Arkansas spring wrap

2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 9; Defense: 7; Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Ryan Mallett, RB Ronnie Wingo Jr., WR Greg Childs, WR Joe Adams, TE D.J. Williams, OT DeMarcus Love, DE Jake Bequette, LB Jerry Franklin

Key losses

RB Michael Smith, OG Mitch Petrus, DE Adrian Davis, DT Malcolm Sheppard, LB Wendel Davis

2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Tennessee Tech

Sept. 11 La.-Monroe (Little Rock)

Sept. 18 at Georgia

Sept. 25 Alabama

Oct. 9 Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)

Oct. 16 at Auburn

Oct. 23 Ole Miss

Oct. 30 Vanderbilt

Nov. 6 at South Carolina

Nov. 13 UTEP

Nov. 20 at Mississippi State

Nov. 27 LSU (Little Rock)

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Broderick Green* (442 yards)

Passing: Ryan Mallett* (3,624 yards)

Receiving: Greg Childs* (894 yards)

Tackles: Jerry Franklin* (94)

Sacks: Adrian Davis and Jake Bequette* (5.5)

Interceptions: Jerry Franklin* and Tramain Thomas* (3)

Spring answers

1. Secondary shuffle: With hopes of shoring up their pass defense – which ranked last in the SEC a year ago – and to get more speed in the secondary, the Hogs moved Rudell Crim from cornerback to safety this spring. Crim played safety in junior college, and it’s a look the Hogs will probably stick with in the fall. Junior cornerback Isaac Madison returns from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season, while senior Ramon Broadway and sophomore Darius Winston are two other cornerbacks the Hogs think they can count on in 2010. Winston was more physical this spring.

2. Pick your playmaker: The hard part for Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett may be picking which of his favorite targets to throw to. He's surrounded by guys who can change the game in a hurry. Receivers Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton combined for 22 touchdown catches last season. D.J. Williams is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league, and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino envisions using all four running backs. Ronnie Wingo Jr. is up to 230 pounds and hasn’t lost a step, and Dennis Johnson had his best spring yet.

3. Keeping the faith: When Arkansas went into Bryant-Denny Stadium a year ago to take on Alabama, Petrino wasn’t sure his team really thought it could win. In a way, that was a turning point for the Hogs, who played much better in their big games the rest of the season. Confidence doesn’t figure to be a problem next season. This is a team that has supreme belief in itself, believes it will find a way to win those close games in 2010 and fully expects to be right there in the middle of the SEC championship race.

Fall questions

1. Proving it on defense: Petrino thinks the defense will be better. The players on that side of the ball insist that they will be better, and the talent and experience certainly suggest that they’ll be better. But now the Hogs have to go out and prove it after some embarrassing outings a year ago where they were torched for big plays and even bigger points. To be fair, they played solid defense in spots last season. The trick will be doing it more consistently and not giving up so many big gainers.

2. Linebacker shortage: One of the trouble spots on defense again figures to be linebacker. There’s not a lot of depth, and some new faces are going to have to come through. Terrell Williams and Jermaine Love battled it out at middle linebacker this spring. That’s a key spot for the Hogs. Junior Jerry Franklin has played a lot of football and will start out on the weak side, but the Arkansas staff has challenged him to get stronger in the weight room. This is a position where Arkansas simply can’t afford to have any injuries next season.

3. Kicking it straight: It wasn’t the best spring for senior place-kicker Alex Tejada, who was inconsistent in scrimmages as well as end-of-practice situations. He also missed an extra point in the spring game that didn’t sit well with Petrino. The Hogs are sure to be in a bunch of close games next season, meaning field goals inside 40 yards and extra points are must-makes. Two freshman kickers arrive this summer, so it could get interesting when practice resumes in August.