Jones: "They Are A Good SEC Defense"

Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones talks about Auburn's defense and this weekend's showdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Fayetteville, Ark.-–Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones is on the verge of reaching SEC immortality for quarterbacks, but if Auburn can keep him from reaching that plateau this week it will go a long way towards a Tiger victory.

With 2,226 yards rushing in his career, Jones is just 55 yards away from breaking the SEC rushing record for quarterbacks held by Mississippi State's John Bond. An elusive player that has established himself as a prolific passer in his senior season, Jones is still known more for his legs and said the record would be a great one to break.

"That's a great honor," Jones said. "The SEC has had a lot of great quarterbacks. There haven't been a lot of running quarterbacks the last couple of years, but I think it would be cool to have. Records are made to be broken and I'm sure it won't be long before somebody comes along and breaks it. It's not really that big of a deal."

To get the record Jones will have to do it against one of the nation's top statistical defenses so far in 2004. Auburn's defense is allowing just 100.5 rushing yards per game and 7.2 points per contest, both of which are tops in the SEC. Jones said that Auburn's defense presents a big challenge for the Razorback offense this weekend in a key Western Division showdown.

"They have some great players, great linebackers," Jones said. "They have some solid defensive linemen up front and a good secondary. They are a good SEC defense and we know it's going to be tough. We've got to be able to not turn the ball over and maybe win the field position game. We'll need some short drives and our offense will be all right."

Jones is taken down by Kevin Hobbs last season in Auburn's 10-3 victory.

Making things tougher on Jones and the Hogs is the loss of several key offensive performers in the last week. The biggest blow may be the loss of starting offensive tackle Zach Tubbs, an Alabama native that was the most experienced player up front for the Razorbacks. Jones said 6-6, 300 freshman Matt Gilbow should be able to handle the job this week after a solid week of practice.

"Gilbow has stepped in real well in practice this week and has been down getting a lot of film," Jones said. "Any time you lose somebody like Tubbs, who was our most experienced lineman, it's going to make you change a little bit of your stuff. They've been running through everything we have, what we'll miss in the experience and leadership that Tubbs had on the offensive line."

Additional losses of fullback Peyton Hillis and wide receiver Carlos Ousley have left the already experienced-deprived Hogs without two key performers. While Ousley has been a role player, Hillis was Arkansas' fourth-leading rusher with 91 yards, and was tops on the team with five touchdowns.

"It's tough to lose a player that has been scoring a lot of our touchdowns for us," Jones said. "Kyle Dickerson has really stepped up and has great hands out of the backfield. De'Arrius is just as good a goal line back as anybody. I think if we can have our other players stay healthy we'll be all right."

Starting in Ousley's place will be outstanding freshman receiver Marcus Monk. The 6-6, 225 Monk is second on the team with 12 catches for 201 yards and leads the club with four touchdowns. Jones said that Monk's presence in the defensive secondary has given him a safety blanket this season, particularly in the red zone.

"He's a great athlete," Jones said. "He can really play basketball and will probably play basketball for the Razorbacks. He has something you want as a receiver. He's an athlete with soft hands and the correct feel for using his body. He's 6-6 so that definitely helps."

Even with solid weapons in the backfield in senior De'Cori Birmingham (283, two TD's) and junior De'Arrius Howard (244, four TD's), without a doubt the offense belongs to Jones. The team's leading rusher this season with 313 yards on just 43 carries, Jones is the most dangerous weapon for teams to focus on. That's something that Jones has gotten quite used to over the years.

"I think that opens up the offense for our running backs and receivers when teams do that," Jones said. "We have some great running backs in DeCori and De'Arrius. They've taken most of the reps. Our receivers, Steven Harris and Monk, have probably caught most of the balls, but we have Chris Baker and Cedric Washington. I think we have enough athletes around that if teams are going to do that we're going to have some players make plays."


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