Is the Razorbacks' future as bright as those eyes? We hope so.
It's Razorbacks Eve, always a highly emotional time. We have every expectation that tomorrow will be a ceremonially happy day. The Hogs will run through the A and proceed to likely demolish a far inferior squad whom we paid a bunch of money to let us beat them up. It's also a time when the entire season is immediately before us. Every conceivable possibility is on the table. So, I asked all the Expats contributors to share both their greatest hope and fear for the 2012 season.
I'll start: My hope is that the Razorbacks are good enough that I'm free from the drag of politics for the next few months. My biggest fear is that Arkansas loses in the National Championship Game. Losing to Ohio State* was bad enough, but if we ended the SEC's crystal trophy streak, I don't think I could show my face east of the Mississippi River anytime soon.
Brent Holloway (follow @thebholloway)
And my greatest fear is that John L. does just enough with this team to leave everybody thoroughly dumbfounded as to how to properly handle the head coaching situation. Maybe he loses a couple, but finishes strong, and no one can agree on the correct course of action, leaving the fanbase to canibalize itself, dividing up into polarized factions with dorky nicknames and e-screaming at each other on message boards until next August or beyond. But that would never happen with this fanbase, right?
Beau Wilcox (follow @beauwilcox)
Greatest hope is as it is every year: national title. As trite as it seems, this is a year where the viability of that persistent pipe dream is tangible and real. Plus, selfishly, I'd love to be the darlings of the nation in the process: our championship wouldn't be pock-marked due to allegations of impropriety, built on the strength of a run of top-ranked recruiting classes, or credited to a coach who was generally reviled by the mass media. I'd love to go out there, kick some ass for four solid months, and have John L. Smith weeping at the ESPY dais in 2013. A guy can dream, so I will.
The biggest fear I have is that 2012 will mark one endpoint of a rapid regression back to something on the level of Nutt or worse. For all of Petrino's acumen as a playcaller, he never elevated our recruiting rankings to the point of national credibility. In the hands of a lesser successor--and let's not kid ourselves, the next true head coach will NOT have those kinds of innate gifts--we will need to shore up talent everywhere to stay competitive in the most cutthroat environs imaginable. If we fizzle a bit, and are forced to roll the dice on some alleged "up-and-comer", I foresee frustrating times ahead.
J.T. Harper (follow @jharp022)
Zack Veddern (follow @ZakkDiesel_60)
My greatest hope, like most Hog fans, is a national title. Along the way we play witness to amazing highlights, a couple of heroic showings from the proverbial heroes of the team, and maybe some records broken. Beating Alabama in dramatic fashion (well, any fashion, really) and then seeing the look on Nick Saban's face when he is finally done in by Arkansas at the hands of John L. Smith. We beat teams badly enough where the stars of tomorrow gain some good experience. Then Thanksgiving rolls around and the big ticket is a top 2 matchup in Fayetteville against LSU. After a win here, move on to an unworthy eastern foe, and then set our sites for Miami and whoever is waiting there, who we also defeat. Tyler and Knile finish 1 and 2 (no particular order) at the Heisman ceremony, we hire from within and keep the system, and start over next year.
My biggest fear is any set back at all. I shudder at the 9-3 records that some experts predict. We go 9-3 or worse, losing to the likes of South Carolina, Auburn or even Texas A&M and sink
back into the middle of the West as we lose this staff and have to rebuild next year. Also, I'd hate to see anyone suffer anymore season ending injuries. It's football, injuries happen, but what happened to Knile last year was just sad and I hope we can make it through with everyone virtually unscathed.
Terry Wood (follow @tjwoodcth)
My greatest hope for the Razorbacks this season is the same as every year — win an SEC and national title. The cherry on top would be the Heisman for Tyler Wilson or Knile Davis. I don't hope for much, do I?
My greatest fear is that the Hogs will wear those awful black or charcoal or gray or anthracite uniforms when they play Alabama or LSU or both. Is anthracite even a color? I thought it was a mineral. The Razorbacks are going to wear them at some point this season, and I don' think it will be for a pay-per-view telecast that has absolutely no national interest. No, if you are going to wear something special to spark recruiting interest and water-cooler talk, you do it in front of a national audience.
Greatest hope: That Bobby Petrino's system was what elevated Razorback football to national relevance again, rather than his game-by-game preparation and in-game play-calling.
Petrino broke through Arkansas's longtime inability to develop an efficient passer. His offensive system tremendously increased the number of receiving options open to the QB on any given play. The system greatly increased the chances of getting big plays out of the passing game, while also dramatically reducing risk (higher completion percentage, fewer interceptions, lower sack percentage). At the same time, the run threat remained potent. The system wasn't so one-sided that it could be foiled easily by defensive gimmicks.
It wasn't simply play-calling that enabled the Hogs to do what had been impossible before. It was the system, the way quarterbacks and receivers and blockers were prepared, the number of deep, middle and short options that emerged naturally on every play, the developed ability of players to adjust on the fly to what the defense was doing.
My great hope is that the system will be even more powerful in 2012, as talented and well-prepared as this team appears to be. If this comes true, the dire predictions of scores of distant national media observers will look as shallow as they seem to be.
Greatest fear: That Jeff Long isn't really trying to hire a brilliant, established, top-shelf head football coach to replace Petrino. I dread the possibility that Arkansas fans will move through October into November -- regardless of what the football team is accomplishing -- and still know nothing about the direction of the coaching search. Then December will come, and Long's best idea will be a stultifying reach.
GREATEST HOPE: That the Hogs deliver a beatdown to USC in the National Championship Game on the same level as what they did to us back some years ago in Los Angeles. Matt Barkley has saucer eyes for much of the game, and it is never close. SEC fans across the country, especially the VOLS, would embrace the Hogs on the 20th anniversary of their entering the league as having finally, truly arrived. Days later there's a picture in the Democrat Gazette of Knile Davis holding his Heisman Trophy and Tyler Wilson holding the crystal football. Frame shops in Arkansas run out of frames from people wanting to get the photo framed and up on their sports wall. They have to truck them in from out of state. And magically, the dark cloud that's been hanging over Fayetteville since December of 1969 can be seen no longer!
GREATEST FEAR: Either Davis or Wilson gets a season ending injury early in the season with resulting losses and we never know what this team could have done at full strength. I think a "what might have been" season due to injury would really gnaw at me. If they go down, I want them to go down swinging and at full capacity.
RazorbackBoyd (follow @boydrunner)
Greatest hope. I could talk national and/or SEC championship, but most of that takes care of itself if Paul Haynes could field a defense that's top ten in the nation. That may be a lot less likely than winning a national championship on Tyler Wilson's arm and Knile Davis's legs, but it would surely make that a lot easier.
Greatest Fear. A season like 2007. This team has too much hype, has too much potential, and has flown too high in recent years to come crashing back down. I don't want the memory of this season to be a pointless win over a team that was going on to do better things. All the excitement from the 2006 season was swallowed up by controversy and coaching changes. The product on the field suffered and injuries didn't help either. If the nightmare season occurs, it will feel exactly the same as 2007.
Greatest hope: Mostly, I hope that the fanbase will get behind the team, and leave all the ranting and screeching about Bobby Petrino/Jeff Long/John L. Smith by the wayside. I sincerely hope that the defense has made some significant strides under Haynes and Taver Johnson. I'm not even asking for a top-10 defense... top-30 will suffice. Other than that, a win over Alabama would be nice, considering that they're the only SEC West team left that looks "unbeatable"; sure would be nice to get that monkey off our collective backs.
Greatest fear: My fears greatly outnumber my hopes, and some of them are more realistic than others. Worst case scenario: we go 11-1... with the loss being to Rutgers. Talk about totally killing the SEC brand. I certainly don't want that on our heads. I hope that we don't get another rash of players that go off the deep end midseason,a la Wade and co., that totally derails the season. Frankly, despite losing Bobby Petrino, we still have a quality coaching staff, as a whole. Tim Horton, Klenakis, and Steven Caldwell are all solid, and I've become somewhat enamored with Paul Petrino, Paul Haynes, and Taver Johnson. I'd hate to see them all leave en masse at the end of the season, but depending on who the new coach is, there's a distinct possibility that that will happen.
Graham Reaves (follow @grahamreaves)
Greatest Hope: Arkansas starts its string of consecutive national championships this year by beating Alabama after losing to them earlier in the season. But because both teams are in the SEC, they deserve to go to the national championship. Can you imagine the outrage? I also hope that Knile and Tyler are able to split the Heisman because the voters could not decide who was better. I also hope that John L. Smith is again hired by Weber State and is able to take the job after doing them wrong in the offseason. No worries on the coaching front, Nick Saban will come in and be named the head coach, making even the Arkansas-born Paul "Bear" Bryant roll over in his grave. The stadium will be expanded to wrap all the way around the new scoreboard, and Brandon Mitchell becomes the first person ever to win the Bilitnekoff and Naismith.
Greatest Fear: The hope part may have been a little over the top, but dare to dream, right? My fears are a little more likely. After injuries to Knile Davis, it is too hard to tell if the loss of talent is the reason Arkansas slipped or if it was the coaching change. I honestly do fear the Hogs play just well enough to keep John L. Smith around next season and the program begins to sink back to the second tier of top teams in the nation.
BVC (follow @twooldridge)
My greatest hope is for the Hogs to win the toughest division in college football, and then validate it with a victory in the SEC Championship game. That will once and for all justify our membership to those fans from other schools who still feel the need to look down their noses. To me, winning the SEC is just as important if not more important than winning the national championship.
Unfortunately, The Streak dictates that the winner of the SEC must go on and finish the deal in the BCS Championship or face ridicule and scorn from the rest of their fellow members for messing things up. Getting there and losing has to be my biggest fear, same as others on this panel.