The Hogs will have their hands full at Auburn on Saturday with a big, ball-hawking unit whose smallest starter is 6-foot, 198-pound safety Junior Rosegreen.
Rosegreen, cornerbacks Carlos Rogers (6-1, 200) and Montavis Pitts (6-3, 198) and sophomore safety Will Herring (6-4, 222) lead a defense that is second in the nation in interceptions (11). Auburn has picked off seven passes the past two games and has an interception in nine consecutive outings dating back to last year.
"They've got great speed and athleticism back there," Wittke said. "It will be the biggest secondary we face. They're very good about getting to the football and very sound and don't give anything up cheap."
Rosegreen tied a Southeastern Conference record with four interceptions during Auburn's 31-10 win at Tennessee two weeks ago. Rogers returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown last week in the Tigers' 52-7 win against Louisiana Tech.
"It's kind of a luxury," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. "You're looking for 6-1, 6-2 corners like Carlos Rogers but they're just not out there. Him being big and all of our other guys having some height, we don't have the 5-8, 5-9 guys."
Wittke said Auburn also has done a good job of getting to the quarterback, giving opponents little time to make good decision. The Tigers are tied for the SEC lead in sacks (16) and Wittke said the statistic goes hand-in-hand with interceptions.
He believes the best way to combat Auburn's talented secondary is to gain positive yardage on first down, something the Hogs struggled with in losses to Texas and Florida. Wittke said Arkansas can't afford to fall into third-and-long situations that'll give Auburn the freedom to take advantage of its secondary strength.
Return Record In Reach
Tailback DeCori Birmingham has a chance to surpass former Hog Ken Hatfield for the school's career return yards record Saturday. Birmingham has 1,603 total return yards (1,124 kick and 479 punt) and needs two more to set a school record.
"I'm anxious to get back there, not so much to break the record, but to get back there and just do what I love doing," Birmingham said.
Birmingham, who is second on the team in rushing (283 yards), returned a kickoff 20 yards to inch closer to the record in the 27-10 against Alabama on Sept. 25. He knew of his proximity to Hatfield's record before the 45-30 loss at Florida on Oct. 2 but hasn't returned a punt in three games because of a bruised lower back.
Razorbacks true freshman fullback Peyton Hillis is apparently ready to put on the pads again sooner than originally expected.
Hillis -- who suffered transverse proscesses of the L1, L2 and L3 vertebrae in Arkansas' 45-30 loss at Florida -- expects to be back on the field practicing by this weekend.
"I'm feeling a lot better and I'm just ready to come out here and practice with the team," Hillis said. "I think I'm going to come out Sunday and start practicing with the team and if everything goes well and I think I can take a hit, I'm going to try to play next week (against Georgia)."
Hillis said he will wear a protective pack on his back in practice when he returns.
Barbara Broyles Remembered
The Hogs will pay tribute to Barbara Broyles, wife of athletic director Frank Broyles, when they play at Auburn on Saturday. Arkansas will wear decals that say "BB" on their helmets in memory of the 79-year old, who died Wednesday afternoon after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's.
"In remembrance of a great lady, we're going to put the initials BB, Barbara Broyles, on our helmets Saturday," Nutt said. "Just a great, great lady who's always so kind and graceful and giving. Just always perfect in my book and she's always going to be the first lady of the Razorbacks and this is in remembrance of her."
Vernon Tarver contributed to this report.
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