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Arkansas Razorbacks Offensive AND Defensive Preview

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Barry Odom gets a chance at 6 wins against one of the worst teams the SEC has ever seen.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the NCAA finally told Missouri to go eff itself we can officially peg this as the last game of the 2019 season. And, really, hallelujah to that: I don’t want to speak for the rest of the fan base, but I certainly did not want to drag this season out and watch this team lose another bowl game, so the sooner we can move on to 2020 the better. The opponent this week seems to have a very similar mentality (minus the NCAA stuff): Arkansas has had a nightmare season in which nothing has gone right, including being torched by the quarterback that they pushed out at the end of last year. Someone has to win this game and I’m not sure which side has the most motivation to do so. Regardless, here is the complete two-deep for both offense and defense. I’ll post the three key match ups at the end of each side’s depth chart.

Offense

Quarterback

Nick Starkel - JR: 96-179 (53.6%)/1,152 yards/7 TDs/10 INTs/6.2 ypa

Ben Hicks - SR: 64-132 (48.5%)/736 yards/2 TDs/2 INTs/4.8 ypa

K.J. Jefferson - FR: 14-31 (45.2%)/197 yards/0 TDs/1 INT/4.2 ypa

Running Back

Rakeem Boyd - JR: 163 rushes/1,038 yards/6.4 ypc/8 TDs/7.05 HLT/50.9% OPP/42.3% success

Devwah Whaley - SR: 65 rushes/264 yards/4.1 ypc/4 TDs/3.94 HLT/44.6% OPP/35.4% success

Wide Receiver

Mike Woods - SO: 57 targets/31 catches (54.4%)/397 yards/4 TDs/12.8 ypc/7.0 ypt

De’Vion Warren - JR: 5 targets/3 catches (60%)/20 yards/0 TDs/6.7 ypc/4.0 ypt

Wide Receiver

Treylon Burks - FR: 56 targets/28 catches (50%)/469 yards/0 TDs/16.8 ypc/8.4 ypt

Tyson Morris - R-SO: 18 targets/13 catches (72.2%)/155 yards/1 TD/11.9 ypc/8.6 ypt

Wide Receiver

Trey Knox - FR: 58 targets/27 catches (46.6%)/366 yards/2 TDs/13.6 ypc/6.3 ypt

T.Q. Jackson - FR: 4 targets/1 catch (25%)/2 yards/0 TDs/2.0 ypc/0.5 ypt

Tight End

Grayson Gunter - JR: 10 targets/4 catches (40%)/39 yards/0 TDs/9.8 ypc/3.9 ypt

Chase Harrell - SR: 15 targets/3 catches (20%)/34 yards/1 TD/11.3 ypc/2.3 ypt

Left Tackle

Myron Cunningham - JR

Brady Latham - FR

Left Guard

Austin Capps - SR

Shane Clenin - R-SO

Center

Ty Clary - JR

Right Guard

Ricky Stromberg - FR

Beaux Limmer - FR

Right Tackle

Dalton Wagner - R-SO

Ryan Winkel - R-FR

The SP+ 100th ranked offense has juggled three quarterbacks this year to predictable results. The run game is scattershot, the passing game is putrid, and they’re only able to move the ball in 20-yard chunks. This makes the keys to the game pretty straight forward:

Rushing Explosiveness

The Hogs rank 87th in running the ball; they aren’t efficient (111th), they can’t get short yardage (88th), and they let runs get stuffed behind the line (80th). However, they do rank 29th in explosive plays on the ground. If you give Rakeem Boyd an opening, he’s magic in the open field so it’ll be important to keep the line of scrimmage jammed up to keep him in check.

Passing Downs

Along the guidelines above, Arkansas is most likely to hit big on the ground in passing downs situations (27th). They are a surprising 23rd in passing downs success rate, and despite the fact that it’s obviously only due to the ground game, they’re still able to connect several times per game. So...like...I guess I just really want to send an email to Ryan Walters that says “THEY’RE NEVER PASSING” and hope that he gets it and adjusts accordingly. It’s the one thing the Razorbacks do with any consistency and still aren’t good at it, so hopefully the Tiger defense is prepared.

Third Downs

Arkansas isn’t particularly good at them but after the clinic that Tennessee put on the backups last week, this will be a concern until proven otherwise. The Tigers should absolutely take care of business against a woeful offense; letting them extend drives via third down will be a harbinger of an ugly win or yet another loss.

Defense

Defensive End

Mataio Soli - FR: 12.5 tackles/1.5 TFLs

Collin Clay - FR: 9 tackles/0.5 TFLs

Defensive Tackle

McTelvin Agim - SR: 27.5 tackles/8.5 TFLs/5 sacks/1 FF

Isaiah Nichols - R-FR: 11.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs

Defensive Tackle

T.J. Smith - R-SR: 12 tackles/4 TFLs/2.5 sacks/1 FF

Jonathan Marshall - R-JR: 10 tackles/3 TFLs/1 FF

Defensive End

Gabe Richardson - SR: 24.5 tackles/5.5 TFLs/2.5 sacks/1 PBU/1 FF

Jamario Bell - R-SR: 11 tackles/4.5 TFLs/3.5 sacks/1 FF

Strongside Linebacker

Hayden Henry - JR: 21 tackles/2.5 TFLs/1 sack/2 PBUs/1 FF

Andrew Parker - FR: 3.5 tackles

Middle Linebacker

De’Jon Harris - SR: 67 tackles/4.5 TFLs/2 PBUs/1 FF

Grant Morgan - R-JR: 19.5 tackles/3 TFLs/1 sack

Weakside Linebacker

Bumper Pool - SO: 56 tackles/5.5 TFLs/0.5 sacks/5 PBUs

De’Von McClure - JR: 7 tackles/0.5 TFLs/1 PBU

Cornerback

Montaric Brown - R-SO: 26 tackles/3 PBUs/1 INT

Nathan Parodi - FR: 4 tackles

Free Safety

Joe Foucha - SO: 56.5 tackles/1 TFL/4 PBUs/1 INT

Jalen Catalon - FR: 4.5 tackles/1 PBU/1 FF

Strong Safety

Kamren Curl - JR: 61 tackles/4 TFLs/2 sacks/2 PBUs/2 INTs

Myles Mason - SO: 18.5 tackles/1 TFL

Cornerback

LaDarrius Bishop - R-FR: 18 tackles/1 TFL/1 PBU

Jarques McClellion - R-SO: 24.5 tackles/4 PBUs/1 INT

Kicker

Connor Limpert - SR: 27-28 PATs (96.4%)/14-18 FGs (77.8%)

Punter

Sam Loy - JR: 51 punts/39.8 avg/4 touch backs/28 fair catches

Returner

Treylon Burks - FR: 12 PRs/10.8 avg/11 fair catches//8 KRs/22.4 avg/1 fair catch

Yes, Arkansas’ defense ranks 92nd, but we all watched a bottom 30 Vanderbilt defense manhandle the Missouri offense a month ago. What can the Tigers exploit to avoid being embarrassed once again? It’s hard to be specific since the Razorbacks are just so bad at everything defense-related, so let me break it down this way:

Running the ball

Arkansas’ defense is 105th against the run, 98th in rushing success rate, 127th in stopping explosive gains on the ground, but surprisingly competent in stopping short yardage situations (34th) and stuffing the run (53rd). Missouri’s offense hasn’t been very good at mitigating either of those two things so it’ll be important to keep ground-based defensive havoc to an outright minimum. Quick tosses, stretch plays, and some counters can help keep the defensive on their toes and out of the backfield.

Throwing the ball

The Razorbacks are slightly better at defending the pass: 90th overall, 61st in limiting explosive plays, but give opponents the easy stuff (115th in efficiency) and don’t get to the quarterback all that much (87th). Missouri’s gameplan against Tennessee worked decently well against a much better passing defense than Arkansas, so utilizing it again should be able to keep drives alive.

THIRD BLEEPING DOWNS

Speaking of keeping drives alive...it doesn’t seem to matter who the Tigers play, they just continue to be dreadful at converting third downs. However, the Razorbacks rank 118th in stopping third-and-long, 109th in medium, and 27th in short. I’d love to see the Tigers convert more than six third downs in one game and this is a good opportunity to do so.

Conclusion

Any case for keeping Barry Odom around for 2020 starts with this game. Arkansas is on pace to be the worst Arkansas team ever and the worst SEC team ever. It’s in any football coach’s best interest to not lose to a team like that.