CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 15 Arkansas

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2011 record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in SEC (3rd in West)

2011 postseason: Cotton Bowl (29-16 win over Kansas State)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 5/No. 5

Head coach: John L. Smith (132-86 overall, first season at Arkansas)

Offensive coordinator: Paul Petrino (first season back at Arkansas as OC after spending two seasons at Illinois)

2011 offensive rankings: 81st rushing offense (137.4 ypg); 13th passing offense (300.7 ypg); 29th total offense (438.1 ypg); 15th scoring offense (36.8 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Paul Haynes (first season as Arkansas DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 74th rushing defense (167.6 ypg); 25th passing defense (195.2 ypg); 47th total defense (362.8 ypg); 33rd scoring defense (22.2 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: six

Location: Fayetteville, Ark.

Stadium: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (80,000; PowerBlade HP turf)

Last league title: 1989 (Southwest)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
For one, quarterback Tyler Wilson, one of the top players at his position in the country.  Despite the loss of a handful of talented receivers, Wilson will still have plenty of returning talent to which to throw.  Drawing the powerful combo of Alabama and LSU at home is certainly a plus, although playing the likes of those two national title contenders anywhere would certainly not qualify as a picnic at any level.

The Bad
Take your pick as to the bad for the Razorbacks in 2012.  The offseason soap opera that led to a change at head coach, with John L. Smith replacing the ousted Bobby Petrino on what’s presumed to be a one-year basis.  Or there’s still having to get over that SEC West hump that consists of the annual matchups with Alabama and LSU.  Or Knile Davis returning to full strength health-wise in the rugged SEC after a significant ankle injury prematurely ended his 2011 season.  Arkansas certainly has the talent of a Top 10 team, but will it be able to successfully navigate all three of those obstacles, particularly the latter two?

The Unknown
Flip a coin between Davis staying healthy and maintaining his explosive self or the squad being able to get past the drama that was the Hogs’ offseason.  Losing Petrino, merely from the offensive perspective and even with another Petrino at the steering wheel, is a huge blow that seems to have been pushed to the side by the presence of the verbose and ultra-confident Smith.

Make-or-break game: ???
Grab another coin, or the same one used above, and flip it again.  Alabama Sept. 15?  LSU Nov. 24? “Sir, would you like the steel-toed boot that’s hurtling toward your groin to be a size 12 or size 13?”  The Razorbacks only two blemishes in 2011 were to the Tide and Tigers; the past three years, Arkansas has just one win in six attempts over the twosome.  Until the Hogs can get past both, they’ll continue to be perennial SEC West also-rans.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Tyler Wilson
3,648 yards passing and 24 touchdowns — against just six interceptions — while playing quarterback for a top-ten SEC team will certainly get you attention from the voters, and that’s certain to happen as the senior embarks on his final season with the Razorbacks.  The loss of the man who put him into the position to be mentioned in Heisman talk will likely hurt, but the fact that Bobby Petrino’s brother Paul is the offensive coordinator can do nothing but soften the blow.  Wilson expects no hiccups as a result of the coaching change; whether that’s the case will determine how deep into the season he remains a topic of Heisman conversation.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Report: Oklahoma State adding Bob Stitt as offensive analyst

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Bob Stitt, who has become a bit of a cult hero in the college football coaching world over the last few years, is moving on up. Oklahoma State will reportedly add Stitt as an offensive analyst, according to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter.

Stitt was fired by Montana after this past season after missing the FCS playoffs for a second consecutive season and a second-round exit in his first season with the program in 2015. Stitt had become a rising star in the lower levels of college football after reshaping the offensive strategies with Colorado Mines in Division 2. The Nebraska native has coached a Harlon Hill Trophy winner (Division 2’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and has coached Colorado Mines to three conference championships. Stitt gained notoriety after being given credit for his offensive strategies by West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Stitt being let go by Montana came as a bit of a surprise after just three seasons with the program. Offensively speaking, Oklahoma State rarely needs any assistance in moving the football and scoring, but Mike Gundy is wise to bring in a mind like Stitt to add to the expanding of the offensive schemes in Stillwater.

As an offensive analyst, Stitt will be prevented from doing any on-field coaching and instead will focus on prepping the game plan and breaking down film. However, having Stitt on the staff in some capacity leaves a door open for a future position on the 10-man coaching staff should a position open at some point.

Jeff Banks looks to make Alabama’s special teams a strength

Alabama Athletics
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If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.

“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”

Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.

The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.

Temple prepares for next step in quest for new on-campus football stadium

Temple Athletics
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With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.

“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”

One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.

Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”

The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.

In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.

Chuckie Keeton returns to Utah State as offensive assistant coach

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One of Utah State’s all-time best players is back with the program. Chuckie Keeton is joining the Utah State coaching staff, although his exact title has not yet been officially confirmed.

What role Keeton will take on remains to be officially announced, although the speculation is he will be an offensive assistant coach who will work with the Utah State quarterbacks. This will be Keeton’s second coaching job since his playing days came to a close. Keeton got started at Oregon State under former Utah State and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. Keeton joined the Oregon State coaching staff in 2016. With changes in the Oregon State program with a coaching change this offseason, now was as good a time as any for Keeton to return to Utah State, where he became one of the top players from a non-power conference program to become a bit of a household name.

Keeton shared his reaction to returning to his alma mater on Twitter.

Keeton holds a number of Utah State records including career records for completion percentage and pass efficiency and season records for most touchdown passes, passing yards, total offensive yards, and completion percentage. Utah State finished the 2017 season ranked 69th in the nation in passing offense and ended the year with 17 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Keeton’s college career was sidetracked by injuries far too often, but it will be good to see Keeton back with the Utah State program as he continues his coaching career.