I love the SEC and Saturday’s in the southeast during college football season. There is no better conference in America when it comes to college football than the SEC. The rich tradition of the league and the list of stars that have come from this league that changed the game of football and the way that it was played and coached.
Let’s kick this off with a little run-through of some of those names. The coaches are legendary, from Paul William “Bear” Bryant, Pat Dye, and Johnny Majors to Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, this conference has seen coaches that changed the game forever.
Its player’s history is extremely rich too. From Peyton Manning to Herschel Walker, to Bo Jackson and Julio Jones, national championships and thousands of players that have moved on to play in the NFL. The prestige surrounding the conference is incredible, and it makes our Saturdays better in the long run of the fall and winter months.
Every season, there are NFL prospects lined up in large numbers looking to make an impact on the future NFL. The game that they love, that they have given so much for and pursued an almost impossible dream is becoming a reality for many of these players. This, to me, is one of the biggest things that really makes this game special.
Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992, leaving the Southwestern Conference for greener pastures. They had seen three decades of success, mostly behind head coaches Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz, and Ken Hatfield. It took the program a couple of seasons to catch back up with the rest of the SEC, but with the arrival of Houston Nutt in 1998, they became a force to be respected.
They produced a lot of professional players over the last several years. Remember Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the backfield rumbling to an SEC Championship appearance in 2006? This program, while relatively new to the SEC, still has much history, and they are proud of it.
Who Arkansas lost from last season
Arkansas lost a lot of SEC caliber talent. The problem is that the previous coaching regime under Chad Morris didn’t recruit for strength, they recruited for speed. As a result, the team is lacking some serious strength at most every position.
That’s why the program let Morris walk after just two seasons at the school. His philosophies weren’t advanced enough to truly contend with the brawn of the SEC.
Defensive tackle McTelvin Agim was selected in the third round (95th overall) by the Denver Broncos. He was by far the biggest defensive lineman that Arkansas had, and now they’ve been left pretty lean up front.
Defensive back Kamren Curl was taken by the Washington Redskins in the seventh round (216th overall). He was used as a versatile rover type defensive back and will be sorely missed.
Although not drafted, DeJon Harris was a solid contributor on the defense as well. As of now, the Razorbacks don’t really have anyone to replace him with.
Arkansas, in recent memory, had typically a good pipeline to the NFL. The school had typically seen at least three prospects drafted every year since 2011. However, when Brett Bielema was removed from the head coach position, the recruiting and talent production dipped significantly.
The Prospects this season
Here are four NFL Draft-eligible prospects on the Arkansas Razorbacks this season.
QB Feleipe Franks (Rs-Sr)
#13 | 6’5″ | 227 lbs | Wakulla (Crawfordsville, Florida)
The transfer quarterback from Florida, Feleipe Franks spent most of the season injured last season, giving way to the rise of redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Trask. It became clear that Trask was the better fit in the offense through the rest of the 2019 season. Franks transfers to Arkansas, under new head coach, Sam Pittman.
Franks has a prototypical body, standing tall at 6’5″ and just shy of 230 pounds. He’s athletic too, a good running threat for someone his size. Franks has a cannon for an arm and, quite honestly, might have the strongest arm in the SEC this season. For the most part, he’s pretty fundamentally sound and shows good awareness in the pocket.
Franks struggles to read the field at times, forcing the ball into horrible situations. When pressure comes, he’s about average at managing that. Franks can be woefully inaccurate, placing the ball in very bad spots that lead to interceptions against crafty defenders. The last issue that I see if that Franks struggles to know when to throw with touch and when not to. These are all things I’d like to see him improve on, but I really don’t expect to see.
Grade: Project (Uncertain future).
HB Rakeem Boyd (Sr)
#5 | 5’11” | 200 lbs | Stratford (Houston, Texas)
Rakeem Boyd’s claim to fame is the Last Chance U appearance he made while he played for Independence Community College, when the school was featured in Season 3 of the Netflix show. He was the star at the school and was listed as the 4th best JUCO running back during the 2018 cycle and held offers from Arkansas and Colorado. He had three years of eligibility left.
Boyd’s road has been rocky, to say the least. A high three star coming out of Stratford High in Houston, Texas, Boyd enrolled at Texas A&M. However, after a redshirt season, he transferred out of the program because of a “poor academic standing” with the school.
Now, Boyd enters his third and final season at Arkansas, looking to solidify his NFL Draft status as one of the better running backs in this class. He has excellent burst coming out of the backfield, and his field vision through traffic is something special. He’s even worked his way through the tough Alabama defenses very well over the last two seasons.
Boyd is also a good receiver out of the backfield, being used as a real receiving threat. He makes difficult catches and can be a real asset to an NFL team. Boyd is a willing blocker, but rarely an effective one. He seems to lack the technique to properly use his core strength and generally is overpowered easily in the game.
Grade: Low Impact (Future Starter).
IOL Ty Clary (Sr)
#66 | 6’3″ | 285 lbs | Fayetteville (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
Ty Clary enters his third full season as a starter, with 27 career starts in his career. He’s been highly praised by organizations like PFF, who have graded his work very positively. Clary is a good, consistent player and offers a great deal of quickness to an offensive line at the next level. He’s started at both left and right guard as well as center, showing the versatility that the NFL likes to see across the line of scrimmage.
Clary is leaner than the average interior offensive lineman, which gives him an advantage as he is generally the quicker body in the trenches. He has excellent core strength that allows him to gain control when combined with his quickness. He handles counters pretty well and will manage to collect his composure when he needs to.
The biggest issue that I can take with Clary’s game is that his footwork isn’t great, and when he plays against better, stronger opponents, he struggles to maintain that needed anchor or control. We will also find him overcommitting when he knows the guy across from him is stronger and Clary will put his head down. Not a very promising sight.
Regardless, Clary is a suitable professional, even if he has to sit for a little while before he gets a chance to start. I think that he can find a home almost anywhere in the league because of his versatility.
Grade: Low Impact (Future Starter).
LB Hayden Henry (Sr)
#27 | 6’1″ | 229 lbs | Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, Arkansas)
Hayden Henry is a smart kid. He was a part of the 2018 SEC Academic Honor Roll, and has seen action in 34 games so far through his three seasons, starting in just 5 games. His brother is the Los Angeles Chargers tight end, Hunter Henry. Regardless, he’s now in line to be one of the seniors that this Arkansas squad needs to turn to.
Henry shows some real promise as a powerful outside linebacker who I think would fit best in a 3-4 scheme as a sub-package tool. He plays with an excellent pad level, staying low and attacking gaps with relative ease. With De’Jon Harris now gone, the linebacker room is going to have to shift around a little bit, and Henry is going to end up playing a whole lot more snaps this season.
Henry is still undisciplined and can be manipulated out of his assignment while he is trying to make the play. He appears to be a good run defender and while he has looked pretty good in zone coverage, he was primarily used as a run-backer, when Arkansas expected the ball to be run. With more snaps this season, we will have a good idea of what he can bring to the NFL, but as of now the future is very uncertain.
Grade: Project (Uncertain Future).
Arkansas Razorbacks NFL Draft Projections
Arkansas has a rough schedule ahead, and they might not be able to win an SEC game this season. Playing in the West is already tough, but with the lack of talent across the board, it’s hard to imagine this team being competitive at all.
I think Hayden Henry is a real dark horse prospect to rise in this draft class. He’s looked good in his limited snaps, and reminds me of an Alex Anzalone type player. I think Rakeem Boyd will find a fit as well, and I can see him starting for a team or two for a few years. Ty Clary is a guy that I could see in the league for a long time, but bounce around four or five different teams.
Low Impact (Future Starter)
HB Rakeem Boyd
IOL Ty Clary
Project (Uncertain Future)
QB Feleipe Franks
LB Hayden Henry^
^Denotes prospect has more than a 50% chance of improving grade during the 2020 season.