2000: Quinton Caver and Ken Hamlin
In a season when all of their starting running back were injured and the Razorbacks had to recruit a quarterback off the intramural flag football team to create depth, it was hard to choose any one player to be the MVP of 2000. Quinton Caver and Ken Hamlin were studs on the Razorback defense. If it were not for those two, The Hogs could have struggled through the season and likely not made a bowl game. Caver posted 96 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks and 1 interception. Hamlin put up even better numbers with 113 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 3 pass deflections and 2 interceptions. Hamlin would go on to star for the Dallas Cowboys as a defensive back in the NFL and Caver spent time at Kansas City, Philadelphia and one season as a Dallas Cowboy. This was one of the better secondaries in Razorback history.
2001: Jason Peters and Tony Bua
Peters will go into the NFL Hall of Fame sooner than later. The former Razorback tight end switched positions to the offensive line as soon as he went to the NFL. Switching to the offensive line was a good move for Peters, who could be one of the greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game. His work at Arkansas included the game winning catch that helped the Razorbacks get past the Ole Miss Rebels. It was an improbable catch which saw Matt Jones scramble from one sideline to the other to find the big tight end open in the endzone. After that score, Ole Miss was driving down the field to tie the game but the football gods decided the game went long enough. In the seventh overtime, Rebel quarterback, Eli Manning handed the football to his running back and Razorback great, Tony Bua, was there to make the stop and force a fumble that was recovered by the Hog defense to seal the victory. With Peters and Bua, Arkansas was led to a 7-5 season with a victory over the Missouri Tigers in the Independence Bowl.
2002-2004: Matt Jones
Arkansas was blessed and fortunate to have a guy like Jones. He was a difference maker at quarterback for the Hogs and won the program plenty of games with the way he could escape from the pocket. He was the hero to Razorback Nation. Jones could also have played multiple positions for the Razorbacks, most notably receiver, which he did play a few snaps as a freshman. Whether it was his iconic 80 yard touchdown and dunk vs Ole Miss. His long run vs Texas in the Ambush in Austin or his play vs Kentucky in 7 overtimes, Hog fans will remember Jones forever.
If you fast forward to the 3:29 point in the video, Matt Jones 80 yard touchdown will begin there.
2005-2007: Darren McFadden
Who else could you name as MVP of these three seasons other than DMAC himself. McFadden was a human highlight reel and could be off for six in the first cut. Whether it was the 2005 80 yard touchdown vs Georgia, 2006 75 yard touchdown vs Auburn or his multiple 2007 75+ yard touchdowns that season, everyone knew who would be getting the ball in close game situations, Mr. Dependable. Hog fans all see it as an injustice for McFadden never winning the Heisman, finishing runner-up in both 2006 and 2007. How about we let the video do the talking for us:
2008: Michael Smith
There was a new head coach, new offensive philosophy but still kept the same mentality:” Run the Ball”. Smith was a third or fourth string running back behind McFadden, Jones and Hillis. Smith did have his flashes though in spot duty for the Hogs in previous seasons. In 2008, with a slim number of talented players, Smith showed himself to the staff that he was ready.
The undersized Smith put together a heroic effort last fall to keep the Razorbacks within bowl eligibility. At Auburn, he rushed for 176 yards and collected another 46 yards in receiving. One week later, at Kentucky, and ran for 192 yards against Kentucky. Smith’s outstanding season was cut short with a hamstring injury and never returned. He was ruled out with injury for the game against LSU. Smith rushed for 1,072 yards and 8 touchdowns.
2009-2010: Ryan Mallett
Where would Arkansas have been if it was not for Mallett himself? He originally committed and signed with Michigan out of Texas High School in Texarkana in 2006. Mallett always had the dream of playing for the Hogs but Arkansas already had their big time quarterback in Springdale freshman, Mitch Mustain. With the transfer of Mustain after the 2006 season, it was too late for Mallett to have flipped his commitment to Arkansas. After playing one season at Michigan and with the retirement of head coach, Lloyd Carr, Mallett transferred to Arkansas and redshirted in 2008. With two years to play, he became a superstar. The Georgia Bulldogs came to town and Mallett saw it fit to set all kinds of school passing records in the pass happy Bobby Petrino offense. Mallett threw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns and every Hog fan knew that the Razorbacks were in for a great ride the next few seasons.
2011: Tyler Wilson, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams
Who could you pick as the MVP of the 2011 season? It could have been either of these three. Wilson passed for over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. Highlight reel passes like the ones to Wright against Kansas State, Vanderbilt and a touchdown to Cobi Hamilton against Alabama showed Wilson belonged as an elite quarterback in the SEC. Wright had a huge performance against Texas A&M with 12 receptions and over 270 yards. Highlight reel receptions against Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kansas State and A&M capped what was a tremendous senior campaign. Last but certainly not least, Adams did his best Houdini act as he escaped all 11 defenders and broke an extra tackle or two from the same player on a punt return against Tennessee. Fans will never see another football player as versatile as “The Jet”.
2012: Cobi Hamilton
If there was anything to be proud of in the 4-8 2012 campaign for the Razorbacks it had to be Hamilton. Whether it was the deep ball, in the slot or on a short slant Hamilton was steady and caught every ball near him his senior season. The best game he had in 2012 was a 10 reception, 300 yard performance that topped the previous school record held by Wright in 2011. If it was not for Harley-gate, Arkansas could have been much better that season.
2013: Jonathan Williams III, Alex Collins
This was the debut of new Razorback head football coach, Bret Bielema. Known for his smashmouth pro-style offense, Bielema started his Razorback career coaching one of the best tandems in school history. Williams was a holdover from the previous regime in the 2012 recruiting class. Rated a 4-star running back out of Allen, Tx, Williams would show flashes of greatness against a porous Kentucky Wildcat squad in 2012. As one of the focal backs, Williams would rush for 990 yards and 4 touchdowns with one of his best plays being against Texas A&M. Williams would break five tackles on his way to the endzone on a halfback screen play to bring the Hogs within 2 points of the Johnny Football led Aggies.
2014: Martrell Spaight, Trey Flowers, Darius Philon
After defensive coordinator, Chris Ash left for Ohio State to be the co-defensive coordinator, Bielema hired Robb Smith off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff. The move was a great one and turned around the Razorback defense into a juggernaut run defense. With Spaight, Flowers and Philon leading the way, Arkansas held the Alabama defense to 14 points, LSU and Ole Miss scoreless, Texas to 7 and Missouri to 21 points.
Spaight was the guy if you needed a sure tackle, he would get it for you with his hard hits coined, “Spaighted”. Flowers was the defensive end that would never give up. He had such a great engine that all coaches would love to have on their team. Philon would stuff the gap as he forced many fumbles on quarterbacks and running backs alike. The ESPN announcers nicknamed them the “Bermuda Triangle” because if you went into the area that those three were in, you were not likely to survive the night. The turnaround of the defense led by these three helped Arkansas improve their run defense, pass defense, scoring defense, and points per game. The 2014 defense will be one to remember for a long time.
2015: Brandon Allen
Allen suffered a lot from fans. Whether it be his truck being egged or burned, you never heard the elder Allen talk about it or look for revenge against the person who damaged his property. How Allen dealt with the hard times showed during his 2015 senior campaign. Allen broke school passing records of passing yards, career passing touchdowns, QB rating, yards in one game, and touchdowns in a game. 2015 looked to be the year the Razorbacks were turning the corner. The offense was explosive under first year offensive coordinator, Dan Enos. Things were looking up in Fayetteville and it was all because of the blue collar work ethic of the always improving Brandon Allen.
2016: Austin Allen, Rawleigh Williams
The Razorbacks started 5-2 before losing to Auburn 56-3 on the road. That loss blew the sails off the boat and the Razorbacks looked stranded at sea. Before that, the Razorbacks looked to have a formidable quarterback-running back duo in Allen and Williams. Seems like we have heard that called before. Early in the season with close wins vs Louisiana Tech and TCU, Allen was the hero. No other quarterback in the FBS had thrown for 3+ touchdowns through the first seven games like the younger Allen had. He ended the season throwing for over 3,000 yards. Allen was poised for greatness entering 2017. Williams enjoyed a breakout season in 2016 with over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best performances came against a top 15 Ole Miss team rushing for 180 yards, 148 yards vs a top 10 Florida team, and against Mississippi State for a season high 206 yards on only 16 carries. Williams was also looking to be a huge contributor in 2017 until he retired from football after having a neck injury occur in the last spring practice of 2017.
2017: De’Jon “Scoota” Harris
With his great hip movement, range, sure tackling and ability to move side to side quickly, Harris was able to make a name for himself as one of the top linebackers in the SEC and FBS. Harris finished with 115 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks. Although 2017 was not a banner year for the Razorbacks, 2018 will at least bring Harris back to help improve a defense that was ranked among the worst in every statistical category in all of college football.
Who will be the MVP of 2019? We will find out in 16 days! WPS!
Thanks for reading!