Dixon Looks to Make Plays

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas defensive tackle Arrion Dixon kicked off the 2004 season with an outing coach Houston Nutt called the best game of the senior's career.

Dixon was named the inaugural Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week after Arkansas' 63-13 win against New Mexico State on Sept. 4. He collected five tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for losses, one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

But the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Dixon has been pretty quiet the past four games.

He has seven tackles since his dominant performance against the Aggies and hasn't recorded a tackle for loss. But the Hogs most experienced defensive starter said he's not alarmed by the dropoff in statistics.

"I can't really say I've been double-teamed, but I think (offenses are) keying on me," Dixon said. "They must think I'm a factor when they gameplan.

"But it all boils down to me still getting off my block and making plays."

Dixon -- who recorded 64 tackles and 6 tackles for losses in 2003 -- was suspended for the first half of the Louisiana-Monroe game after an incident involving Texas quarterback Vincent Young. He played the second half against the Indians, but has registered four tackles in his past two games against teams that have been running away from him.

Position coach Tracy Rocker said that doesn't mean Dixon is struggling.

"He's going hard, the tackles just haven't been there as much as (they were the first game)," Rocker said. "For Arrion, every week is important to him and he's still getting better and better even if the stats don't show it."

Senior Jeb Huckeba leads Arkansas' defensive linemen with 20 tackles, 4 for losses and 2 sacks. Defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell has 19 stops. Dixon is tied with Jamaal Anderson, Marcus Harrison and Titus Peebles with 12 tackles.

Dixon is hoping to rekindle some of the big-play success against the Tigers, a team he performed well against last season. Dixon made 10 tackles and one for a loss during Auburn's 10-3 win and added 20 more in Arkansas' next three games.

He'll have plenty of opportunities to slow Auburn tailbacks Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Nutt said Dixon and the rest of the defensive line must stop the run and pressure Tigers' quarterback Jason Campbell to alleviate pressure on the secondary.

"The first game I was just making plays," Dixon said. "Now I've kind of got two guys on me sometimes and they're kind of running the other way. But it's just about me getting off blocks and making plays."

Gilbow named starter
It might've been the worst-kept secret, but Nutt officially named redshirt freshman Matt Gilbow the starter at right tackle. Gilbow and redshirt freshman Nate Garner were competing for the starting job after junior Zac Tubbs broke his left ankle during practice last Tuesday.

Offensive line coach Mike Markuson said both tackles could play against the Tigers, but the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Gilbow is better suited to handle the starting job. Gilbow and Garner are one of only three offensive tackles -- joining left tackle Tony Ugoh -- available the rest of the season.

"(Gilbow's) done a good job," Markuson said. "There's always more of a sense of urgency when a guy is now elevated. There's just something about first-team, second-team. There's a difference."

Free safety Randy Kelly and Peebles will likely make their first career starts against the Tigers. Kelly hasn't been named the starter at free safety, but continued working the first-team Wednesday in place of junior Vickiel Vaughn. Rocker said Tuesday that Peebles will start at Auburn in place of Harrell.

"I didn't know I was named the starter, but you know that there's not any set positions here," Peebles said. "I've just been thinking about this is my last year. It might be the last time I ever get to put on pads, so I'm just trying to go out in the right way."

Booming Punts
Punter Jacob Skinner has had a rough start to the season, averaging 37 yards on 26 attempts. His confidence has wavered after disappointing kicks mounted and the sophomore also fumbled a snap against Florida before rushing off a short punt.

But receivers/special teams coach James Shibest said Skinner turned in a productive day on the practice field Wednesday. Skinner was booming punts during Arkansas' special teams portion of practice.

"He had a great day, but let's see what he does in the game," Shibest said. "It doesn't make a difference if you can't do it in the game. He knows that and we all know that. His performance on Saturday will have a lot to do with the game. I can promise you that."

Extra Points
Trainer Dean Weber said Tubbs underwent successful surgery to repair his broken left ankle Wednesday morning. Defensive end Derek Moore's ankle surgery was delayed until next week after the redshirt freshman developed an infection. ... Nutt and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville were on the same staff at Arkansas State during the spring of 1984. Nutt said it was only for "about three weeks" because he was hired as Oklahoma State's wide receivers coach shortly before the 1984 season began. ... Reserve defensive back Chris Houston said he feels "100 percent" after missing two games with a high ankle sprain.

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