Of all this season's various plot lines, the sluggish performance of Marshawn Powell has to rank among the most surprising. Last year, the forward enjoyed an outstanding season that earned him a unanimous selection to the SEC All-Freshmen Team. And he did more than simply compile an impressive stat line: he displayed a great work ethic and admirably voiced a desire to be a team leader. On a team populated with too many bad attitudes, Powell stood out as one of the more likeable players.
This year, though, has been a disappointment. He's currently averaging just more than 4 fewer points per game than he did last season. More than that, though, he has often appeared out of sorts while on the court. Part of the explanation is surely physical - Powell underwent off-season surgery to mend a broken foot, and anybody watching the Hogs' first few games could see that Marshawn had probably been rushed back to the court too soon.
But there's something else going on as well: Powell was suspended for a game in late December and recently created a bit of a stir by replying with a "no comment" when asked if his relationship with John Pelphrey is strained. He admitted to having a hard time focusing during last weekend's Alabama game and looked positively zombie-like during yesterday's victory at Auburn.
When he's on - as he was the other night against Kentucky- the Hogs are a significantly better team. You can't help but wonder how many of the Razorbacks' various close losses would have been victories with a fully healthy and focused Powell. And it's exciting to think about what Marshawn may be capable of when surrounded by the players in next year's recruiting class. But given the exodus of players over the past few years, one has to be concerned that Powell is next.
The Hogs have a real chance to generate some positive momentum during the next couple of weeks. The last thing the program needs is for Powell to leave. Hopefully that won't be the case, but how can you not worry?