LITTLE ROCK — One person’s Top 10 reasons to pass on Saturday’s Red-White game:
No. 10, the round-trip drive requires more than five hours.
No. 9, only 30 minutes of real football was guaranteed because a nonstop clock was to be employed during the second half.
No. 8, the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense vs. all others. I understand coach Bret Bielema wanting the starters to learn to rely on each other, but the teams were stacked so the Red should dominate. Considering the Razorbacks do not have great depth, anything less would be a disappointment. At one point, the Red team scored on three straight plays — two by the defense. The final was a meaningless 61-22.
No. 7, in light of No. 8, it would be difficult to extrapolate anything of value when evaluating the progress of the Razorbacks. There is a big difference between a wide receiver running by a teammate who is a backup cornerback and doing the same to an Alabama starter or a defense holding second- and third-teamers to -1.4 yards per rush and shutting down Auburn’s hurry-up. The most vivid example of the mismatch on Saturday was defensive end Deatrich Wise vs. whoever blocked for the White team. Wise had five sacks in the first half; five sacks vs. the eight SEC opponents would be a good season.
No. 6, two of the five starters in the offensive line could be different when Arkansas opens against Auburn on Aug. 30. Dan Skipper has found a home at left tackle, while Denver Kirkland returns at right guard and Brey Cook is at the other tackle. For the opener, junior college transfer Sebastian Tretola could be at the other guard and freshman Frank Ragnow could be the replacement for four-year starter Travis Swanson at center. During spring, three players took first-team reps at center, a clear sign that the search is ongoing.
No. 5, the defensive line will also look different in the fall. Arkansas’ best defensive lineman, end Trey Flowers, was held out of the game. Plus, the Razorbacks lost three decent down linemen, and one replacement might be freshman Bijhon Jackson.
No. 4, the absence of cornerback Tevin Mitchel and wide receiver Demetrius Wilson. Burned more than once last year, Mitchel, who has been called the most improved player on the team by Bielema, has a hamstring problem. Wilson, redshirted last year because of a knee injury, plays a position where Arkansas needs help.
No. 3, the only quarterback competition is between Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey. Bielema said recently “there isn’t anybody at our program” that is at the same level as Brandon Allen.
No. 2, beat writer Robbie Neiswanger is cooperative. After adding up the reasons to stay in Little Rock, my only question involved the performance of running back Korliss Marshall, and I leaned on Neiswanger for the information — on cue, he called at halftime with four carries for 87 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown run that I knew would be a TV highlight Saturday night. Bielema piqued my interest about Marshall’s role when he recently described the sophomore’s return to practice as a “freak show.” Marshall, Bielema said that day, “had a couple of runs that were off the charts.” Both Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams are solid running backs, and I have no idea whether Marshall can run inside in the SEC, but he possesses a gear unavailable to the other two. That said, opponents will have a scouting report on Marshall and will know if No. 33’s only success is on a pitch sweep or a pass. On Saturday, Williams had eight carries, Marshall six and Collins four, but I expect proven commodities Williams and Collins to get most of the carries during the season.
And, the No. 1 reason to miss the Red-White game, a precious 11-year-old had a soccer game at 1:30 p.m. a few miles from home.
Harry King is a sports columnist. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.