Hogs love the ground game

If you've ever been on a farm, you've probably seen hogs wallowing joyfully in mud. They seem at one with the ground.

And so it is with the Hogs that will be visiting Neyland Stadium this Saturday night to face the Tennessee Vols. The Arkansas Razorbacks are happiest when they're hugging the ground. They rank ninth in the NCAA with an average of 232 rushing yards per game. To put that number in perspective, consider that Tennessee's per-game average is a mere 129.5.

Although Arkansas features a star-caliber rusher in Cedric Cobbs (209 yards through three games and a nifty 5.6 yards-per-carry average), he may not be the Razorbacks' most dangerous running threat. That title probably belongs to quarterback Matt Jones, a 6-6, 215-pounder with 4.4 speed. He's so agile that he started for the Hog basketball team as a freshman last winter.

Jones is averaging a team-best 7.6 yards per carry and has compiled nearly as many rushing yards (183) as Cobbs.

''Jones is an outstanding athlete, with great body control,'' Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis says. ''He's very fast and tough to tackle. Other coaches who have played him say, 'Hey, don't be surprised how tough this guy is to get down. You'd better do a good job of tackling if you're going to have success against him.' He's a big athlete who can run.''

Given Jones' running ability, you'd think Tennessee might be a little reluctant to blitz, fearing that pressure might force him out of the pass pocket where he can utilize his superior mobility.

''Not really,'' Chavis says. ''We're a pressure defense. That's what we're going to do (apply pressure) but we're going to make sure we account for the quarterback in everything we do. There are some gameplans where you pressure and you don't have to account for the quarterback. But in this situation you do.''

In addition to Jones and Cobbs, the Razorbacks have three more quality running threats. Fred Talley is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. De'Arrius Howard (who picked Arkansas over UT two years ago) is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. And Brandon Holmes is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

''They've got four backs -- Cobbs, Talley, Howard and Holmes -- who have played a lot of football,'' Chavis says. ''Cobbs is the complete package -- physical and fast. Talley might be quicker and faster, but they've got good depth at the tailback position, plus two good-blocking fullbacks. When you play people as committed to running the football as Arkansas, they're going to have a stable of backs and a stable of guys to block for 'em.''

Asked if Arkansas has the best rushing attack the Vols have faced this season, Chavis replied: ''I think so, without question.''

Because the Razorbacks are so ground-oriented, they often lull opponents to sleep with the run, then burn them with the long pass. Chavis concedes that this can be a conern.

''That's the whole theory in running that type of offense,'' Chavis says. ''You pound 'em and pound 'em and pound 'em, then you throw the ball over their heads.''

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