Hooten’s has released its annual football magazine, giving insight and ranking schools from around Arkansas.
While these are preseason rankings by Hooten’s, it does not mean the rankings will be final at the end of the season, as evidenced by Mayflower’s No. 4 ranking in the 2-3A last year before going 10-0 during the season.
New University of Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown graces the cover for the UCA version, which features the words: “One Goal — 31-year-old coach Nathan Brown, UCA Bears chase FCS national title.”
In years past, former Log Cabin Democrat sports editor David McCollum wrote a preview of the Bears upcoming season and an overview of the roster.
Because of McCollum’s death, Barry Groomes takes over as he breaks down the offense, talking about the strengths and weaknesses of Brown’s team.
Groomes highlights the experienced running back core of junior Carlos Blackman, sophomore Kierre Crossley and senior Cedric Battle, the defensive front and safeties as the strengths for the 2018 Bears, while he lists inexperienced offensive lineman, which lost Stockton Mallet (coaching) and John Cook (business), as well as others who graduated, as the weakness of this team.
Fresh off its highest win total since its resurgence, Hendrix brings back eight starters on offense and defense, including junior quarterback Miles Thompson, who coach Buck Buchanan says “the best QB in D3.”
The high-powered offense has been listed as strengths, while replacing an excellent receiver like Nate Hodapp will be tough for the team.
At the high school level in the 7A Central, Conway was ranked third behind reigning 7A champion North Little Rock and Bryant.
The Wampus Cats, who has a new coach in Keith Fimple, will look to move a little higher than their No. 3 ranking, much like they did moving from the fourth spot in last’s years Hooten’s rankings.
However, it will have to do it without Arkansas’s No. 3 rusher Michael George, quarterback Andrew Hreha and talent at the linebacker position.
Strengths are listed at the talent and depth on both offensive and defensive lines, while replacing all four starting linebackers are listed as the weakness.
For two consecutive years, Greenbrier has had a share of the 5A West conference title.
Despite this, the Panthers are also ranked third behind Morrilton and Harrison.
Senior quarterback Andrew Johnson returns and coach Randy Tribble is excited about his quarterback, saying “I think he could hit 80 percent of his passes this year.”
Johnson’s accuracy helps bring a strength to the Panthers, along with other skill players.
However, the lack of experience and depth on the line brings weakness to Greenbrier.
Coming in seventh in the Hooten’s rankings for the 5A West is Vilonia, who underwhelmed fans the previous two years under former coach Ron Young.
However, Todd Langrell, who coached the previously mentioned Mayflower Eagles to a 10-0 record in the 2-3A and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, is now the coach at Vilonia.
Langrell previously spent eight years on Tribble’s staff and is looking to turn around Vilonia, but there is work to be done.
Langrell is excited about getting enthusiasm back for the team, as well as more participation.
As a result, it is listed as a strength.
However, transitioning to a new system from the split-back veer offense Young ran, as well as new faces and unproved running backs are listed as weaknesses.
Despite Mayflower finishing 10-0 and returning dynamic running backs Keon and Deon Simmons, the Eagles are projected third in its new 4-3A conference.
Under the direction of new coach and former UCA lineman Austin Emerson, the Eagles will have to overcome the questions about an unproven quarterback after Sean Harris graduated.
The Eagles do return skill players, such as the Simmons twins.
Because of the success of last year’s team and the players returning, the 5-2A conference champion Conway Christian looks to repeat as champions under second-year coach Justin Kramer.
CCS returns eight offensive starters and five defensive starters. The gifted skill positions turn in a strength, while lack of depth on the lines causes a weakness.
The games have yet to be played before we see concrete rankings.
If you want to read more, Hooten’s Arkansas Football magazines are on shelves now.