 that long-time Nutt assistant, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, was let go in the offseason. With new coordinator Reggie Herring, look for his aggressive style to surge the Razorbacks into the top third (he just finished leading the No.1 pass efficiency and total defensive categories while at N.C. State). His specialty being secondaries will help with the Hogs' weakest area. Strong frontline play here will allow the LBs to "speed" up the DBs progress.

Nutt has proven himself a strong recruiter and motivator, but (off-the-field) issues continue to affect his campaigns. An expected down year in the SEC west sure doesn't hurt, but there is another juggernaut lineup of strong teams that Arkansas' slate just never seems to run out of. Defending champ (at) USC is third up, part of five midseason games that will force improvements, least of all through hard lessons via competitive losses. Ending with lower-state rival LSU will be their bowl precipitous - a win/loss here and they play/stay home in late December. As the winningest coach of SEC home games over the past eight years (40), we will see Nutt again paste foes and make his team feared - Houston, we won't have a problem here anymore, thanks to you…

Projected 2005 record: 6-5
QB - 3 DL - 3
RB - 3 LB - 2.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Robert Johnson, 19-10-1, 209 yds., 3 TD

Rushing: De'Arrius Howard, 124 att., 529 yds., 6 TD

Receiving: Marcus Monk, 37 rec., 569 yds., 6 TD

Scoring: Chris Balseiro, 4-7 FG, 40-41 PAT, 52 pts.

Punting: Jacob Skinner, 29 punts, 36.6 avg.

Kicking: Chris Balseiro, 4-7 FG, 40-41 PAT, 52 pts.

Tackles: Vickiel Vaughn, 66 tot., 47 solo

Sacks: Keith Jackson, 2 sacks

Interceptions: Michael Coe, 2 for 7 yds.; Lerinezo Robinson, 2 for 29 yds.; Vickiel Vaughn, 2 for 92 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff returns: Peyton Hillis, 7 ret., 18.3 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Kevin Woods, 1 ret., 17.0 avg., 0 TD


LB Pierre Brown (PHOTO: University of Arkansas)
OFFENSE: Matt Jones-QB, DeCori Birmingham-TB, Carlos Ousley-WR, Steven Harris-WR, Gene Perry-OG
DEFENSE: Arrion Dixon-DT, Jeb Huckeba-DE, Marcus Whitmore-SLB

The Razorbacks are looking here, and there is plenty of sophomore talent waiting. Heralded quarterback Alex Mortensen would give the club a more classic drop-back passer, and he is quick to boot. Robert Johnson is similar in attributes to Mortenson, but is even faster and bigger. Johnson took advantage of a Matt Jones injury during 2004 spring drills - he showed accuracy and arm strength in his few real-game insertions (three TDs in 19 attempts), meaning he has the advantage and would have to be outplayed to be displaced, a good omen for the team. FL/KR Cedric Washington can always use his lightning skills here (recruited as the No. 13 dual-threat QB - Rivals.com) in a pinch, so expect the offensive scheme to remain similar to that of last season's - improvising will again be at a premium.

Running Back
Things here, too, will be more of the same, with too many qualified backs log-jammed, creating the kind of problems coaches love to have. This will keep legs fresh in the power-rushing, ball-control style favored by Nutt. Senior TB De'Arrius Howard will handle the majority of the reps after waiting his turn, and this north-south-style bruiser is primed for a breakout campaign. Howard was second to Jones in rushing and had six scores despite not starting. Even bigger is Peyton Hillis, who started twice and can swing to fullback or halfback, is a solid pass catcher, whereas Howard was void of any receptions last campaign. Ostensibly, role playing will ensue, and Hillis finds himself getting close to as many reps due to this, watch. Heralded recruit Darren McFadden may be too talented to redshirt. An athlete like him is rare, so watch to see if his natural talents will be inserted/needed. FB Brandon Kennedy, though smaller than a few of the "TBs" on roster, is a bruising compacted force who will see more passes come his way than runs (opponent alert…he had no runs in '04, but one of his two catches was for six).

As a freshman, 6'6" Marcus Monk will again be the big playmaker of this unit. The SEC all-freshman is a favorite endzone target, so a leader-by-example is in place. Chris Baker and Cedric Washington represent size-speed combinations that will keep making big plays until double-teamed. Baker in particular is a solid deep threat who's 23+ yards per grab mean the field is easily stretchable and a safety is constantly committed (especially with the TEs employed). Washington is just too good to sit and wait, so the former-QB is helping out here. Newbie Cedric Logan is also too highly-touted to get bench splinters, so realize how the depth and talent of this unit will make the QB transition seamless.

Offensive Line and Tight End
Progress here in '04 gradually occurred, and despite having zero experience, this group gelled by the end and will be vastly improved. Junior Tyler Morgan will be the only replacement, as he takes over at right guard, so continuity here, too, should be a big bonus. Robert Felton and Matt Gilbow finished out the season at tackle and proved to be solid enough to both be named to the SEC all-freshman team. Senior LT Tony Ugoh will use his athleticism to regain (after a midseason kidney stone) his lock as the team's best pass protector. (Discus thrower) Ugoh can handle those speedy rush-ends and LBs, and offers a quicker contrast to the behemoths adjacent to him, like fellow starting tackle Zac Tubbs. The senior returns (from a broken left fibula) to make this the best outside running team in the SEC (west?). They were good enough to open holes to the tune of 4.4 yards per try (22nd-ranked run offense) and allowed merely 14 sacks. Health here is vital, with limited focus in the last two recruiting classes.

Jared Hicks and Mason Templeton both play a big role in the Razorback power-rushing game - with their size, each is basically an extra tackle when running. But don't be fooled by their low pass-catching numbers into thinking that they are just extra o-linemen. Marc Winston has been able to bulk up, and as the fastest of the TEs, look for him to impact the modest yardage production this position has recently produced. This unit gives the Razorbacks a HUGE advantage in opening up the middle and/or underneath for passing, and further enables those wide runs.

While the Razorbacks will miss Matt Jones, Mortensen and Johnson are entirely competent and both are stellar talents. But they will need some time to grow and can't initially be relied upon in case of a big fourth-quarter deficit. But these guys are playmakers, and Nutt will use the QB competition to the team's favor…one of them will be a hero before long. Thanks to a solid offensive line to accompany a strong group of backs and much speed at the helm, the bread-and-butter of this team (run it 60+%) will remain strong, making any needed "regrouping" due to QB changes flow well. Foes will not expect the rapid pace at which this side of the ball will pick up steam, and early tests (USC, 'Bama) will tell just how far they have to go and if they can compete for the West crown.


C Kyle Roper (PHOTO: University of Arkansas)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Robert Johnson-So (6-2, 212) Alex Mortensen-Fr (6-2, 208)
Cole Barthel-Fr (6-2, 210)
FB Brandon Kennedy-Sr (5-11, 238) Peyton Hillis-So (6-2, 238)
TB De'Arrius Howard-Sr (6-0, 228) Kyle Dickerson-Sr (5-9, 197)
WR Cedric Washington-Jr (6-0, 191) Anthony Brown-Jr (6-6, 223)
WR Marcus Monk-So (6-6, 224) Chris Baker-Jr (6-1, 198)
TE Jared Hicks-Sr (6-6, 280) Mason Templeton-So (6-7, 258)
OT Tony Ugoh-Sr (6-5, 303) Jose Valdez-Fr (6-6, 305)
OG Stephen Parker-Jr (6-4, 308) Chase Pressley-Jr (6-4, 310)
C Kyle Roper-Sr (6-3, 291) Skye Peterson-Jr (6-2, 291)
OG Robert Felton-So (6-4, 322) Jonathan Luigs-Fr (6-4, 298)
OT Zac Tubbs-Sr (6-6, 358) Nate Garner-So (6-6, 319)
K Chris Balseiro-Sr (6-1, 215) Rusty McEntire-Jr (5-10, 172)


Defensive Line
Fresh from N.C. State's top I-A unit, DC Reggie Herring has qualified talent to replace the departees. Sophomore DE Marcus Harrison proved himself as only a true freshman and will only improve. Big sophomore Fred Bledsoe should explode with his size-speed combo, mixing in the middle with the proven push of starters Jeremy Harrell and Keith Jackson to form an under-300lb. middle that needs more girth to really compete in this conference. After allowing 4.6 per carry and achieving only 16 sacks, this crew has its work cut out so as not to again be an albatross (ranked 82nd for run-stopping) around the still-emerging back-seven's neck.

Senior Sam Olajubutu is a physically small LB with a nasty disposition that allows him to overcome size issues and really excel in coverage. Other MLB Clark Moore sees lot of reps as a flip-side to Olajubutu - Moore's size makes opponent's rushing attack earn every inch. Pierre Brown brings needed ground-halting force all the way to the (strong) sideline. Nutt isn't afraid to put in his heftier safeties as depth in an effort to disguise schemes and keep opposing OCs guessing with different personnel packages. This group is a marginally strong one and is ominously the strength of the defense.

Defensive Back
First the good news: all of the starters from last year's group are back. The bad news? They gave up a ton of yards, and efficient ones at that. With a year of experience under their belts, the secondary should be marginally improved, how much improved will speak volumes for where the entire team is headed. Vickiel Vaughn and Lerinezo Robinson will again be the core of the secondary, as both held their own and contributed as well as could be expected with the needed aid at CB (SEC all-frosh nickel-back Michael Grant had the only (1) TFL for a safety). Darius Vincent proved to be the shining element from the CB crew; his compadré Mike Coe had the only two CB-INTs, and all of the DBs combined only broke up 15 passes (MLB Olajubatu led them with four). Eight three-star- (or better) DBs have influxed in the last two classes, so help is on the way. Size and speed sure exist back here, and our respect for CB-coach Bobby Allen says that he gets his unit together by keeping the play in front of them until they can use press coverage effectively.

Defense played a big role in the Hogs' odious four-game slide against the SEC's best and new coordinator Reggie Herring was brought in from North Carolina State, accordingly. The line play will improve, but size issues against big, speedy (major SEC) foes will surface so that a good showing here one week will easily be replaced by a marginal one the next. Once the Hogs' line is sturdy, talented LBs can be liberally applied to bolster the nickel- and dime-packages; doing such would keep foes from recognizing Arkansas' schemes and then going predictably longer - into their current weakness. Finishing 65th in passing defense but 106th in the all-important efficiency category exemplifies the constant burnt toast smell coming from War Memorial, but pass-stopping expert Herring will change the odor here surprisingly quickly to sweet success. When you see the Razorbacks start to blitz whenever needed, then you will know this secondary is again ready to hold its own. We felt Arkansas played the nation's toughest slate (see 2004's Strength of Schedule on our site), and with 2005 not offering much solace, expect another losing record if this group fails to finish in the top half for total effort, which we don't expect.


DB Vickiel Vaughn (PHOTO: University of Arkansas)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Jamaal Anderson-So (6-6, 262) Zach Snider-Fr (6-3, 234)
DT Marcus Harrison-So (6-3, 300) Fred Bledsoe-So (6-3, 313)
NG Jeremy Harrell-Jr (6-2, 282) Keith Jackson-Jr (6-0, 302)
DE Desmond Sims-Jr (6-3, 228) Michael Tate-Fr (6-4, 253)
SLB Desmond Williams-Fr (6-2, 217) Weston Dacus-So (6-2, 235)
MLB Pierre Brown-Sr (6-0, 227) Sam Olajubutu-Sr (5-9, 227)
WLB D'Nerian Wrighter-So (6-1, 212) Clarke Moore-Sr (6-2, 245)
CB Michael Coe-Jr (6-1, 182) Chris Houston-So (5-11, 180)
CB Darius Vinnett-Sr (5-9, 170) Michael Grant-So (5-11, 185)
SS Vickiel Vaughn-Sr (6-0, 204) Dallas Washington-So (6-0, 190)
FS Lerinezo Robinson-Sr (6-0, 191) Randy Kelly-Jr (6-0, 188)
P Jeremy Davis-So (5-9, 200) Jacob Skinner-Jr (6-3, 212)




Chris Balseiro needs to get back to his old form of 11-of-15 ('03) and overcome his latest 4-of-7 performance. He has been strong inside the 40 (12-of-15 career mark), which allows for big-leg junior Rusty McEntire to handle KOs. Coverage here was as dismal as the defense, so expect progression that parallels the level of developments there.

Jeremy Davis seems to have the edge on Jacob Skinner for the nod here. Sophomore Davis averaged close to three yards more, and had more fair catches (8 vs. 3) while attempting four fewer than the junior Skinner. Obviously, rare depth at this position is more key than marginal stat differences, so Arkansas will improve with two established guys, each hungry to replace the other. Net results will strengthen for the same reasons we say the KO coverage will, though decent already (five total kicks blocked, too).

Return Game
Cedric Washington returns KOs, but needs to display more soon or the kiddies swarm in. He will also get a chance to replace Birmingham returning punts. Pierre Brown is the top playmaker on special teams - he became the first-ever Razorback to return a blocked field goal for a touchdown in 2004. We predict true frosh speedsters Darren McFadden and/or Felix Jones are too good to wait, and will be inserted early and often, and will help UA to finally get a score this way.