Arkansas Football: Razorbacks' New Year's Resolutions
A lot has happened in 2013. Some things were good and some were bad, but the end of each year marks the beginning of a new one.
With the new year comes an opportunity for a fresh start, a time to make resolutions and set new goals. Resolutions can be for individuals, offices, classrooms, families and, in this case, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The 2013 season was not very nice to the Hogs, but it's now in the past. With 2014 come hopes and dreams of turning around what was a very rocky debut for head coach Bret Bielema, to say the least.
The Razorbacks didn't win a conference game for the first time since joining the SEC in 1992 and endured their first nine-game losing streak in program history. But, as stated, 2014 is a whole new year, so there's no need to pout, moan or drown in self-sorrow.
Bielema has a lot of young talent to build on, and putting in the work in the offseason should make for a much better season in his second year.
With that said, here are the Razorbacks' top-four New Year's resolutions that should make for a better ending.
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Find a Quarterback
Everything on offense starts with the quarterback. The quarterback and center are the only two players on offense who touch the ball every play, but the quarterback position is undoubtedly the most important.
Sophomore Brandon Allen was the starter for 2013, and he lacked a great deal of consistency. All it takes is one look at his stat sheet to see just how much he struggled.
Allen completed only 49.6 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was even worse in SEC play, completing 47.7 percent of his attempts for eight touchdowns and nine picks. Completing under 60 percent of your passes is not great, but under 50 is unacceptable and will not cut it at the highest level in college football.
Though Allen did much better in his last three games, his overall season performance was subpar. He has a lot, and I mean a lot, of work to do in the offseason to show he is the guy Bielema wants under center.
If he doesn't get better, incoming 4-star freshman Rafe Peavey will probably take his spot. Even if Allen does get considerably better in the offseason, Peavey still has the talent to take his spot.
The best thing about Peavey is his pocket presence. He almost reminds you of Tyler Wilson in how he stands in the pocket and tosses the ball around. His arm strength isn't superb, but with some weight lifting, he can help that.
Whether Allen makes major strides and shows he can be the starter or Peavey steps in and takes the job, Bielema needs a quarterback who can lead the team.
Some people may make a resolution to find a four-leaf clover, but Arkansas needs to find a quarterback who is going to make plays with his arm and make good decisions.
Cut Down on Mistakes
One of the most popular New Year's resolutions in the world is cutting weight. While the Hogs don't necessarily need to cut weight—some of them may—they do need to cut down on turning the ball over.
The Razorbacks tied for 83rd nationally in turnovers lost last season with 23, which equals nearly two per game. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or even a hardcore football fan to know that turning the ball over an average of twice a game is a recipe for failure.
Arkansas coughed up the ball 12 times on the ground and gave it up another 11 times through the air. If Bielema and his Hogs want to make 2014 a successful year, they are going to have to take care of the ball, plain and simple.
That can be much easier said than done, but guys should learn to take care of the ball quickly if you let them get acquainted with the bench.
Get Down the Fundamentals
This may seem more like a resolution for a high school football team, but fundamentals, such as tackling and catching, were a big problem for Arkansas in 2013.
There were countless plays this past season where an opposing running back or wide receiver would get big yards after first contact because Arkansas defenders didn't wrap up.
Out of all the fundamental issues with Arkansas, tackling was the most apparent.
Tackling is something a college program shouldn't have problems with. The defense must work on being more physical when tackling and hitting their targets, wrapping up and driving them to the ground. The SEC is full of athletes and playmakers, and when you make tackles the first time, those guys aren't able to get into the open field and do damage.
Another fundamental problem Arkansas had was its wideouts catching the ball. College wide receivers are going to drop the ball from time to time, but it can kill an offense's momentum when it happens a lot.
There weren't as many dropped balls toward the end of the year; however, the first half of 2013 saw many. Though Allen's low completion percentage was mostly due to his inaccuracy, some of it can be attributed to wideouts not catching the ball.
This offseason, the receivers need to be catching thousands of passes a day. OK, maybe not thousands, but they need to be catching a lot, as well as working on running crisp, clean routes and locking the ball into their hands.
Have Fun Playing
Having fun out on the field is something that is often lost in today's game.
For most of the 2013 season, the Arkansas players didn't look like they were playing the game they love. It looked more like they dreaded going out on the field and were just trying not to lose instead of playing their game and having fun doing it.
Losing games can take the fun out the sport if a team lets it, as players begin to put their focus on all the negatives. When a team stops having fun and starts playing not to lose, things can snowball quickly, as it did for the Hogs.
Of course, a team is always playing to win, not lose, a game. But when teams begin playing just not to lose another game, they start trying too hard to make plays and mentally incapacitate themselves by overthinking game plans and plays.
You think Alabama doesn't have fun while playing? Yes, they prepare like no other and are serious when they step onto the field, but they have fun playing, and it has helped them win three national championships in the last five seasons.
This is the most important resolution for the Razorbacks.
When you're not having fun playing, the results aren't going to be in your favor. This is a game most of these guys grew up playing, and as a kid, you're turned on to things because they are fun.
To the Razorback players: Find that inner kid in you when you're out there on the field, and have fun.