The spring game in April 2017 was canceled. Thunderstorms were too much. Arkansas would get some work done inside the Fred W. Smith Center to cap those several weeks of practices. Usual media suspects from the Razorbacks beat took the invitation to step inside a place rarely entered by non-Hogs personnel. Vibes were good, focused but relaxed. Arkansas was going to return Austin Allen for a second season as starter. The Razorbacks had won seven games the year before. Yes, Bret Bielema had caught some heat because the team lost three of its last four to end the season. Generally, though, things felt like they were still on the rise.
Arkansas football in 2023 may be facing the same situation. Razorbacks wide receiver-turned-All-SEC-defensive-back Quincey McAdoo was hospitalized after a car wreck Monday morning, the athletic department announced Tuesday at noon. The school called the injuries non-life-threatening. What kind of injury McAdoo suffered is unclear, but given the gravity of information that has come out, the malady is one that could keep him out for the season. Perhaps longer.
Recalling Rawleigh Williams III
The situation brings memories of Rawleigh Williams III flooding back. Williams had broken out as perhaps the SEC’s best running back in the fall of ‘16, his sophomore season. His 1,320 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns were going to be the harbinger of Arkansas taking the next step. Williams, instead, was fortunate to walk again after breaking his neck during a de facto scrimmage that day. Eight days later, Williams retired, understanding his life may never be the same if he continued.
Things could be as terrifying as they were for Williams. Or they could be much better.
We do know that his mother is sharing some good news in the early going, writing “Mustard seed of faith……that’s all I need!” on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.
Perspective is important as more information is gathered. And with such a sensitive topic, it’s difficult to write what must be written considering this is a sports website. McAdoo was considered to be a major contributor to this 2023 team, just as Williams was going to be for that 2017 squad. Their injuries may be different, but the effect may not be.
The Arkansas football roster wasn’t the same after Williams’ injury. Instead of taking the next step, the Hogs looked like a team that never shook his loss, stumbling to a four-win season, in which two such victories came by a single point. Bielema was unceremoniously fired and labeled by the fan base as persona non grata for a good two years afterward. The Razorbacks hit a skid as bad as they had after the Bobby Petrino incident. Allen was mostly hurt the next year and as a cure, the school hired Chad Morris. Only now – well, the last two years – has the football program been able to recover.
Arkansas Football Without Quincey McAdoo?
This year’s Arkansas team feels somewhat similar, at least, ancillarily: A borderline elite quarterback and a roster full of unproven-at-the-level players. The good news if you’re a Hogs fan is that the on-field results last year weren’t as foreboding at the end as they were in 2016. Almost, of course, but at least the Razorbacks only nearly squandered an 18-point lead instead of actually squandering a 24-point lead. The Razorbacks also have a bonafide star at running back in Rocket Sanders to help stem any tide.
But that’s on offense, in the secondary, things are dicier. Arkansas is much improved on paper. Cornerback wasn’t the biggest issue (it was only a minor issue) when it came to the Hogs’ dead-last rank in pass defense last year. Safety was a mess of a disaster. Things improved on the outside when McAdoo was injected into the lineup, anyway.
Dwight McGlothern’s big-play potential could settle into more consistency next year, too. LaDarrius Bishop, a starter two seasons ago, seems most likely to slide into the starting unit if McAdoo, in fact, misses time. The additions of Al Walcott and Snaxx Johnson help the depth, as does the addition of Jaheim Singletary, and both the Baylor transfer and the Georgia one could find themselves starters. Walcott almost definitely will be after his All-Big 12 play with the Bears last year.
Still, the secondary was – again – dead last in FBS when it came to giving up passing yards. McAdoo’s injury, if it is major, isn’t good for alleviating that statistic.
For now, though, that should be a back-burner thought. Months will go by before the season starts. McAdoo is the quintessential Arkansas football player. The phrase “thoughts and prayers” is often tossed, but this time, no one will doubt their sincerity.
See more on Arkansas football from BoAS: