FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas knows it will get a heavy dose of Alabama running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, whom they've seen before, on Saturday.
Quarterback Jake Coker, the Crimson Tide's 6-5 senior quarterback, will be a new challenge. The Razorbacks would like to hold down the Alabama run game and put Coker in a position to have to make plays.
"We've got to be able to affect him up front and make him uncomfortable with the coverage and with what we're doing up front," Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis said.
Coker has completed 79 of 139 passes for 570 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Although Coker's completion rate of 56.8 percent is considerably lower than that of sophomore Cooper Bateman (75 percent), Coker took the reins after Bateman got off to a shaky start in the Crimson Tide's 43-37 loss to Ole Miss three weeks ago.
" He's a big, strong guy and he throws the ball well," Arkansas linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves said. "He's got some targets. He knows where to go with the ball and does a really good job with that."
Coker has a net of 73 rushing yards and an average of 3.5 yards per carry to go along with two rushing touchdowns, but he's more of a pocket passer than most of the quarterbacks Arkansas has seen.
"He's not much of a runner, like the last couple of guys we've faced, so that kind of helps us not worry about him running," Ellis said. "We can focus on getting back in our drops. ... Whatever we're doing, we've just got to get in his head and make him uncomfortable."
He knows Enos
Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos wondered Monday if Alabama Coach Nick Saban remembered him from the mid-1980s, when Enos played scout team quarterback in 1986 and Saban was defensive coordinator at Michigan State.
Saban remembered the old Spartans quarterback.
"I remember Dan Enos," he said. "Dan Enos is a great competitor and was a really good athlete and did a fantastic job for us in what his role was on that team at Michigan State.
"I think the guy is a really good coach. ... They've done a really good job with the players they have, and that's always a great indication of a good coach. I knew they lost a couple of receivers, but they're really getting better and better every week."
Arkansas freshman Dre Greenlaw, coming off a team-high 10 tackles in the team's 24-20 victory at Tennessee, said the structure of the defense and the line's ability to occupy gaps has helped him post 29 tackles, second on the team behind Brooks Ellis' 34.
"Credit to the guys up front, if they're doing their job, working two gaps, then I'm able to run around and try to find the ball," Greenlaw said. "That's what the coaches tell us in practice. If you do your assignment, always run to the ball."
Greenlaw has made a quick move up the depth chart to start at weak side linebacker after playing safety at Fayetteville High last year.
"I just told myself in order for me to play, actually play here, I'm going to have to be physical," he said. "I just came in with the mind-set I just have to be physical and run as much as possible."
Ellis, a former teammate of Greenlaw's at Fayetteville, said the freshman has made rapid improvements.
"He's young, so he's going to make mistakes, but he's getting there," Ellis said. "It's been fun to be next to him."
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said linebacker Josh Williams' recovery time after having a rod inserted into his broken left leg is likely to be four months.
Williams was hurt at the 10:48 mark of the second quarter when a Tennessee tight end blocked him low.
Tailback Juan Day, coming off his second major knee surgery, practiced with the Razorbacks a couple of weeks ago but wasn't progressing to the point he was game ready. Bielema said he has targeted developmental practices next week as a time for Day to take live scrimmage work to see how he handles the speed of the game, then will make a decision.
High on Henry
Alabama Coach Nick Saban didn't hold back in his praise for Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry during Wednesday's SEC teleconference.
"Hunter Henry is probably, in my mind, maybe the best tight end in the country," said Saban, who recruited Henry out of Pulaski Academy. "He has great size, he's very athletic and a very good receiver, and he blocks well. He does everything that you can ask a guy to do.
"He can play in-line, he can play off the line, he can play split out. In this day and age, that is the perfect tight end. "
Arkansas improved eight spots to No. 24 in total offense with 476 yards per game. The Razorbacks are currently ranked No. 32 in both rushing (204 yards per game) and passing (272 yards per game).
The Razorbacks are No. 87 in scoring (25.8), mostly because they rank No. 124 out of 128 FBS teams in red zone scoring at 62.5 percent.
Arkansas is No. 51 in total defense (359.2), No. 16 against the run (101.6), No. 99 against the pass (257.6) and No. 54 in points allowed (22.4).
The team turnover margin is tied for No. 58 (plus 0.2 per game), the punt return average of 22.4 ranks No. 7 and net punting is No. 126 (29.6).
Coach Bret Bielema has pushed a more aggressive play-calling approach since Arkansas entered SEC play.
The overt stance, Bielema said, was a way to help Arkansas power through the issues, like finishing in the fourth quarter and struggling in close games, it has fought the past couple of years.
"We weren't going to be hesitant," Bielema said of last week's game at Tennessee. "I wanted to be aggressive. I kind of wanted to be full-throttle. The last thing I said before we took the field was we were going to out-hit them longer, we were going to outplay them longer and we were going to win this thing together. I think that defined it."
Count Rory Segrest among the Alabama alumni who will be back on campus for homecoming.
Segrest, Arkansas' defensive line coach, played on Alabama's offensive line from 1991-93. He was also a strength and conditioning graduate assistant coach for the Crimson Tide from 1994-95.
"Obviously, I've got a lot of great memories there in Tuscaloosa," Segrest said. "I met my wife [Jackie] there and won a lot of games in that stadium. It's good going back, but we're going down there to get a job done."
On the radio
Arkansas tailback Alex Collins and running backs coach Jemal Singleton will join Coach Bret Bielema on tonight's edition of On the Air with Bret Bielema, the coach's weekly show.
Sports on 10/08/2015