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3 Things That Worry Me About Arkansas

A beloved former assistant comes back to town as an underdog, fresh off beating a top 10 SEC team, riding a fervent fanbase’s adoration, restoring a program to its former glory, and providing Georgia its first true test in a month, with Kirk Herbstreit holding court. What, me worry?

Tennessee Volunteers v Arkansas Razorbacks Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Here is what I’m NOT worried about for Fayetteville’s Finest:

1) Mobile QBs. Kirby Smart has historically done very well against systems with quarterback designed runs, and even QBs who like to scramble. At least if they stay in the whole game and don’t get subbed in for another mobile QB at the half.

Arkansas signal caller KJ Jefferson is indeed a dual-threat athlete, being the 2nd leading rusher on the team. At 6’3” and 245 lbs, he is a big boy to bring down. But he hasn’t yet had to first shirk a Jordan Davis or Jalen Carter bull rush, then outrun Channing Tindall or Adam Anderson. Or Nakobe Dean. Or… you see where this is going. Our gap-sound front 7 will be challenged Saturday, but they’re built for exactly this challenge.

2) Heavy personnel. Big 0 is back and could be on the other side of the line as Brock Bowers this weekend. Darnell Washington doesn’t have flashy numbers, but he got snaps last season because he blocked as a freshman. The same goes for Brock Bowers. And Washington did show what is possible, especially on that one drive against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. Then you see the film on Brock Bowers taking sweeps, kick-out blocking, and outrunning defensive backs 50 pounds lighter.

If you were a linebacker tasked with TE coverage, or a safety that picks up the free runner… which embarrassment would you select? 4.5 speed, or a catch radius longer than the bathroom lines at War Memorial?

3) Run early, run often. I probably should have known, but Arkansas likes to run the ball. As in about 70% of their offensive snaps. It probably helps to have a mobile QB with designed runs (their true RBs are toting it about the same as UGAs). 261 yards on the ground? Very good. 5.5 yards per carry? Nniiiiiiice. Getting stuffed by Georgia’s 7th ranked run defense? It probably makes you throw it more. And as good as Jefferson’s passing numbers are, they are inflated by 1) a great showing against a poor Georgia Southern secondary, and 2) a bunch of explosive plays against the Aggies (9-19 for 246 yards is… misleading I think).

Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what I does worry me about versus the game versus Pittman’s Porcine:

1) Left-handed. Which is what Coach Smart stated is how the Arkansas defense forces the opposition to play. With apologies to the southpaws out there, I think you get what is meant. Barry Odom is a tremendous defensive coordinator with a career of success, results, and NFL draft picks in his front seven. It’s extremely tough to prepare for because it is littered with surprises. While UGA relies on execution (at least what has been shown so far), Odom and by extension the Hogs, can make up for slightly less talent with schematics. Hard, physical, and they put a strain on the offense to pick up assignments and read the gaps and routes. This forces the opposing offense into bad decisions, illustrated by aTm quarterback Zach Calzada completing 20-36, only 151 yards, and a pick. Arkansas held Texas to 13-23 and a meager 118 yards.

The only offense to pass for more than 200 yards against the Hogs was Rice, but they also threw 3 interceptions. Arkansas is ranked #8 in pass defense, #10 in 3rd down defense, and #14 in total defense. They do lean heavily on rushing only 3 or 4 so their sack numbers aren’t sexy, and they aren’t scared to drop backers into coverage. Will JT Daniels be able to discern and dissect the best defense he’s faced so far?

2) And he shall be Treylon, and he shall be a good man. And he shall be everywhere (no word on what he names his son). I’m speaking of top Razorback receiver Treylon Burks. They find ways to get him the ball. You think running a jet sweep with TE Brock Bowers was creative? Burks has lined up in the slot, on the end of the line, wide out, and even in a wild Hawg formation behind center. He hasn’t thrown a pass yet, but fellow wideout Warren Thompson does have a 27 yard completion.

After a steady but unspectacular start, the 6’3” 225 pounder has exploded the last two games, hauling in 127 yards against Georgia Southern (on 3 catches) and eye popping 167 yards on 6 receptions in Jerry World versus Jimbo Fisher. Burks is gonna get his, the question is can we limit it somewhat and can we shut everything else down? Look out for #16 with the cardinal helmet.

3) Reconsidering the foolish notion. These players, this program, BELIEVES they can knock off the clear #2 team in the country. Hostile environment or no, recruiting star counts aside, Head Hog Sam Pittman has instilled a culture change in Fayetteville, and they’re taking it on the road. They want to run through brick walls for the Pit Boss. They won’t be a shrinking violet, and UGA better be ready from the opening kickoff for hard hits, hard blocks, legs that won’t stop running, and bodies that will be sacrificed for the good of the team.

They have faith in what the prodigal son brought back to Arkansas. They have confidence they can win (having scored double-digit score victories each week so far in 2021). Confident teams with a player’s coach are dangerous teams, and the Hawgs are indeed dangerous.

Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about this top 10 matchup between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Razorbacks of Arkansas. And as always…