Position-by-position matchups

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, November 10, 2012

— OFFENSE Quarterback

Tyler Wilson

(169 of 279 for 2,526 yards, 16 TDs, 8 interceptions) is producing strong numbers for Arkansas in an up-and-down season in which the running game has just gotten cranked up and his younger receivers have been inconsistent. Wilson leads the SEC with 315.8 passing yards per game, and his 149.82 efficiency rating is fourth in the SEC and 27th in the nation. Wilson, with 513 career completions, needs just 16 to surpass Clint Stoerner for Arkansas’ career lead. The Razorbacks are No. 22 nationally in passing (305.4 ypg).

Connor Shaw

has battled shoulder, rib and foot problems, but he projects to start for South Carolina after resting a sprained foot during the open week. Shaw (106 of 160, 1,338 yards, 12 TDs, 5 ints.) is averaging 167.2 passing yards per game. His efficiency rating of 154.99 is No. 22 in the country. Shaw is South Carolina’s top healthy rusher with 311 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Reserve

Dylan Thompson

has completed just 47.9 percent (35 of 73, 593 yards) of his passes, but has thrown 5 TD passes to 1 interception. South Carolina ranks 70th nationally in passing (227).

Running back

Dennis Johnson

has had his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, and Arkansas’ ability to run against the Gamecocks’ No. 14 rushing defense could provide critical balance. Johnson (105 carries for 598 yards, 8 TDs, 5.7 yards per carry) finally took over the team lead for attempts from

Knile Davis

(100-340, 2, 3.4) last week. Davis is questionable with a sore hamstring that kept him out against Tulsa.

Johnson rushed for 86 yards against South Carolina last year.

Jonathan Williams

(32-150, 4.7 ypc) has shown great vision and instincts for a freshman and has been dangerous catching balls out of the backfield. Arkansas is No. 99 nationally with 123.6 rushing yards per game. With no

Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina will turn to

Kenny Miles

(42-149, 1 TD, 3.5 ypc), true freshman

Mike Davis

(24-157, 1, 6.5 ypc) and

Brandon Wilds, who has been hurt this season. The Gamecocks were the nation’s No. 78 rushing offense (145.1 ypg) with Lattimore and the number is likely to drop without him.

Receivers

Cobi Hamilton

(69 catches for 1,077 yards, 4 TDs) needs just 41 yards to surpass Jarius Wright’s 1-year-old Arkansas record of 1,117 yards in a season. Hamilton, 1 of 4 players in the FBS with 4 100-yard games, broke Wright’s single-season receptions mark last week. He’s averaging 119.7 yards per game, tops in the SEC and fourth nationally. The next-most receptions by a healthy Arkansas player is 13 by

Mekale McKay

(193 yards), who has no catches the past 2 games.

Julian Horton

(11-135, 2) fumbled away a catch last week, and

Javontee Herndon

(10-171, 3) missed a would-be big gainer on a flea-flicker.

Demetrius Wilson

(7-104) contributed on Arkansas’ game-winning touchdown drive last week. Tight ends

Austin Tate

(9-74) and

Alex Voelzke

(1-6, 1) fill in for injured Chris Gragg.

Ace Sanders

(24-270, 5) and Bruce Ellington (23-366, 3) lead the Gamecocks in receptions since the injury to Marcus Lattimore (26-173).

Damiere Byrd

(12-303, 2, 25.2 ypc) and tight end

Rory Anderson

(12-235, 5, 19.6 ypc), who scored twice against East Carolina, are both big-play threats. The starting tight end is

Justice Cunningham

(18-228).

Line Arkansas’ line has drawn heat for subpar run blocking, but the group is 35th nationallywith 1.4 sacks allowed per game, and it fronts an offense that ranks No. 46 with 429 yards per game.

Brey Cook

started last week at strongside tackle for

Jason Peacock, who did not play by coach’s decision last week, but is slated to return today. Juniors

Alvin Bailey

and Travis Swanson are the interior anchors, flanked by the senior guard

Tyler Deacon

and senior tackle David Hurd on the quick side. Steve Spurrier’s transformation to smash-mouth offense is nowhere more evident than in this front, which averages 6-5, 320 pounds, easily the biggest line for an Arkansas opponent this year. The group is young, with center

T.J. Johnson

(6-6, 319 pounds) the lone senior. The gargantuan tackles are sophomore

Corey Robinson

(6-8, 337) and redshirt freshman Brandon

Shell

(6-6, 331). The smaller guards are sophomore

A.J. Cann

(6-4, 309) and junior

Ronald Patrick

(6-2, 305). The Gamecocks rank No. 86 nationally in total offense (372 ypg) and they’re No. 97 in sacks allowed (2.7 per game).

DEFENSE Line Arkansas’ top ends

Chris Smith

(37 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 10 hurries) and

Trey Flowers

(28, 7, 4.5, 7) are quietly putting up strong statistical seasons. Flex lineman

Colton Miles-Nash

(14, 1 fumble recovery) has played well lately. The defensive tackle group featuring

Byran Jones

(36, 1 sack, 3 hurries, 1 fumble recovery),

Alfred Davis

(30, 2 TFL, 1 hurry),

Jared Green

(19, 5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and

Robert Thomas

(15, 4.5, 2) was bolstered by the return of

D.D. Jones

(14, 4 breakups, 1 blocked kick) last week. Arkansas is No. 24 nationally (121.4) vs. the run. South Carolina’s front four will be the most talented Arkansas has seen since Alabama’s, and the Gamecocks are the SEC’s sack kings with 3.3 per game.

Jadeveon Clowney

(40, 15 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 4 hurries), a 6-6, 256-pounder and likely 2014 NFL first-round draft pick, leads the way.

Devin Taylor

(28, 6, 2.5) had an interception return for a score against the Hogs last year. The top tackles are

Kelcy Quarles

(30, 6, 2.5), who is back from shoulder and punch-throwing suspension issues, and

Byron Jarideau

(25, 4, 2). Chaz Sutton (17, 6, 4) is an impact performer at end off the bench. The Gamecocks rank No. 14 (104.6) against the run.

Linebackers True freshman

Otha Peters

(14 tackles, 0.5 sacks) is set to make his first start in the middle for Arkansas, alongside classmate

A.J. Turner

(30, 1 tackle for loss) in his fourth start. Team tackle leader

Ross Rasner

(67, 5.5 TFL, 3 interceptions, 5 pass breakups) will take occasional linebacker snaps and will help the younger players with defensive calls.

Jarrett Lake

(5) is the top reserve behind Turner, while

Braylon Mitchell

(1), who has been mostly a special teamer, will back up Peters with senior

Terrell Williams

(52) suspended indefinitely for his DWI arrest. Arkansas is No. 72 in total defense (413.9 yards per game). The Gamecocks are led by

Shaq Wilson

(54, 3.5 TFL) who has 2 ints., 3 hurries, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble. Middle linebacker

Reginald Bowens

(43, 1 sack) has forced 2 fumbles and recovered 1.

Devonta Holloman

(40, 6.5, 2, 2 ints.) has played the “Spur” spot, but is likely to be at strongsafety today as South Carolina has juggled its secondary to prepare for Arkansas’ passing attack. Top reserves are

Quin Smith

(37, 3, 1) and

Damario Jeffery

(19, 2.5 TFL). South Carolina ranks No. 12 in total defense (303.2). Secondary Tighter coverage, along with a better pass rush, has helped Arkansas climb from near the bottom of the heap in pass defense to No. 97 in efficiency.

Will Hines

(19 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups) has learned on the fly as a true freshman corner making his seventh start. The return of cornerback

Tevin Mitchel

(26, 4 PBU) has helped calm the air raids that marked early season losses. Versatile

Kaelon Kelleybrew

(26, 5 PBU), freshman

Davyon McKinney

(6) and senior Darius

Winston

(5, 1 PBU) are the top reserves in cover roles. Freshman safety

Rohan Gaines

(61, 1 PBU, 1 hurry) ranks second on the team in tackles.

Eric Bennett

(29, 3 PBU) has endured an injury impacted junior year.

Arkansas is No. 112 in pass defense (292.4 yards per game). South Carolina practice reports indicate

D.J. Swearinger

(40, 5 PBU) is likely to move from free safety to a corner spot to help out

Jimmy Legree

(37, 2 int., 6 PBU), who had a leg injury in the opening week and struggled in coverage vs. Tennessee.

The other starting corner is

Victor Hampton

(30, 6 PBU). Brison Williams (38, 1 int., 4 PBU) is likely to move from strong to free safety. Senior cornerback

Akeem Auguste

(11) is dealing with a groin injury and is questionable. The Gamecocks are No. 36 in pass efficiency defense and No. 27 in pass defense (198.7 ypg).

Special teams Punter

Dylan Breeding

came roaring back from an off performance with a 58-yard average last week to soar to No. 6 nationally and the Hogs are No. 22 in net punting (39.9).

Dennis Johnson, the SECs all-time kick return yardage leader, has had trouble handling kickoff returns recently, and his average is suffering with three returns shorter than the 10 in the past 2 games. The Razorbacks are No. 110 nationally with a 17.9-yard kick return average.

Nate Holmes

provided a spark to punt returns, where Arkansas is No. 81 (7.3 average), last week.

Zach Hocker

made 2 of 3 field-goal attempts vs. Tulsa, but his 26-yard miss in the clutch was troubling.

Ace Sanders

is a dangerous punt return man for South Carolina with a 15.9-yard average that ranks No. 6 nationally and a 70-yard touchdown return against Georgia. The Gamecocks’ kickoff returns (19.8) rank 84th, only slightly better than the Hogs.

Tyler Hull

has a 39.1-yard punting average that is 80th, and the team is No. 89 in net punting (35.3). Kicker

Adam Yates

is 7 of 10 with a long of 51 yards, and he’s had two field-goal attempts blocked.

Intangibles Arkansas should be full of confidence with its three-game winning streak against South Carolina in tow. The Razorbacks won their last outing on the road at Auburn, but Williams-Brice Stadium will be a tougher venue today. Arkansas lost the turnover battle again last week, continuing a season long trend, and if it happens again today, the Razorbacks will have little chance to pull the upset. South Carolina will make its first appearance since the devastating injury to All-SEC tailback

Marcus Lattimore, so the Gamecocks are likely to be sky-high early.

The health of quarterback

Connor Shaw

’s sprained foot could be a big key. Coach

Steve Spurrier

has called on the team’s fans to treat Arkansas like top rivals Georgia, Tennessee and Clemson in an effort to put an end to their losing streak to the Hogs. Circumstances favor South Carolina, which cannot afford a sloppy game with ball security.

Key match up

Arkansas blocking and protections against South Carolina’s defensive front

The Razorbacks have been solid pass blockers for quarterback Tyler Wilson, and the line has to keep him upright today against a talented Gamecocks’ line led by ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor.

Sports, Pages 22 on 11/10/2012

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