Now is the time in which we find out who this Arkansas team really is.
The loss of running back Knile Davis is a major blow to the Razorbacks and their chances to make not only a run for the SEC title but a national championship one as well.
But Arkansas’ season is far from over and this is what coach Bobby Petrino has been building toward -- a team that doesn’t revolve around just one player. He has the pieces in place to still make the Hogs very competitive in the West, but now is the time for those pieces to step up.
In a cruel, twisted way, this is an opportunity for Johnson, who missed most of the 2010 season with a bowel injury last year, to show the league the kind of player he is and it’s a chance for him to lead the Hogs once again.
But the burden doesn’t just fall on the running backs. New quarterback Tyler Wilson will be feeling more of the heat, along with his tremendous trio of wide receivers in Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, who combined for 138 catches for 2,260 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2010. Add speedster Cobi Hamilton, who grabbed 32 catches for 630 yards and six touchdowns, and the Razorbacks have plenty of weapons to rely on in the passing game.
“The speed we have at our skilled positions, particularly on offense, at wide receiver and running back, give us an opportunity to be a special offense,” Petrino said at SEC media days.
Wilson has played very little, but his coaches and teammates have rallied around him, making him a captain for the upcoming season, so if he wants to be a championship quarterback, he’d better squash those internal butterflies early.
But what of that offensive line? The Razorbacks lost three starters from a season ago, and having Davis behind them would have helped to overshadow some of their mistakes. Now, the developmental processes must be accelerated up front in order to make things easier for Johnson and Wingo.
However, the area that most figure will separate the Hogs from a championship team and just a talented SEC team is the defense.
A unit offenses have drooled over facing is supposedly faster, stronger and more intimidating. Petrino thinks he has the best defense he’s had in Fayetteville, with a line that features power in the middle and speed on the outside with Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright. He expects Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson to be terrors in the box, while Tramain Thomas and Isaac Madison should have most of the secondary covered.
OK defense, it's time to make your coach proud.
True championship teams overcome adversity and find ways to win. Just ask Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Arkansas was dealt a cruel hand Thursday night, but that’s why you recruit and Petrino feels like he he’s done well enough in that area that one missing part won‘t derail championship hopes.
Now is the time to see if he’s right.