HawgBeat's 2020 Preseason Burning Questions: Will any Arkansas Razorbacks experience sophomore slumps?
football Edit

HawgBeat's Preseason Burning Questions: Sophomore slumps?

Treylon Burks and Trey Knox were two of five true freshman starters for Arkansas in 2019.
Treylon Burks and Trey Knox were two of five true freshman starters for Arkansas in 2019. (Nick Wenger)

College Students, get a year of HawgBeat coverage for just $11.95. Request details via email from your school account (.edu) to nchavanelle@yahoo.com.

The status of the 2020 college football season remains perilous as we inch closer to - at least what is scheduled to be - Week 1.

As of this moment, Arkansas is still set to open the Sam Pittman era against Nevada on Sept. 5 in Fayetteville. That could change if the SEC follows the Big Ten’s lead and shifts to a conference-only schedule.

However, for the time being, HawgBeat is treating it as everything is moving forward as planned. That includes the start of NFL-style OTAs - which are essentially walk-through practices - for the Razorbacks on Friday.

Leading up to that date, we are revealing our 10 “burning questions” surrounding Arkansas as it prepares for what everyone hopes to be a fall football season. Next up…

Not a subscriber? Subscribe for free for 30 days w/code HAWGS30

Will any of Arkansas' true freshman contributors from last season experience a sophomore slump?

Arguably the only thing former head coach Chad Morris did well during his short tenure at Arkansas was recruit. In his lone class with a full year to recruit, he signed a school-record 13 four-star prospects in a class that ranked 20th nationally.

Not surprisingly, many of those players were asked to play immediately. Only three of the 23 total high school signees didn’t see the field, with seven of them ultimately burning their redshirts by appearing in more than four games.

Defensive end Collin Clay, who played in all but one game, has since transferred to Oklahoma State, but the other six players return as true sophomores in 2020.

The general thought is that the experience they gained as true freshman will lead to even more production and better play in their second year of college. However, it doesn’t always work that way, as the “sophomore slump” sometimes leads to a step back in Year 2.

The Razorbacks certainly hope none of those six players experience a sophomore slump, but it’s possible and - with so many who played early - probably likely that at least one doesn’t progress the way they’re expected.

Wide receiver Treylon Burks seems to be the least likely candidate to suffer a sophomore slump. Although he never found the end zone, the Warren product was a weapon in many aspects of the game and his 14.4 yards per touch led all FBS freshmen last season.

With new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles bringing what’s believed to be a more creative and dynamic offensive to Fayetteville, many believe Burks and fellow receiver Trey Knox will see their numbers rise. However, it’s worth noting that Knox racked up most of his numbers in the first four games of the season. Will he bounce back with competent quarterback play or could that be an indication of an impending drop off in production?

The only other offensive player to burn his redshirt in 2019 was offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg. Considering he played at such a light weight, he was a solid piece in a struggling unit. Now up to nearly 300 pounds and with offensive line guru Sam Pittman as his new head coach, Stromberg seems destined for a really good year.

On the other side of the ball, two of the freshmen who didn’t redshirt were defensive ends. Mataio Soli figured to be a contributor, but an injury forced him into the starting lineup. The other one was more of a surprise, as many expected Zach Williams to redshirt.

With Dorian Gerald returning from injury, Julius Coates coming in from JUCO and Eric Gregory having already redshirted, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if one of those two defensive ends redshirts in 2020 if they don’t crack the two-deep this fall. With their experience, though, both will have a shot to do just that, possibly even competing for a starting job.

Despite being the only true freshman who started all 12 games, Greg Brooks Jr. is another sophomore who might benefit from a redshirt. He struggled as the Razorbacks’ nickel last season, earning a 49.9 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus, plus Arkansas - at least on paper - appears to be really deep in the secondary.

There’s still a good chance Brooks plays this year, but he’ll have plenty of competition, with Jerry Jacobs - the graduate transfer from Arkansas State - likely posing the biggest threat.

HawgBeat's Preseason Burning Questions

1. Has Feleipe Franks developed chemistry with the wide receivers/tight ends?

2. What will Arkansas use as its base defense?

3. Which second-team wide receiver will step up?

4. How will the secondary shape up?

5. How will the offensive line shape up?

6. Where will the graduate transfers fit on the depth chart?

7. What will Arkansas’ depth look like at tight end?

8. Will any of Arkansas’ true freshman contributors from last season experience a sophomore slump?