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Arkansas-Auburn position analysis

by Tom Murphy | October 16, 2021 at 2:47 a.m.

OFFENSE

Quarterback

AUBURN Bo Nix (107-185-1, 1,196 yards, 6 TDs) practices escape artistry on par with Ole Miss' Matt Corral. The junior legacy has been up and down. He was bailed out by referees on what could have been a game-deciding backwards spike vs. UA last year. Nix has hurt the Hogs with his legs and has 169 rushing yards in 2021. LSU transfer TJ Finley (17-32-0, 275 yards, 2 TDs), who beat UA last year, has been solid in relief.

ARKANSAS KJ Jefferson's massive game at Ole Miss served notice he is ascending into the top ranks of FBS QBs. Jefferson (79-126-3, 1,235 yards, 9 TDs) is 4th in the SEC and 15th in the FBS with a 163.85 efficiency rating and 62nd with 205.8 passing ypg. Jefferson is 15th in SEC rushing (53.3 ypg) with 5.3 yards per carry and 5 TD. Malik Hornsby (4-7-0, 27 yards), 68 rushing yards, 1 TD had negative yardage on 1 snap last week.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas

Running back

AUBURn The Tigers have one of the better 1-2 punches in the FBS led by sophomore Tank Bigsby (84-458, 5 TDs, 5.5 ypc), who ran for 146 yards on the Hogs last year. Freshman Jarquez Hunter (47-465, 3 TDs) averages 9.9 ypc. The 5-10, 202-pounder has seven carries of 20-plus yards, including a 94-yard TD that is tied for the longest FBS run. Shaun Shivers (8-69, 1, 8.6) is tough to see behind linemen at 5-7, 180 pounds.

ARKANSAS Junior Trelon Smith (73-387, 4 TDs, 5.3 ypc) continues to lead the group, with freshman Raheim Sanders (54-324, 1, 6.0) charging hard after his first 100-yard game. Dominique Johnson (27-176, 3, 6.5) continues to impress with power running and blocking. AJ Green (26-146, 1, 5.6) has proven the most dangerous pass catcher (5-74, 1) of the bunch, though Sanders (4-48) had a key catch last week.

ADVANTAGE Even

Receivers/tight ends

AUBURN Demetris Robertson (21-231, 2 TDs, 11.0 ypc), a transfer from Georgia, has emerged as the Tigers' top pass catcher, followed by Kobe Hudson (19-267, 1, 14.1). John Samuel Shenker (19-256, 13.5) had 102 yards at LSU, the first 100-yard game by an Auburn TE since 1994. Shedrick Jackson (16-210, 1, 13.1), TB Shaun Shivers (10-71, 1) and big-play Malcolm Johnson Jr. (3-70, 1, 23.3) are capable.

ARKANSAS Treylon Burks (29-519, 3) is 60 yards shy of cracking UA's all-time top 10. Tyson Morris (11-204, 2) is still leading the team with 18.5 ypc. Last week saw the rise of Warren Thompson (11-179, 2) and TE Trey Knox (5-37, 1) as mostly dependable options for Jefferson. De'Vion Warren (7-101) had a big game at Auburn (5-95, 2) last year. Blake Kern (5-61) is splitting time at TE and Hudson Henry has been slowed.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas

Line

ARUBURN The same quintet has started all six games for Auburn. Four starters are seniors, with LG Brandon Council (35 career starts), a transfer from Akron, and center Nick Brahms (27) leading the way. Big RT Brodarius Hamm (6-6, 334) and 6-7 LT Austin Troxell are also seniors. Big RG Keiondre Jones (6-4, 345) is a sophomore. The starting group averages a beefy 6-5, 324. Auburn has allowed just seven sacks.

ARKANSAS Veteran and versatile super senior Ty Clary is slated to make his team-high 38th career start and second in a row at RT for Dalton Wagner (hand). The rest of the starting group is slated to be LT Myron Cunningham (26), LG Brady Latham (16), C Ricky Stromberg (25) and RG Beaux Limmer (10), giving the unit a combined 115 starts. The group is coming off a strong performance in the run and pass at Ole Miss.

ADVANTAGE Even

DEFENSE

Line

ARUBURN Tony Fair (4 tackles, 1 hurry), a 330-pound senior, plays nose along with 308-pound J.J. Pegues (6, 1 FF) while Marcus Harris (12, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 hurry) and Marquis Burks (11, 3, 2, 2 FF) are tackles. Top ends are Derick Hall (25, 5, 3, 1 hurry) and Colby Wooden (28, 5, 2, 4 hurries, 2 PBU, 1 FR) with T.D. Moultry (23, 6, 3), who has missed time with a reported compliance issue, and Zykevious Walker (4) in reserve.

ARKANSAS The front, quiet the last 2 weeks, might utilize more 4-man looks today. NT John Ridgeway (20, 2.5, 1, 1 hurry), DE Tre Williams (15, 4.5, 4, 4 hurries) and Taurean Carter (15, 1 PBU) are the top tacklers. Zach Williams (13, 3, 1.5, 1 FF), Eric Gregory (12, 1 hurry), Markell Utsey (9, 1.5, 2 hurries), Isaiah Nichols (5, 1.5, 1, 1 FF), Jashaud Stewart (3) and Mataio Soli (2, 0.5 sacks) rotate.

ADVANTAGE Auburn

Linebackers

AUBURN Chandler Wooten (43, 3 TFL, 1 PBU), who picked off a fake punt pass here in 2019, has filled in well at MLB for injured Owen Pappoe (15, 2 TFL, 2 hurries), out with a lower-body injury lately. Wooten would start at "Star" if Pappoe is back. WLB senior Zakoby McClain (38, 3 TFL) had 113 tackles last year. Edge Eku Leota (10, 6, 4) leads the team in sacks. Wesley Steiner (13, 1.5 TFL) and Cam Riley (7, 1) are backups.

ARKANSAS The trio of Bumper Pool (61, 4.5 TFL, 1 PBU), Hayden Henry (51, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 4 hurries) and Grant Morgan (50, 4.5, 2 PBU, 3 hurries) are the Hogs' top three tacklers and they've rotated virtually all the snaps after early targeting ejections affected all three. Making calls, filling gaps and arriving with force are all critical for a unit whose run game work has slipped. Andrew Parker (4, 2 hurries) is next.

ADVANTAGE Even

Secondary

AUBURN Corners Roger McCreary (22, 1 TFL, 2 INTS, 3 PBU) and Nehemiah Prickett (20, 2 PBU) are upperclassmen with plenty of experience. Senior safety Smoke Monday (21, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU) has been touted by Sam Pittman all week. Senior Bydarrius Knighten (21, 1 INT, 1 PBU) and sophomore Zion Puckett (27) split time at the other safety. Donovan Kaufman (12, 1 sack) and Jaylin Simpson (6, 1 hurry) also play.

ARKANSAS S Jalen Catalon (46, 1.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 4 PBU) is likely out with injuries, hurting a secondary that gave up multiple big plays last week. Joe Foucha (38, 4, 2 PBU) and Simeon Blair (15, 3 PBU) could be aided by Myles Slusher (2), Malik Chavis (3) and Jayden Johnson (8, 2 TFL). Greg Brooks Jr. (29, 2.5 TFL, 1 FR), Montaric Brown (26, 2 INTs, 2 PBU), LaDarrius Bishop (6, 1 PBU) and Hudson Clark (5) are coverage guys.

ADVANTAGE Auburn

Special teams

AUBURN Anders Carlson (11 of 14 FG, 22 of 23 PAT) is 3rd in career scoring at Auburn (330 points). He made a 39-yard second-chance game-winner vs. Arkansas in '20. P Oscar Chapman (44.3) has put 7 of 21 inside the 20 with 14 fair catches. Auburn has 3 blocked kicks and the longest FBS streak of games without a punt blocked (160). Nehemiah Prickett ranks sixth in the SEC with 184 kick return yards.

ARKANSAS Vito Calvaruso shines with 31 touchbacks on 38 kickoffs (81.6%). Freshman PK Cam Little (9 of 11 FG, 23 of 23 PAT) has missed 2 of last 3 FGs. P Reid Bauer (41.2) has been up and down with 7 of 27 inside the 20 with 14 fair catches. The Razorbacks are 9th in SEC kickoff returns (19.8) and 12th in punt returns (3.6) with safety option Nathan Pardodi handling most. LaDarrius Bishop averages 28.8 yards on 5 KOR.

ADVANTAGE Auburn

Intangibles

AUBURN The Tigers already have a handy road win in pocket at LSU, with QB Bo Nix's scrambling, which clearly travels, a huge component. Like Arkansas, Auburn sees an opening at the top of the SEC standings with Alabama's loss at Texas A&M and would like to jump into that conversation. Stopping the Hogs' run is key. For an historic perspective, the Tigers have a winning record of 8-5 in Fayetteville.

ARKANSAS How much does revenge really play into a college football game? If we knew it mattered, the Razorbacks would have a strong edge here after the late officiating gaffes truly stole a road win last season. The home crowd could have a tangible impact on the proceedings, and Coach Sam Pittman is asking the students in particular to show up for the 11 a.m. kickoff and be loud. Hogs have to slow Auburn run.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas

Print Headline: Arkansas-Auburn position analysis

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