Last season was the Arkansas Razorbacks’ 25th football season as a member of the Southeastern Conference. Two state news outlets have been running a series to commemorate the anniversary.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has been revealing its staff’s choices for the Razorbacks’ 25 most prominent games in a compelling series of articles. It features wins and losses. My first thought as a fan was why dredge up the losses?
However, as a journalist, I know that programs, teams, and seasons often can be defined more clearly by the losses than some of the victories. It’s been a fine series and a great stroll down memory lane.
Just as interesting has been the Arkansas.247sports.com interactive series by Andrew Hutchinson that allows fans to vote on their choice for the best Razorbacks at their positions.
Hutchinson lists the nominees and their Razorback accomplishments, and fans then can cast their vote for the top Hog at that position. It’s another entertaining series that helps satiate fans’ appetites for Razorback football until the real thing cranks up in August.
Check it out. Polls are fun, and it will be interesting and entertaining to see what the final tally ends up being.
With that series in mind, I thought it would be fun to jot down my choices. I’ll freely admit my picks for an all-time, All-SEC team are highly subjective and even in some cases biased. The players are listed with the years they lettered for the Razorbacks.
Again this is highly subjective, and to me stats don’t tell the whole story, but my top four Razorback receivers of the SEC era are Anthony Lucas (1995-99), Marcus Monk (2004-07), Jarius Wright (2008-11), and Greg Childs (2008-2011). Lucas is one of my all-time favorite Razorbacks and he is second in all-time receiving yards with 2,879 yards and 23 touchdowns to Wright’s 2,934 and 24 touchdowns. Arkansas threw the ball a lot less during Lucas’ tenure. Monk is sixth on the all-time yardage list with 2,151 yards but first in touchdowns with 27. If he had not struggled with an injury his senior season, Monk might have topped the chart. Of course the same could be said for Childs, whose career ended with an injury as a senior with 2,056 yards and 15 TDs.
I’d argue Mackey Award winner and consensus All-American Hunter Henry (2013-2015) is the Hogs’ best tight end of all time, but D.J. Williams (2007-2010), who also won the Mackey Award, is not far behind him. Williams is Arkansas’ all-time leader in yardage as a tight end with a four-year total of 1,855 and 10 touchdowns. Henry is second with a three-year total of 1,661 and nine touchdowns.
It could be argued that two-time All-American Shawn Andrews (2001-03) is the most-dominating Razorback offensive lineman of all time. Andrews is a clear standout of the group that includes Bobbie Williams (1996-99), Tony Ugoh (2003-06), and Denver Kirkland (2013-2015).
Brandon Burlsworth (1995-98) went from walk-on to All-American with an unparalleled drive and work ethic. Like Lucas, he’s another of my all-time favorite Razorbacks. Isaac Davis (1990-93) is the other starter. He toiled on some bad teams, but was a dominating player. Russ Brown (1995-98) started every game of his career, and Mitch Petrus (2005-09) is another walk-on who excelled at Arkansas.
Jonathan Luigs (2005-08) is the only Razorback center to win the Remington Award, but Travis Swanson (2010-2013) is my starter with Luigs as his back up.
Running back is a loaded position for the Razorbacks during the SEC era, but Darren McFadden (2005-07) is the clear starting choice with a school-leading 4,590 yards in just three seasons. Felix Jones (2005-07) averaged a school-leading 7.66 yards per carry would McFadden’s back up. He’s also No. 2 on my all-time SEC team, but Alex Collins (2013-2015) Cedric Cobbs (1999-2003), Fred Tally (1999-202), and Madre Hill (1994-98) all deserve a mention.
Kiero Small (2011 and 2013) was a bone-crunching blocking back, and he would lead the way for the running game for my Arkansas all-time All-SEC squad, but Peyton Hillis (2004-2007) was a solid fullback and might have been a great tailback for the Hogs if not for his career overlapping with McFadden and Jones. Mark Pierce (2001-03) was troubled, but when focused, was a heck of a player.
Matt Jones (2001-04) is probably my favorite Razorback player to watch ever, but he’d be the backup on my all-time, all-SEC Team. The starter would be tough and durable Clint Stoerner (1996-99). Yes, I’d take Stoerner and Jones over more prolific passers Tyler Wilson (2009-2012) and Ryan Mallett (2009-10), who were also fine quarterbacks. Told you my team would be a bit different.
Steven Conley (1992-95) and Jaamal Anderson (2004-06) would lead my sack attack with Trey Flowers (2011-14) and Jake Bequette (2008-11) rotating in.
Henry Ford (1990-93) and Darius Philon (2013-2014) would be my starting tackles with Junior Soli (1992-95) and D.J. Cooper (1996-99) rotating in to keep the big men fresh.
Quinton Caver (1997-00), Jermain Petty (1999-01), and Martrell Spaight (2013-2014) would hold down the second level at the three linebacker spots, with Randy Garner (1997-00), Sam Olajubutu (2003-06), and Mark Smith (1993-96) adding depth.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, safety was a position of strength for the Razorbacks. Ken Hamlin (2000-02) and Kenoy Kennedy (1996-99) would start over the top and be backed by Eddie Jackson (2000-03) and Tony Bua (2000-03).
Corner is one of the most difficult positions to play with one wrong move resulting in an opponent’s touchdown, but starters Chris Houston (2004-06) and David Barrett (1996-99) as well as backups Ahmad Carroll (2001-03) and Orlando Watters (1991-93) all proved they could hold down the position as Razorbacks.
While I know special teams are incredibly important, I probably pay less attention to them that any other aspect of football while watching the game. However, the Hogs have had some players who have truly put the “special” in special teams.
Felix Jones (2005-2007) is my top pick for kick-off returner and it’s not really close. Dennis Johnson (2008-2012) is the Hogs’ all-time leader with 2,784 yards to Jones’ 1,749. Johnson had almost twice as many attempts.
Joe Adams (2008-11) electrified the nation with his crazy-legged returns, but Orlando Watters (1991-93) was also very effective during a true low point of Arkansas football.
Arkansas had a number of very good and very busy punters since joining the SEC. My top picks are Dylan Breeding (2009-2012) and Matt Wait (1994-97).
Zack Hocker (2010-2013) leads the Hogs in career field goals made with 79. That’s good enough for me. Todd Latourette (1995-98) made 71, which is fourth on Arkansas’ all-time list and second to Hocker in SEC play.
So, those are my choices for a Razorback all-time All-SEC team. How do they measure up to yours?
I found the defensive choices to be more difficult than offensive ones. In particular, the interior defensive line spots were tough for me with Ford being the only obvious choice.
Two players who did not make the cut, but might have if they had played a different position for the Hogs are Jason Peters (2001-03) and George Wilson (2001-03).
After having a solid career as a receiver for the Razorbacks, Wilson made the move to safety in the NFL with Detroit, Buffalo, and Tennessee.
Peters bounced from defensive tackle to defensive end before settling in as a tight end for the Razorbacks, although he was really a glorified tackle. Peters moved to tackle in the NFL and is now considered one of the best offensive linemen in the game for the Philadelphia Eagles.
If Peters and Wilson had played their NFL positions for the Hogs, they might have been even better as collegians and made the list.