Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn:

Position-by-Position Matchups

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, August 30, 2014
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen in the 4th quarter of Saturday night's game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen in the 4th quarter of Saturday night's game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

Quarterback

Arkansas

It’s imperative for Arkansas to have better play at quarterback to contend in the loaded SEC West, and Brandon Allen is healthy, has a stronger arm and is brimming with confidence entering his second season as a starter. Allen needs to pick up on his accuracy after completing 49.6 percent of his passes last year for 1,552 yards, with 13 TDs and 10 INTs. Allen was 99th in the country with a 109.0 efficiency rating. His top backup is redshirt freshman Austin Allen, his brother.

Auburn

Nick Marshall is the preseason first-team All-SEC choice by media and coaches. Marshall completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1976 yards, with 14 TDs and 6 INTs last year. He also ran for 1,068 yards and 12 TDs. Marshall won’t be starting today, based on his citation for marijuana possession in July, and when he enters the game will be heavily scrutinized decision by Gus Malzahn. Sophomore Jeremy Johnson (6-5, 230 pounds), who will get the start, is larger than most of the starting Arkansas defenders. Johnson passed for 422 yards, with 6 TDs and 2 INTs and a 195.7 efficiency rating last year against lesser-caliber opponents.

Advantage: Auburn

Running back

Arkansas

The power tandem at tailback — junior Jonathan Williams (150 carries, 900 yards, 4 TDs) and sophomore Alex Collins (190-1026, 4) — should be enhanced by speedy sophomore Korliss Marshall (17-146), whose ability to handle the entire offense, plus pass protection, elevated his status in the spring. The Razorbacks could be one of the sturdiest run teams around after ranking third in the SEC and 21st nationally with 208.7 rushing yards per game. Arkansas will look to get creative in searching for lead blockers at fullback, where Kody Walker (6-33), Patrick Arinze and others will be joined by tight ends.

Auburn

Defenses struggled to slow Auburn’s hurry-up attack that led the nation with 328.3 yards per rushing. Speed back Corey Grant (66-647, 6) is the top returning rusher, but Cameron Artis-Payne (91-610, 6), a bruiser at 5-11, 210 pounds, is likely to start. The Tigers, with former Razorback player and coach Tim Horton coaching the position, are high on redshirt freshman Peyton Barber (5-11, 225). Five-star signee Roc Thomas is next in line and not likely to redshirt.

Advantage: Even

Receivers

Arkansas

Desperate for a go-to receiver since Cobi Hamilton’s record-setting senior year,

Someone needs to emerge as the go-to guy from a group that includes Keon Hatcher (27 catches, 346 yards, 2 TDs), Demetrius Wilson (9-117, 1), Drew Morgan, transfer Cody Hollister and true freshman Jared Cornelius. The Razorbacks also expect sophomore Eric Hawkins and two true freshmen — Jojo Robinson, a 6-0 speedster with open-field prowess, and 6-6 Kendrick Edwards — to merit playing time. Look for tight ends Hunter Henry (28-409, 4), Jeremy Sprinkle (4-68), converted quarterback AJ Derby and Alex Voelzke to work their way downfield this season.

Auburn

Auburn receivers coach Dameyune Craig thinks his corps will go 8 or 9 deep. Sammie Coates (42-902, 7) ranked eighth nationally with 21.5 yards per catch, helped by his 88-yard score at Arkansas last year. Ricardo Louis (28-325, 2) caught the prayer at Jordan-Hare to beat Georgia last year. The Tigers expect transfer D’Haquille Williams to have a breakout year. Quan Bray (23-195, 3), Marcus Davis (23-217, 1) and Tony Stevens (5-68, 1) also factor in. , while Brandon Fulse, the H-back, will probably draw more pass-catching duties than Jay Prosch did at the spot last yeaToo many passes were dropped last year and the Tigers expect to shore up that issue.

Advantage: Auburn

Offensive Line

Arkansas

Arkansas’ quickest depth fix under Bret Bielema occurred here, where RT Brey Cook, RG Denver Kirkland and RT Dan Skipper are returning starters. Senior Luke Charpentier and junior Mitch Smothers will apparently start at LG and C, respectively, though both have talented players — Sebastian Tretola and Frank Ragnow — right behind them. Cameron Jefferson and Brian Wallace are likely to figure in the rotation. Arkansas allowed eight sacks last year, the fewest in the SEC. . The Razorbacks were No. 99 in total offense with 357 yards per game.

Auburn

The Tigers, who enter the year with depth concerns, have to replace the left side of the line, including LT Greg Robinson, the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft. Auburn is led by preseason All-SEC center Reese Dismukes and former five-star prospect LT Shon Coleman. Chad Slade will start at left guard, where Alex Kozan (back surgery), an All-SEC freshman, was lost for the season. Avery Young moved from tackle to guard on the right side, and Patrick Miller, a part-time starter in 2012, is at right tackle. Auburn ranked No. 11 in total offense with 501.3 yards per game last year.

Advantage: Arkansas

Defensive Line

Arkansas

Trey Flowers (44 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 5 sacks in 2013) had a field day at Jordan-Hare two years ago, with recorded 3 1/2 sacks — out of the Hogs’ 8 — for 43 lost yards in a 24-7 upset of Auburn in 2012. Three Alabama natives could start for Arkansas, with tackle Darius Philon (46, 9, 3) and end JaMichael Winston (4 tackles) both projected in the opening lineup, along with nose guard Taiwan Johnson (4). End Deatrich Wise Jr. (17, 3, 2) recovered from a sprained knee to be available, while Brandon Lewis (13, 2.5 sacks) might be limited. DeMarcus Hodge (27, 2.5, 1) and freshman Bijhon Jackson should be the first interior reserves. The Razorbacks ranked No. 78 vs. the run (178.4 ypg) last season.

Auburn

Standout players, including Carl Lawson, have been lost to injury,, but the Tigers expect to have great depth but the Tigers will be led by Gabe Wright (31, 8.5, 3), who will play inside and out. Top tackles include Montravius Adams (20, 1 sack) and Ben Bradley (14, 2 TFL). Elijah Daniel (9, 2.5 sacks) or Davonte Lambert, a junior-college transfer is expected to start at the end slot opposite Wright, with reserve help from freshmen Raashed Kennion and Andrew Williams.

Advantage: Even

Linebackers

Arkansas

Seniors Braylon Mitchell (77, 2 TFL) and Martrell Spaight (22, 1 sack) are the top players at outside linebacker, though Mitchell might be limited to short-yardage snaps against the Auburn Spread, with hybrid safety TQ Coleman (2) picking up more duty. Watch for a higher rate of hard Spaight hits this season. Brooks Ellis (33, 2 TFL) battled through an old knee injury during camp and will start in the middle, with backup help from transfer Josh Williams and freshman Khalia Hackett. Senior Daunte Carr adds a veteran touch as a reserve, while true freshmen Randy Ramsey and Dwayne Eugene are both expected to play. Arkansas was No. 76 in total defense (413.4) last season.

Auburn

Cassanova McKinzy (75, 8 TFL, 6 hurries) is an inside force and the play-caller for the defense. Kris Frost (59, 6 TFL) adds some muscle in the Tigers’ 4-2-5 package. The third backer will be either Anthony Swain (26), the injury faker in last year’s game at Arkansas, or freshman Tre’ Williams. Auburn was No. 86 in total defense last year, allowing 420.7 yards per game.

Advantage: Arkansas

Secondary

Arkansas

The Razorbacks will be down two of their veteran corners, with Tevin Mitchel (hamstring) and Will Hines (not on travel squad) unavailable. Five defensive backs could see considerable action, with senior Carroll Washington (18, 2 PBU) likely at nickel back, and sophomores Jared Collins (27, 1 INT, 2 PBU) and D.J. Dean (9, 4 PBU) at cornerback, where true freshmen Henre’ Toliver and Cornelius Floyd are expected to play. Safeties Alan Turner (97 tackles, 2 INT, 5 PBU) and Rohan Gaines (33, 1 PBU) give Arkansas an experienced back line, with relief from Davyon McKinney (5), redshirt freshman DeAndre Coley and true freshman Josh Liddell. The Razorbacks, who were No. 72 in passing yards allowed (235.0) plan to play more aggressive in coverage.

Auburn

Cornerback Jonathon Mincy (56, 1 INT, 14 PBU) will not start, punishment for his arrest for marijuana possession, likely putting Jonathan Jones (11, 1 PBU) in a starting role with Josh Holsey (17, 1 INT). Safety Jermaine Whitehead (65, 6 PBU, 2 INT) is a returning starter, and juco transfer Derrick Moncrief is battling former tailback Rudy Ford (5) for the other starting job. Ex-receiver Trovon Reed helps with cornerback depth. The Tigers ranked No. 100 in passing yards allowed (258.6) last year.

Advantage: Arkansas

Special Teams

Arkansas

Special teams gaffes seem to have a big bearing on the outcomes of early season games, so watch for big plays here. Senior Sam Irwin-Hill returns to handle kickoffs and punts, where he ranked 13th nationally in punting (44.3) last season. Senior John Henson edged out freshman Cole Hedlund for place-kicking duties, while Alan D’Appollonio will handle deep snapping for the fourth consecutive season and Matt Emrich will hold for the second consecutive year. Korliss Marshall gives the Hogs a potential game-breaker in kickoff returns after averaging 22.2 yards last year, including an 83-yarder vs. Auburn. Keon Hatcher (22.0) joins him deep. D.J. Dean is the top punt returner, with freshman Jojo Robinson a possibility there.

Auburn

Corey Grant, probably Auburn’s fastest player, will be joined by Ricardo Louis on kickoff returns, while Quan Bray and freshman Stephen Roberts are the top punt return options. The Tigers lost veterans Cody Parkey and Steven Clark at kicker and punter, and Daniel Carlson projects to replace them both, which would give him the first double-duty in those roles since Damon Duval in 2002.

Advantage: Even

Intangibles

Arkansas

Tension has ratcheted up in this rivalry since the changes that brought Bret Bielema to Arkansas and Arkansas native Gus Malzahn back to the Tigers. The ties between the two coaching staffs and programs run deep, adding an extra dynamic. How both teams adjust to the the wrinkles sure to confront them on both sides of the ball will go a long way toward determining the winner. Bielema has shown no hesitation in dialing up trickery, and he’s sure to have a few things up his sleeve today. Arkansas has traditionally played well at Auburn, though its bearing on this game would seem only to help in terms of confidence.

Auburn

Momentum from last season and the home crowd are on the Tigers’ side, which factor into their role as 20-plus point favorite. Auburn benefited from its share of game-day good fortune throughout last season, and sometimes those things swing back the other way the next year. Auburn’s record at Jordan-Hare Stadium is 297-74-7 (.795), with Arkansas delivering five of those losses.

Advantage: Auburn

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