Every story coming out of Arkansas has something about Matt Jones in it. The 6-6 237 pound senior plays basketball for the Hogs too. He is an athlete in the true since of the word. The press guide we were given on Tuesday lists 2 ½ pages of top rankings he has in SEC history in different offensive categories. One of the most impressive is when he gets his 400th career rush, he will be second in the SEC behind Bo Jackson in yards per rush. He averages 6.5 yards per rush for his career. He is also 2nd in SEC history behind Danny Wuerffel in yards per play at 7.48. He is an all around quarterback that also has a gun of an arm. Any knock he has is that he doesn't have a lot of touch on the deep balls. He aims them and his receivers have to adjust fast sometimes. Still, he buys time with his feet for receivers to get wide open, and that is when he really hurts a defense. This season he has thrown for six touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Senior tailback Decori Birmingham is an ex-wide receiver. The 5-11, 200lb pounder definitely has the quicks for the position. This is his third game starting as a running back and he had five starts as a wide receiver for the Hogs. He is averaging 62 yards a game and an impressive six yards per carry. He makes people miss and needs to as the His offensive line is not as good as it was last year. His elusiveness definitely helps him in the open field as a pass catcher and his old position makes him a reliable pass catcher.
Junior Brandon Kennedy starts for the Razorbacks at fullback, but is primarily their blocking hoss at the position. Freshman Peyton Hillis provides another ball carrier and is fast approaching the scoring record for a freshman for the Hogs. Hillis has 6 touchdowns on the season already and got a chance to play early when Kennedy was injured to start the season. H only has a 3.3 yard per carry average but has carried the ball 23 times and caught the ball eight times in the Hogs first four games. The Gators recruited Hillis last year and was their number one recruiting target at the fullback position.
The wide receiver group doesn't have anyone that catches more than three passes a game, but have four receivers with at least five catches that average more than 20 yards per catch. That is a very impressive stat. Carlos Ousley is the short threat and I guess would be labeled the possession receiver. Steven Harris has 11 catches a whopping 21.1 yard average. Marcus Monk leads the receivers with four touchdowns. These guys get open when Jones scrambles.
Junior Jared Hicks starts at tight end for the Hogs. He is 6-6, 271 pounds and pales in comparison to the 6-8, 320 pound behemoth they started last year at the position. The position has four catches on the year and is mainly a blocking threat. Hicks has seven total catches in his career.
The Hog offensive line is big, led in size by 6-6 351 pound right tackle Zac Tubbs. Their best player may be center Kyle Roper. Although not a lot of experience, they do start one sophomore, three juniors and a senior. He line is not as good as last years, especially with the first round left tackle gone from the lineup. What these guys do well is keep up the effort throughout the game and eventually a long gainer busts open for them from the running backs. I do think there is a pretty significant drop-off from last year at this position.
The Gators need to contain Jones and not let him sit there all day. I think the Gator ends do a decent job of containment, so now the Gators have to figure a way to get the pressure there too. The defensive backs will not be able cover all day if Jones scrambles and buys time. Much is made of the running threat, and I believe is a major concern, but the Gators have the speed on the field to neutralize it.
The Razorbacks play mostly a 4-3 defense with a quasi-safety/linebacker they call the Rover. They are very active up front and very loose in the secondary. Watching the secondary in the Texas game, the corners played off of the receivers by ten yards on every play but one when they weren't backed up to the goal line.
The defensive line is very similar in size to the Gators defensive line. While perhaps slightly bigger at tackle with the biggest being Arrion Dixon at 6-4 295, they have a smaller end in Jeb Huckeba (245) and a bigger one in freshman Marcus Harrison. Huckeba is their best defensive lineman and has the most experience in the group and is coming off two seasons of 60+ tackles. He has two sacks on the season so far and zero prior to this season. The other senior, Dixon, is their second best lineman and has a sack also.
The linebackers are the top three tacklers on the team. Led by 6-0, 191 junior rover Lerinezo Robinson, the linebackers move a lot up front. They like to keep the offense guessing as to their next move. They are coached to do this, but I am not sure they are quite as effective as they were last year at it. They tend to play themselves out of position a lot.
The secondary is inhabited by three juniors and a sophomore. They have a combined 3 interceptions in their collegiate careers. They are led by sophomore cornerback Michael Coe, who does have 2 interceptions on the season right now. The secondary really plays off of the receivers, it is really noticeable that they are not ready to challenge them. They are, however, sure tacklers.
The front plays up and the defensive backs play soft. Quick passes and let the receivers make plays should be what is in store for us on Saturday. With the soft secondary play, the Gators don't want to throw into the deep safeties until they lure them up and make them play closer to the line. They do this by running the ball effectively also. Teams are running for 170 yards a game so far against the Hogs and I don't see why that number won't continue.
Junior Chris Balseiro has a 97% average on field goals and his longest is from 40yards.
Jacob Skinner is averaging 35.9 yards a punt, down from four yards a punt last season.
Decori Birmingham is a threat on punt returns and kickoff returns and will give the Gators a true test to see how well they have improved in covering in these areas.