By: Tyler Knight
Photo from Twitter
2019 was once again a disappointing season for Arkansas football. Throughout the course of a 2-10 campaign, many questioned why certain players weren’t seeing the field.
The Razorbacks also saw a couple of players who were poised to make an impact miss the season to injury. With a new coaching staff in place, we could see several new names rise and help Arkansas climb out of the cellar of the SEC.
Here’s a look at three Razorbacks on each side of the football potentially in for breakout seasons in 2020:
Hudson Henry, TE
Hudson Henry was one of the most highly-recruited tight ends in the nation during his senior year at Pulaski Academy, but missed time in fall camp with an injury. Henry only caught two passes for 17 yards as a freshman, but was able to redshirt. Once Cheyenne O’Grady left the program, many wondered why Henry didn’t see more snaps. With a major lack of depth at his position and Henry’s ability, it’s hard to imagine offensive coordinator Kendal Briles being unable to make him a big part of the offense.
Dalton Wagner, OT
Standing at 6-foot-9, Wagner just looks like an SEC tackle. Wagner shows similarities to Dan Skipper, who head coach Sam Pittman once coached at Arkansas as the offensive line coach. Wagner started all 12 games in 2019 and was very solid on an offensive line that largely struggled. With Pittman and position coach Brad Davis on staff, expect Wagner to have a really good season.
Trelon Smith, RB
Trelon Smith sat out last year as a transfer from Arizona State after not seeing much time on the field. Smith is a small, quick-hitting running back who drew a lot of praise from coaches and teammates last year. He has been described as quick and shifty. While Rakeem Boyd will get the vast majority of the carries this year, he will need relief at times during the punishment of an SEC season. Smith looks like a guy who can do just that and be a nice change-of-pace back.
Jalen Catalon, S
Jalen Catalon was a big-time pick-up in recruiting for the Hogs. He brought speed and ball skills to a secondary that desperately needed both. Catalon only totaled six tackles, but did force a big fumble last season. Many have raved over Catalon’s ball skills and instincts during fall practice. It was quite a mystery as to why he saw action in just four games and played mostly special teams last season. Catalon seems like a very talented player, but wasn’t used for whatever reason. With Kamren Curl now in the NFL, Arkansas needs a playmaker at safety. Catalon has all the potential in the world to be just that.
Dorian Gerald, DE
Gerald was lost for the season to injury in his first game at Arkansas. A highly-touted junior college player, who was expected to play a big role next to McTelvin Agim, Gerald had to watch from the sidelines for the rest of his senior year. Gerald was able to come back for another year of eligibility. Expect defensive coordinator Barry Odom to lean on Gerald for not only production, but leadership as well. After being given another year of eligibility, motivation should not be an issue.
Mataio Soli, DE
After tallying 22 sacks as a high school senior, Soli had many in Fayetteville excited about the future. Soli played in 11 games last year, but unfortunately, spent most of the season wearing a club on an injured hand. He wasn’t able to get a sack, but did end up with 1.5 tackles for loss. Fully healthy this year, we could see the start of a really good career at Arkansas for Soli. He was good enough to start with only one usable hand. He should be even better with two.
One last player worth mentioning is running back T.J. Hammonds. Hammonds has been around for awhile, but can never seem to get out of his own way. We’ve seen his home-run hitting ability with that SEC speed. We’ve also seen him benched and even leave the program for a bit. Pittman recently awarded Hammonds his scholarship back saying, ”T.J. has done everything we’ve asked of him.” Hammonds has a lot of skill and speed that Briles surely drools over. If Hammonds can get out of his own way, he could make a significant impact.