2014 Opponent Preview: Arkansas

Taking a look at Auburn's first opponent for the 2014 season, the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Auburn jumps right into SEC play to open the 2014 football season when the Arkansas Razorbacks and their second-year coach Bret Bielema roll into Jordan-Hare Stadium on Aug. 30 for the 3 p.m. kickoff.

With one of the most talented running back groups in the country to work with and an improving offensive line, Arkansas could be one of the most physical teams Auburn faces the entire season.

That starts with Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall.

Rushing for 900 yards last year, Williams could enter the season as the starter following a strong spring, but Collins is going to get his fair share of action as well. With the look and skill of an NFL back, Collins ran for 1,026 yards last season and should be even better in his second season in the SEC.

Rounding out the group is Marshall. A home-run hitter, he delivers a change of pace and will be a player who teams have to pay attention to this year.

The running game will be important to take the pressure off returning starter Brandon Allen at quarterback. Completing just 49.6 percent of his passes last year for 1,552 yards and 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, Allen fought through injuries for much of the year, but has shown the ability to make plays down the field when given the opportunity.

Brandon Allen is shown during spring practice.

One of the biggest problems for Allen in the passing game is the lack of a proven downfield threat to target. Probably the best receiver for the Razorbacks is sophomore tight end Hunter Henry. Because of the threat of the running game he has a chance to be an All-American type performer after making 28 receptions for 409 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.

Keon Hatcher (27-346-2 TDs) is also back with freshman Jared Cornelius getting some valuable practice time in the spring.

Senior Brey Cook anchors the offensive line along with a pair of returning sophomores Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. At 315 pounds Skipper is the smallest of the three, exactly the type of size in the offensive line Bielema is looking for to help with his downhill running attack.

Defensively, six starters return led by defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Alan Turner. A 6-4, 267 senior from Huntsville, Flowers had five sacks last season and is one of the top returning pass rushers in the league for the 2014 season. Finishing with 97 tackles and a pair of interceptions, the 6-0, 210 Turner is one of the most active safeties in the SEC.

Trey Flowers is a threat rushing the passer.

A player who has a chance to become a dominating defender is sophomore defensive tackle Darius Philon. The Mobile native made 46 tackles, three sacks and nine tackles for a loss last year as a backup.

With road trips to Auburn and Texas Tech in two of the first three weeks it could be a rough start to year two for Bielema after winning just three games in 2013. Facing Texas A&M in Arlington before home games against Georgia and Alabama in the middle of the season, Arkansas has an opportunity to become the surprise team of the season or could be facing yet another long year.

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