University of Louisiana head coach Todd Berry thinks he has a better football team than the last time his Warhawks met Arkansas two years ago.
Problem is Berry – who thinks his second team now could beat his first teamers from 2010 - also thinks the Razorbacks are better as well.
"I think it's two-fold," Berry said on this week's Sun Belt Teleconference. "I think we are a better football team than what we've been. I don't think there's any question about that. We've certainly got more depth and we've got a lot of guys that have played an awful lot of football.
"But I think Arkansas' better, too," Berry added. "So it kind of goes both ways a little bit in the sense that obviously they've got a high-ranking, and deservedly so. We understand the uniqueness and the traditions of the University of Arkansas. And so we know we're going to have to play outstanding to be competitive."
The No. 8 Razorbacks (1-0) host the Warhawks (0-0) Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium in a game that will be televised by ESPNU.
Arkansas will see a couple of familiar faces on the field in a pair of former Razorbacks – 6-1, 220-pound running back Mitchell Bailey (64 carries, 228 yards rushing last season) and linebacker Austin Moss (6-2, 240).
"Mitch came into our program a couple years ago. He was a walk-on there at Arkansas and he came here and we put him on scholarhship, and he's done a fantastic job for us," Berry said. "He's probably a down-the-line running back for us in terms of the number of repetitions he gets, and yet he will play in this ballgame at running back and he's a really valuable special teams player for us.
"…Austin Moss was there a couple years ago and then went to Navarro Junior College and transferred here," Berry added. "He had a really good spring. He was slowed a little bit by an injury in preseason camp. I would look for him to play significantly at our inside linebacker position. He's done an extremely nice job for us. He runs well, he's physical, and he has all the things we're looking for in a linebacker."
The Warhawks, who were 4-8 last season, also have a pair of starters e from Pine Bluff in sophomore offensive tackle Joseph Treadwell (6-5, 312) and redshirt freshman Mitch Lane (6-0, 208), who plays a hybrid linebacker/safety spot called Hawk.
"Joseph Treadwell started last year as a true freshman for us at left tackle, and has played well this fall camp," Berry said. "I know he's excited about this game. He's been in a little bit of a battle, too, to hang onto his job.
"And Mitch Lane, we redshirted last year," Berry added. "We're tremendously excited about Mitch. He plays a very unique position for us in that he's our "Hawk." It's a unique position in college football in terms of what we ask and require… He's really got some great football instincts and awareness about him, and he's shown that throughout preseason camp."
Des Arc redshirt freshman Cody Robinson is listed as a second-team linebacker for ULM, who is 0-9 all-time against Arkansas.
Other Arkansans on the Warhawks' roster are Springdale's Hunter Kissinger, Smackover's Jeff Savage, El Dorado's Qunicy Hardwell Hot Springs' Ajalen Holley and Warren's Allen Tatum.
Unlike many college football teams, ULM did not open its season last week and instead will do so this weekend as it begins a stretch of games that also includes a contest at Auburn and a home game with Baylor.
"It's a little bit unique for us (not playing last week)," Berry said. "It did give us an opportunity to watch some games and hopefully not make the same mistakes that some other people made in those early games. But you always recognize in that first game there's going to be more of those mistakes and so we've got to do the best we can to avoid those."
Berry does feel like there might be some advantage to the Razorbacks' not having seen what the Warhawks will bring to the field this season.
They return a quarterback in junior Kolton Browning (6-1, 194) who passed for 2,438 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and also rushed for over 400 yards, their leading rusher Jyruss Edwards (667 yards, 11 TDs) and two receivers in Brent Leonard (6-2, 186) and Tavarese Maye (6-0, 179) that each had over 50 catches last season.
"We're a different football team than we were last year," Berry said ... "We had a lot of injuries on offense, in particular, and consequently because of that, we had to change our offensive structure away from what we really like to be the last year ... So we're a different team. "
ULM's defense – which was eighth in the nation in run defense (100 yards per game) last season despite the bad record, lost its two two tackles from the Sun Belt's top defense of a year ago.
It is led this season by junior cornerback Vincent Eddie (5-8,161) and junior safety Isaiah Newsome (5-11, 201), who both had over 60 tackles in 2011.
"We're a different team on defense because of some of our personnel, and we feel like we're a little faster defense, and that will create some opportunities for us," Berry said. " So we're going to have some uniqueness to us. But in the same sense, too, they're going to know a little bit about us offensively and defensively ... They're going to have the advantage of playing a game. We're going to have the advantage of maybe a few new things that they haven't seen."
Arkansas comes into the game off a 49-24 win over Jacksonville State in which he fumbled three times, but also looked explosive on offense as expected.
"Certainly I think some of the early mistakes Arkansas made in terms of the turnovers, you recognize that in first ballgames all the way across the country," Berry said. "Everybody has some of those kinds of issues. That allowed Jacksonville State to be in the game. But certainly offensively they're tremendously explosive. Defensively they're opportunistic and they run to the football. I've known John L. for a long time. We played against each other when I was at Army and he was at Louisville. His teams are always tremendously well-coached and know what's going on."
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