After studying video of the Razorbacks in action, Auburn's leading wide receiver, senior Marcel Willis, says that he has been impressed with what he has seen from the group that includes safeties Ken Hamlin and Jimmy Beasley plus cornerbacks Ahmad "Batman" Carroll and Lawrence Richardson.
"They are probably the best ones we have played so far so we are going to have to be ready for them," Willis tells Inside the Auburn Tigers.
Willis will likely be called upon to prove he can get open against man to man coverage on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. "I know they are going to concentrate on stopping Carnell Williams so they will probably put eight or nine in the box," Willis says. "They will probably play one-on-one with the receivers so it maybe will come down to us passing the ball."
The Razorbacks are coming to Auburn after a tough loss, dropping a 41-38 decision at Tennessee in the sixth overtime in the second longest game in college football history. Auburn played three overtimes in its last outing before putting away visiting Syracuse. Willis says he doesn't expect Arkansas to be physically drained despite the extra long night on Rocky Top. "That is not going to matter at all," he says. "After playing Syracuse I was perfectly fine the next morning and we played them three overtimes. I am sure they can get over playing three more overtimes in a week's time."
The Tigers struggled to move the ball consistently much of the 2001 season. Currently, they are leading the Southeastern Conference in total offense and are 2-0 in league play and 4-1 overall. "It is a different scheme and different coordinator," Willis says. "(Bobby) Petrino is a smart man. He knows what he is doing. I think that is the biggest difference." Petrino is in his first season as Auburn's offensive coordinator after making the move from the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars to replace Noel Mazzone.
Willis has 18 catches for 281 yards to lead the Auburn receiving corps, which will likely be tested early and often by the Razorbacks. "It is going to be very important that we play well," Willis says. "That will set the tempo of the game. If we start making plays, they will have to respect us as well as the run and that will open our offense wide open."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Willis has already surpassed his receiving totals from his injury-plagued junior season. The 6-1, 185-pounder from Jacksonville, Fla., has four more catches and 139 more yards than he managed last year. He is on pace to easily surpass his sophomore totals of 27 catches for 352 yards. He had nine catches for 111 yards as a freshman in 1999.