The weekly Pressbox Roundtable feature from our previous site has been resurrected here at SportingLifeArkansas.com as we put the finishing touches on the just-completed Razorback season.
The usual suspects are back with their assessment of the season, the Hogs’ top player and biggest disappointment, the likely next permanent Razorback coach, the SEC Championship Game matchup and the chances that Johnny “Football” Manziel becomes the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
Our national guest this week used to be one of our local contacts when we first began the Roundtable before last season. T.J. Carpenter, formerly of Fayetteville area radio, is now doing sports-talk radio for powerful WHB 810 AM in Kansas City. You can find him on Twitter @TJCarpenterWHB. Our regular local pressbox wags are KABZ The Buzz’s Justin Acri (Twitter: @JustinAcri7), KTHV’s Mark Edwards (@markedwards1906) and Jessica Duff (@jduff84) and the ArkansasExpats’ Doc Harper (@doc_harper) join us as we close out the football season. I serve as the moderator (you can tweet me at jimharris360).
Here we go:
Jim Harris: Who was the Razorbacks’ most valuable player for the season, and who was the biggest disappointment (you can focus more on an area of the team if you want rather than individual)?
Justin Acri: The biggest disappointment was the red zone offense. If that is cleaned up the Hogs are probably going to a bowl this year with another 2-3 wins. MVP I guess is Tyler Wilson since he was team spokesman, starting quarterback and MOVTP (most often violently tackled player).
T.J. Carpenter: Arkansas’ most valuable player this season, without hesitation, was Tyler Wilson. He didn’t have the year any of us expected, certainly not the year he expected of himself. But there were no examples of leadership from anyone else on the sideline, including the coaches, whom I would point to as the biggest disappointments of the season. In fact, I think I would have been more impressed with both Wilson and the coaches had anyone had the backbone to get in Wilson’s face and put him in his place after an interception or a bad series. Bobby Petrino made it more terrifying to come back to the sideline without points than to go out and face the SEC’s toughest defenses. And when that was lost and Wilson became unchecked, both his progress and the respect and perhaps fear the team may have had for the coaches was lost. Despite that, Wilson’s ability to make even a small number of plays throughout the season was enormous. And the ineptitude and lack of leadership from the coaches this season, unfortunately, was also such.
Mark Edward: The MVP was Cobi Hamilton. The biggest disappointment was the play at quarterback, just the offense itself. I don’t want to single out Tyler Wilson, but just the offense itself.
Jessica Duff: Most valuable player of the year goes to Cobi Hamilton. He has been nothing but a positive note on an otherwise disastrous season for the Hogs. Consistent receptions every game, making and breaking records, leading the SEC. Too bad it wasn’t enough to bring a W each week.
Biggest disappointment has to go to Tyler Wilson. I know it’s been a tough year for him, but the blame doesn’t fall on everyone else. As a senior and the quarterback, he should be the leader — on and off the field. He’s made mistake after mistake on the field, turnovers, miscues, etc. Don’t get me wrong, that O-line has been atrocious in protecting him. But going from preseason Heisman hopeful to what he is now … downright disappointing.
Doc Harper: I’d give the MVP award to Cobi Hamilton. He’s the only player on the team who has been consistently great. I hate to say it but Knile Davis has been the biggest disappointment — not counting the players suffering significant injuries. After nothing but extraordinary hype during the off-season, he never rushes for more than 70 yards in a game. The only time he remotely resembled the player from 2010 was the first quarter of the A&M game when he caught a short pass and ran it in for a long touchdown. It should be noted, after that big play, Davis only caught two more passes all year, one of which went for 23 yards. That might have been a play worth revisiting.
Harris: Let me toss in here that I thought the falloff from last year’s amazing trio of senior receivers to where Cobi was pretty much just it (especially when Brandon Mitchell was suspended) was a surprise, if not a shock. I would have expected Bobby Petrino to have recruited a receiving corps ready to step in. In the future the young ones will be outstanding, especially Mekale McKay. I expected a bigger year out of the juco transfer Demetrius Wilson. Tight end must be addressed. I’d agree with all of you who said Cobi was the MVP. Defensively, there is something to build on with the way the ends played against LSU. The new coach will find young but now-experienced corners and linebackers. The two freshmen linebackers may be the best pair of freshman linebackers I’ve seen here since the William Hampton-Larry Jackson duo in 1975, though they didn’t have to be thrown in the fire quite like A.J. Turner and Otha Peters. A head-hunting safety who plays like the secondary’s quarterback is still much needed for the defense to take a step up.
THE NEW HIRE
Jim Harris: Let’s assume Arkansas’ hiring Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Pete Carroll, any of those “star” guys is a pipe dream. Who gets the job?
Edwards: Chris Petersens, James Franklin, Mike Gundy those guys, that’s wh ere it’s going to come from. I think it ends up as Franklin.
Harris: Me too.
Acri: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh. No idea. I like the Chris Petersen talk that was going around late last week.
Duff: I think Gary Patterson is a very viable option for the Hogs. He’s proven to be successful at TCU. He could be ready to get out of Texas and competing against schools in the state for recruiting to another Texas school. Instead, he could bring those recruits to the SEC. The proximity of Arkansas to Texas could help Patterson with recruiting as well.
Doc: I have no idea, but I’m just glad UA isn’t having to “restructure” (i.e. not pay what they promised to pay) the money the athletic department gives to the school to be able to afford one the way Tennessee is.
T.J.: Depending on how Mike Holder handles Mike Gundy’s contract for the second time in 12 months, it could end up being Gundy. I can tell you in addition to the pie-in-the-sky names who it WON’T be. It WON’T be Gary Patterson of TCU, Chris Petersen of Boise St, Charlie Strong of Louisville, or Bobby Petrino of currently unemployed. I think anyone who has followed James Franklin’s program transforming efforts at Vanderbilt would be not only satisfied, but excited with the prospect of seeing him in Razorback Stadium on Saturdays. I know I would be. After that, Art Briles and his ability to recruit Texas and coach offense makes him a valuable candidate as well.
Harris: How do you see the Alabama-Georgia game shaping up Dec. 1. Can you seriously see this Georgia team, which lost 35-7 to South Carolina, playing for the national championship?
Doc: There aren’t just a ton of fantastic resumes out there. The only good teams Alabama has beaten are LSU and Michigan. Florida’s beaten some good teams but a blocked punt in the final minute at home to beat Louisiana-Lafayette. Oregon hasn’t beaten a team currently in the top 20. If Georgia beats Alabama, they’d be the only team to beat two top five teams (if the Gators beat the Seminoles), and their one loss was on the road – even if it was a blowout. So, sure, why not?
Edwards: I can see Georgia, they lost early n the season and have grown up a lot. But I still think it will be Alabama and Notre Dame. I think it will be closer than a lot of people think but in the end Alabama wins. I think Alabama will handle Georgia, but the Bulldogs are much improved.
Acri: I would say about Georgia what I say about Notre Dame. They may not the best team in the country, but they are the most deserving. If Georgia can somehow beat Alabama, I think you have a great title game. Unfortunately I think Alabama wins and takes the national title by 10.
T.J.: No. Alabama is going to destroy Georgia in the second half, if not for the entire four quarters. Alabama will then proceed to bring Notre Dame and its nation of bandwagon fans back down to earth as they give the Golden Domers a dose of reality.
Duff: Alabama is going to beat Georgia. And Alabama will play for and win the national championship. Nick Saban doesn’t like to lose and definitely doesn’t like to lose more than once in a season. There’s no way Georgia is going to bring enough effort to field to defeat a very hungry Alabama team.
JOHNNY FOOTBALL’S TIME?
Harris: I said after the kid’s performance against Arkansas that Johnny Manziel looked like a Heisman-winning football player. Tell me why Johnny Football shouldn’t win this year’s Heisman Trophy. And if not Johnny Football, then whom?
T.J.: He should. He’s done an amazing job as a freshman in the SEC. His numbers are better than Collin Klein’s, though Klein still has a game left on the season. Manziel has over 1,000 more passing yards, 10 more passing touchdowns, nearly 400 more rushing yards, and only one fewer rushing touchdowns than Klein. But if you were to make an argument for Klein, it would be that he’s been the most consistent most important aspect of a program that when Bill Snyder took it over was without debate the worst in college football. And since that time, Kansas State hasn’t exactly taken an enormous leap forward in terms of recruiting or talent despite getting a stone’s throw away from the national championship game twice; most recently behind the legs, arm and heart of Collin Klein. Texas A&M on the other hand is one of the worst underachievers in college football history, has tons of resources, talent, and now with a good coach and a great talent, much like Notre Dame people are quickly putting it in talks for the national title next season. Manziel should not be penalized because he is a freshman, but he hasn’t been as consistent of a player as Klein this season and he’s been less impressive in more games this season with better talent around him. I think it will be a lot of fun watching the highlights the Heisman Trophy ceremony puts together for both of these extremely deserving players.
Acri: His numbers and his team success lead me to one answer and that is that you have to give this kid the Heisman. Unranked in preseason, new coaching staff and he does that? Unreal This is pretty easy for me, but Te’o has the same argument on defense. He dominates games, he led an unranked team to a number one poll position and a national title appearance. I am fine with either.
Harris: I like Manti Te’o as well. I really wish one year it would go to a linebacker and he’s the best player on the best team.
Duff: I can’t tell you why Johnny Manziel shouldn’t win because I think he’s the most viable and deserving candidate. Sure, he started the season off a bit slow. But look at what he’s done thus far. Look at how he’s led his team to win after win. Look at what he did against Alabama — one of the toughest defenses in the league! It’s just incredible. That’s what a leader is supposed to be, Tyler Wilson, take note.
Doc: The only reason I can think of not to vote for him would be because he was shut down in the second half against Florida and LSU. Other than that, there are a couple of people out there who have an argument. Braxton Miller and Manti Te’o both could make a case for it.
Edwards: Johnny Football should not win the Heisman Trophy this year. Because Kevin Sumlin doesn t allow him to talk to the media. No, I’m just being facetious. Seriously, though, he’s not on the No. 1 team …
Harris: Well, it could be argued that A&M is the hottest team in the country right now …
Edwards: Yeah, they’re up there pretty high, but I always thought the Heisman Trophy is the biggest individual award that takes a complete team effort to win. We won’t know until the SEC Championship who is the Heisman Trophy winner. He’s the most electrifying player but he’s not on the No. 1 team.
Harris: So, would you give it to Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o? Or would you give it to A.J. McCarron on the No. 2 team? You scoffed at the suggestion of McCarron back in September. Maybe it should go to McCarron’s mom.
Edwards: Wouldn’t give it to A.J. McCarron. Nobody really stands out. But if you’re a freshman and you can’t talk, how can you accept anything?
Harris: Sumlin finally let him talk yesterday. He was finally interviewed.
Edwards: O.K., then I’d give it to him. Because he’s the most electrifying player in college football.
Harris: I finally won you over!
What do YOU think? Who was the Hogs’ most valuable player? Who disappointed the most? Still holding out for a superstar name for Hog coach? Will Alabama roll to a second-straight national title? Would you give the Heisman Trophy to Johnny Football. Let us know in the COMMENTS section. Share our thoughts with us.