Arkansas is led by Quarterback Ryan Mallet who was a much heralded recruit who originally signed with Michigan but transferred to Arkansas after Rich Rodriguez became coach at Michigan and was bringing his spread running attack that did not suit Mallet's skills so he decided to transfer back to his childhood favorite team Arkansas just after Bobby Petrino was named head coach. The 6'7" 248 pounder Ryan Mallet has been nothing short of impressive in his short run so far with the Hawgs by leading the #1 passing attack in the SEC and 7th in the Nation. Mallet as a strong arm and does a good job of scanning the field and finding the opening guy. Arkansas has had 9 different receivers catch touchdown passes proving that Mallet loves to spread the wealth. At runningback, the small 5'7" 176 pounder Michael Smith is the returning leader in that department and is averaging only 45 yards per game while the big bruiser 6'3" 220 pounder Ronnie Wingo Jr. is also getting his share of touches and averaging 37 yards per game. The receiving corps may be one of the best in the SEC with three big time targets all averaging in the Top 80 Nationally in Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs along with one of the better tightend's in the league in DJ Williams. The weak link on offense remains the same as last year and that is the offensive line that has continued its struggles from last year by allowing sacks and having a difficult time in generating running lanes. The goal for the Razorbacks will to be able to protect Mallet and get enough rushing to make play-action passes effective. If they do both those things, they should be able to move the ball at will against Auburn.
While the offense ranks as one of the most deadliest units in the nation, the defense is almost the complete opposite of the scale nationally. The Hogs are giving up over 400 yards of offense each game that gets them a national ranking of 97th out of 120 teams. The Hogs continue to really struggle in defending the pass where they give up 281 yards per game. With that said, the Hogs do return all four of their defensive linemen from last season and DE Malcolm Sheppard has picked up where he left off last season in getting to the quarterback and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. The linebackers return leading tackler from last season in sophmore Jerry Franklin and a unit that is improved from last season but still making way too many tackles down field instead of closer to the line of scrimmage. The defensive backs are by far the weakness of last year's team and this year's team. The secondary lost it's best cornerback in the fall when Isaac Madison went down with an ACL injury and it is pretty much playing a bunch of inexperienced guys that continue to give up big plays. I look for this Arkansas defense to try and do what most have done and shut down the Auburn running game and once again put pressure on Chris Todd to make plays with his arm.
Arkansas special teams has had issues on most fronts except the kickoff return and place kicking. Alex Tejada is the perfect in his 6 field goal attempts while punter Dylan Breeding is struggling to average almost 40 yards a kick. The kickoff return team is exceptional and is lead by Dennis Johnson who averages almost 30 yards a return and the punt return team is just average and is lead by Jerell Norton who averages just over 3 yards per kick. The kickoff Return team has been decent in only allowing just over 20 yards a kick return while the punt coverage team has been horrid in allowing over 11 yards a return. Arkansas would like to not have to punt during the game very much and will probably try to kick it away from McCalebb on kickoffs.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Auburn Defense needs to get to Mallet and force him to make quick decision and bad ones at that. They will also need to bottle up Michael Smith who had a big game last year against the Tigers.
- Offense needs to continue to protect Chris Todd and open up running lanes as it has done thru out the year. If the offensive line can do this, it will be a long afternoon for the Razorbacks.
- Auburn needs to win the turnover battle. That could be the difference in the game.
I hope you enjoyed the preview. Feel free to share your thoughts on Arkansas.