Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
How Arkansas and LSU compare at each position
Arkansas defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall celebrates after making a tackle during a game against Tennessee on Nov. 7, 2020 in Fayetteville.
TJ Finley (30-45-3, 408 yards, 2 TD) has a strong 66.7% completion rate in his two starts for the injured Myles Brennan (79-131-3, 1,112 yards, 11 TD) but he’s underwater with his 2-3 TD-to-INT ratio. The 6-6, 242-pound freshman has a 144.2 efficiency rating, 22 rushing yards and a TD. Max Johnson (15-24-0, 172 yards, 1 TD) is also expected to see playing time.
Feleipe Franks (138-202-3, 1,678 yards, 16 TD) has stacked one strong effort after another and is up to 68.3% completions. He suffered a left hand/wrist injury in the 2nd half at Florida but returned. Franks has thrown 84 consecutive passes without an INT. KJ Jefferson (1-2-0, 3 yards), who scored on a 12-yard run at Florida, would get the nod if Franks cannot play.
LSU goes mostly with a two tailback rotation of John Emery Jr. (48-246, 2 TD) and Tyrion Davis-Price (53-245, 2). Emery averages 5.1 yards per carry but has no gains over 17 yards, while Davis-Price is at 4.6 ypc with 3 runs of 20-plus yards. Chris Curry (20-72) and Josh Williams (8-30) have seen action, and both average less than 3.9 ypc.
Trelon Smith (78-456, 1) holds the team rushing lead over Rakeem Boyd (82-309, 3), and his first score, an 83-yard dash last week, pushed him up to 5.7 ypc. Boyd’s 12-yard scoring run at Florida gave the Hogs their first tandem-TD game of the year. After that pair, it’s mostly QB Franks (78-186) and the wideouts on end arounds, which could factor in today.
LSU’s Terrace Marshall (31-540, 9 TD) leads the SEC in TD catches, but had his streak of games with a TD stopped at 7 at Auburn. Touted TE Arik Gilbert (22-259, 2) averages 11.8 ypc. Other top contributors: Jaray Jenkins (13-234, team-high 18.0 ypc), Kayshon Boutte (12-168, 1), Racey McMath (11-147) and Jontre Kirklin (9-129, 2).
Mike Woods (23-413, 4) had a huge effort last week with deep-ball TDs of 47 and 82 yards. He’s now at 18.0 ypc. Treylon Burks (34-508, 5) has three 100-yard games. TEs Blake Kern (15-163, 1) and Hudson Henry (15-91, 1) have been solid. With De’Vion Warren (15-278, 3) out for the year, Tyson Morris (5-47, 1) and Trey Knox (4-33) must be more active.
This is the unit that has drawn the most criticism for the Tigers. Big Dare Rosenthal (6-7, 327) was reinstated from an indefinite suspension this week to battle at LT with Cameron Wire. The trio of C Liam Shanahan, RG Chasen Hines and RT Austin Deculus, a 6-7, 322-pounder, have started all 5 games. Ed Ingram and Charles Turner have split time at LG.
Arkansas’ front has improved in increments all season. LT Myron Cunningham and LG Brady Latham have started all 7 games, while C Ricky Stromberg has started six. RG Ty Clary, who has made 4 straight starts, and RT Dalton Wagner have joined the others the last 2 games. Noah Gatlin, a 5-game starter at RT, and RG Beaux Limmer, who has 3 starts, might be back.
The Tigers list a 3-man front on their depth chart but have used lots of 4-man sets. Ali Gaye (15, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 hurries) and Andre Anthony (12, 2 sacks, 2 hurries) are the top DEs, along with sack leader BJ Ojularu (12, 5 TFL, 4 sacks). Glen Logan (4), a 6-3, 339-pounder, has 26 career starts. Joseph Evans (8), a 319-pounder and Neil Farrell (8) also contribute.
Check this unit’s depth today. DT Jonathan Marshall (26, 5.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 hurries) has started 7 games. DT Isaiah Nichols (15, 0.5 sacks, 1 PBU) and sack leader DE Eric Gregory (22, 3, 2.5, 1 INT, 1 hurry) have started 5. Zach Williams (21, 1.5, 1, 1 hurry), Julius Coates (15, 2, 1, 1), Dorian Gerald (5, 1.5 sacks), Xavier Kelly (6, 1 sack), Mataio Soli (4) and Taurean Carter (7) all play.
Senior Jabril Cox (31, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 hurry, 1 FR) has been the staple at OLB with starts in all 5 games,. Damone Clark (34, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 hurries) was the starter in the middle for the first 4 games. Micah Baskerville (21, 1.5 TFL, 1 hurry) has played both OLB and MLB. Josh White (2) is a reserve in a corps that hasn’t exhibited great depth.
SEC tackles leader Grant Morgan (85, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 hurry) and Bumper Pool (71, 5.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 4 PBU, 1 hurry) are both on pace to push past 100 tackles in a 10-game slate. Hayden Henry (20, 3, 1, 1 PBU) was injured last week, and Andrew Parker (8) filled in admirably. The Hogs have not pushed their depth much beyond that group and Jackson Woodard (2).
The Tigers have tried many combinations, with no one starting at the same spot all 5 games. CB Derek Stingley Jr. (18, 1 TFL, 1 PBU) is the top player, while Eli Ricks (11) leads with 3 INT. JaCoby Stevens (36, 4 TFL 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU) has started at NB, SS and FS. Cordale Flott (22, 3.5 TFL 1 PBU), Maurice Hampton Jr. (17, 1 TFL) plays SS and FS. Darren Evans (2) helps.
Jalen Catalon (70, 3 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF), who has a team-high 40 solos, is on course to join the ranks of the best UA safeties. Joe Foucha (41, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INT, 1 PBU), Simeon Blair (17, 2 PBU), Myles Mason (14) and Myles Slusher (10, 1 FR) play safety, while Montaric Brown (15, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU), Hudson Clark (33, 3 INT) and Greg Brooks (29, 3 TFL, 2 INT) are top cover men.
LSU punter Zach Von Rosenberg (47.0) of Australia is one of the oldest players in college football at age 30, and he’s helped the Tigers to a No. 9 spot in net punting (43.6). LSU leads the nation with a 36.5 KOR average, with Trey Palmer doing the damage. Daryl Stingley Jr. is also dangerous with a 30.7-yard return average on punts. Avery Atkins has 28 touchbacks on 33 kickoffs.
The loss of KOR De’Vion Warren to a knee injury takes out a big playmaker. Treylon Burks and Nathan Parodi have 2 combined punt returns. The Hogs are No. 98 in net punting (36.0), though Reid Bauer (43.6) is improved. KOR yielded 2 penalties last week that negated solid returns. Vito Calvaruso’s touchback pct. is stout, but he kicked one OB last week. AJ Reed is 6 of 9 on FGs.
Where are the Tigers’ heads? If they’re fixed on things like their disappointing followup to the ’19 CFP title and who isn’t there due to the coronavirus and injuries, and an 11 a.m. kickoff time and potential ran, then they’ll be ripe for a loss. Ed Orgeron hasn’t lost to Arkansas since he’s taken the LSU reins and it’s likely he’ll have the Tigers’ heads in the right place.
A covid-19 strike with the resultant quarantining has the UA depth in a vulnerable spot. Before that, Arkansas opened the week as a favorite for the first time in two years. The favorite’s role swung back to the Tigers, but based on what the Hogs have shown all season they’re comfortable in that spot. How will half a week without Sam Pittman’s presence play out for the Razorbacks?
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