TCU faces Arkansas this weekend, as the Frogs look to exact a measure of revenge for a game that slipped away from them in 2016. We sat down with Eric Harris of Arkansas Fight to chat about the 2017 Arkansas Razorbacks. I also answered some questions for them, and you can read those on Arkansas Fight, once they’re posted.
JP: Arkansas lost a key piece of their offense when Rawleigh Williams III retired suddenly back in May, following his second neck injury. With the running game being such a big part of Arkansas' offense, who is expected to step up and fill his shoes?
EH: Losing Rawleigh on the last day of spring practice was as heartbreaking as it gets. He was a fan favorite and the coaches and teammates loved him. After the first week, the running back position looks to be in good shape without him though. Last year's backup, Sophomore Devwah Whaley has looked good. Chase Hayden was SEC Freshman of the Week after getting 120 yards and a TD, then there is grad transfer David Williams who had two TDs. All three have different strengths and it looks like you'll see a healthy dose of all three.
JP: There seem to be some questions about Arkansas' offensive line, normally a huge strength for a Bielema offense. Are those concerns warranted, or is it something that's being overblown?
EH: I think the concerns are warranted, and this week will tell us a lot about the group. Last year, the O-Line took a significant down turn due to some fantastic players leaving. Right now it's still uncertain how much better they've gotten, if any. Center Frank Ragnow is as dependable as they come, and true freshman Ty Clary was a surprise starter who did reasonably well. After that it gets iffy. Left tackle Colton Jackson looks like he's still having issues and converted defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt is still learning the position.
JP: Defensively, Arkansas lost CB Ryan Pulley for the season, and he's expected to be replaced by freshman Kamren Curl. How big of an impact will this have on Arkansas' secondary, and how can we expect Arkansas to defend TCU's passing game?
EH: Losing Pulley is a big deal, he was one of the most underrated corners in the SEC last year. Curl looked solid against FCS competition but how he does against TCU's receivers is completely up in the air. There is still a decent amount of talent in the other secondary positions, and I'd expect to see nickel back Kevin Richardson on the field a lot.
JP: After coming away with a close win in Fort Worth last year, what are Razorback fans expecting from this matchup on Saturday? Are they excited, apathetic, or concerned?
EH: I think there is a lot of concern, and that comes more from how the Hogs ended 2016 more than anything. After two blown leads against Mizzou and Virginia Tech, the fanbase is unsure about the team's ability to win big games.
JP: For visiting Frog fans, what are some can't miss places to eat/drink/hang out while in Fayetteville?
EH: Dickson Street is a must for any first time visitors. It's just off campus and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to check out and it will be a great time both Friday and Saturday night with this being the first game in Fayetteville.
JP: Lastly, what's your prediction for how this game turns out?
EH: When I look at TCU this year I see a much improved team from last year. Arkansas is more or less the same team as last year in terms of quality. I don't think the Hogs get the bounces they did in Fort Worth. I expect a back and forth game that TCU gets a couple key stops late. Something like 30-24 TCU.
A big thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer these questions!