Thursday Grid Update, 11/20

Arkansas (5-5, 1-5) will welcome No. 8 Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2) Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. with the Rebels bringing one of the nation's best defenses and still having an explosive offense despite losing their best wideout.

Every week Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney looks for what he calls fleas - otherwise known as weaknesses - on the opposing team's defense, but every week in the SEC he has a hard time finding any.

That's no different this week as the Razorbacks (5-5, 1-5) welcome in Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2), whose defense is arguably the best in the league while leading the nation in scoring defense (11.9 ppg) and touchdowns allowed (13) and leads the SEC and is second nationally in interceptions with 19.

The Rebels' defense has also forced a turnover in 33 consecutive games and are second in total defense in the league behind Alabama.

"They are seldom out of postion...they are fast, they play good team defense, they swarm to the ball, they are fast and experienced and they have played a lot of football together," Chaney said. "They are great communicators. It is very difficult to use a lot of shifts and motions to get them out of position. They really have good communication skills from their back half with their front and they tied it together good.

"They are very well coached," Chaney added. "It seems like a recording. I come in here every week and say the same thing. I wish I didn't have to, but I certainly do. They are number one in scoring defense, they are opportunistic. You make a mistake, you pay. You are late throwing the ball and you pay. That's what good defenses do and they have been able to do that throughout the season against some very good offenses.

"I expect to see their A game and we are going to have to be on top of our game to be able to get the ball in the end zone," Chaney continued.

Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Goldson ranks second nationally with nine interceptions.

"I think they have cornerbacks that believe in their talent and they will take some chances occasionally and make the plays so once you have done that a couple times, it doesn't bother you to do it again," Chaney said. "I think on third down they can put a package on the field that can create pressure with four people, which enables you to have some complexities in your coverage.

"Their four rushers in the third down package are as fast as anybody we have played," Chaney added. "I liken them to similar to what Georgia can do when they get in their third down sub-packages. When you can put that type of speed on the field on defense in the third down area, the corners feel like they can take some chances because they know they are going to get to your quarterback sooner or later."

Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche is the Rebels' most celebrated defender, but certainly not the only big-time player on that side of the ball.

"He is a very talented young man, but they can bring the pressure on you," Chaney said. "They really can. They have talent. They have an undersized tackle - number 94 (Isasac Gross) that can really make plays. He gets a lot of tackles in the backfield. You have got to watch him and where he is at. They can get big if they need to.

"The middle linebacker (Deterrian Shakleford) has been there for 110 years that I believe he has been playing down there now," Chaney said. "He knows everything and you can't fool him. He is a leader. He is physical and they are just solid up the middle. They are just very talented and a very good team.

"And like I said - and I continue to say it - but I would rather not have to," Chaney continued. "I have got to believe that in this league and this division that we are in that every week it turns out to be the same. I turn on the video looking for fleas on defense and you don't see them."

Razorback defensive coordinator Robb Smith knows his group faces a challenge as well even if the Rebels' leading wideout LeQuon Treadwell (48 catches, 632 yards, 5 TDs) is out for the season.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace (2,554 yards passing with 22 TDs and 8 picks) still has a group that includes wide receivers Vince Sanders (37 catches, 647 yards, 6 TDs) and Cody Core (32 catches, 437 yards, 5 TDs) as well as a versatile tailback in Jaylen Walton (398 yards rushing and 159 yards receiveing).

"He (Treadwell) was their go-to guy, there's no question about that," Smith said. "But by the same token there are some other receivers that are developing for them and I am sure they will find the ways to use them. We really have to be able to defend formations and disrupt the quarterback as much as we can. Their quarterback is what makes them go and we have got to do a good job of trying to contain him."

Treadwell was lost in Ole Miss' 35-31 home loss to Auburn when he was injured going in for a potential game-winning touchdown.

The Rebels blasted Presbyterian 48-0 the following week and then had an off date ahead of the trip to Fayetteville.

"I am sure they will have a wrinkle," Smith said. "That is par for the course this time of year, but at the same time when you get this far into the season, you develop an identity to who you are and they have done some really good things on offense. I don't think they will stray too far away from those things.

"But that is why you try to be fundamentally sound on defense and have rules that you can adjust with because if you do get a wrinkle, hopefully your guys can get themselves in position to make a proper play," Smith added.

It is certainly a different offense for the Razorbacks to face than the one it shut out 17-0 last week in LSU's.

"No question," Smith said. "I'm sure there will be some sort of tempo that goes along with it so we will have to get ready to play right away. At the line of scrimmage they spread you out a lot more, a lot more open sets and three wide receiver stuff where last week was a lot of tight end and two running backs.

"In essence we have to keep doing the things we are doing and that's where the primary focus has been," Smith said. "But there is no question this will be a different style of football game." Smith was thrilled that senior linebacker Martrell Spaight got an invitation to the Senior Bowl on Thursday after senior defensive end Trey Flowers had already been invited.

"It's hard not to be happy for a guy like Martrell Spaight," Smith said. "Talk about it quite a bit, but I don't know if there is a guy that works harder in this building and studies his craft more and has really earned the respect of his teammates. And it's great to see he has earned more respect now in the NFL scouting community and he is going to get a chance to showcase his skills later on this winter. We are really happy for Martrell."

Robert Nkemdiche

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