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 Texas compare at each position
Texas wide receiver Jordan Whittington (4) during an NCAA college football game against the Louisiana-Lafayette , Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A position-by-position breakdown of the Razorbacks and Longhorns:
Hudson Card, a 6-2, 200-pounder who edged Casey Thompson for the job, got off to a strong start: 14-for 21 (.667) for 224 yards and 2 TD against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Longhorns did not have a turnover. Card is 15th in the FBS with a 187.7 efficiency rating. Thompson, a 6-1 junior, hit 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards and a TD as a very capable backup. Team passing efficiency (192.92) is 18th in FBS.
KJ Jefferson overcame a shaky start, with several drops, to go 12 of 21 for 128 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. He took 2 sacks, one easily avoidable, and his pick was a forced throw. Jefferson had some slants sail high, but he settled in. With no drops he’s at 71%. His agility in the running game (9-89) might’ve exceeded expectations. Malik Hornsby did not see time in the opener. Passing efficiency (114.53) is 91st.
Bijan Robinson (20 carries, 103 yards) flashed the kind of versatility that makes superstars. The 6-0, 214-pounder had 73 receiving yards and scored twice. His 8.2 ypc last season was a UT record. Robinson’s 176 all-purpose yards is 12th in the FBS. Keilan Robinson (8-42, 1 TD) and Roschon Johnson (8-27), who had 91 all-purpose yards, give the Longhorns plenty of weapons in the backfield.
Junior Trelon Smith (22-102, 1 TD, 4.6 ypc) had a workmanlike opener with nice cuts, field vision and yards after contact. Freshman Raheim “Rocket” Sanders (7-44, 6.3 ypc) showed the kind of promise UA coaches touted. Sophomore big back Dominique Johnson (4-16) muscled in for his late score and is a Sam Pittman favorite. Speedster Josh Oglesby and AJ Green await in the wings.
Sophomore Jordan Whittington (7 receptions, 113 yards, 1 TD), a 6-1, 203-pounder, looks to be a handful as a tough cover. He was the top-rated FBS receiver by Pro Football Focus last week. Xavier Worthy, a 6-1 speedster, made his only catch a 34-yarder. Joshua Moore (3-17) and 6-4 TE Cade Brewer (1-6) also contributed last week, when RBs accounted for 1/3 of UT’s receptions.
The UA wideouts should grow with Jefferson. Ace Treylon Burks (5-42) came back rusty from injury with a couple of drops. Tyson Morris (3-42, 1 TD) had the most impactful catch. De’Vion Warren (2-14) had a drop and an illegal touch wipe out potential gainers. Ketron Jackson Jr. (1-16) and TE Blake Kern (1-14) contributed. The group blocked well. Can Warren Thompson, Trey Knox, Jaquayln Crawford impact?
As is the case with many FBS teams, Texas is loaded with four returners in LT Christian Jones, LG Denzel Okafor, RG Junior Angilau and RT Derek Kerstetter (28 career starts), who combine to average 6-5, 316 pounds with 74 starts. The guards average 320 pounds. RS freshman Jake Majors (6-3, 310) is the starting center. Andrej Karic and Tyler Johnson also have starting experience.
LT Myron Cunningham, LG Brady Latham, C Ricky Stromberg and RT Dalton Wagner played all 67 offensive snaps vs. Rice. The only subbing on the front came at RG, where senior Ty Clary (52 snaps) had a shoulder issue that led to 15 snaps for Beaux Limmer. Clary has practiced this week. The Razorbacks permitted 2 sacks, 1 which Jefferson should’ve avoided. Protection will be key vs. Horns.
Keondre Coburn (1 PAT block), at 346 pounds and T’Vondre Sweat (2, 0.5 TFL) at 335 are hard to move at the nose. Moro Ojomo (1, 1 PBU) has 13 career starts at tackle. Jacoby Jones (4, 1 TFL, 1 hurry) got off to a good start at the “Jack” spot, with Alfred Collins behind him. Ray Thornton (4, 1 sack), a 238-pound senior, is the top edge rusher, while Ovie Oghoufo (7, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack) plays the hybrid “Buck” end.
Arkansas’ rotation will be tighter after losing DE Dorian Gerald for the season. Tackle Taurean Carter (6, 1 TFL) was productive in limited snaps. Isaiah Nichols (1, 1 sack) forced a fumble, and Zach Williams (4) and Mataio Soli (1) combined on a sack. Markell Utsey (1, 1 PBU, 1 hurry) created an INT. Tre Williams (5, 1 hurry), Eric Gregory (3) and Jashaud Stewart (2) were solid. John Ridgeway should play.
DeMarvion Overshown (13, 0.5 sack), a converted defensive end playing WLB, is an eye catcher with his speed and 6-4, 223-pound frame. Former walk-on Luke Brockermeyer (10, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks) had a solid debut as the starting MLB. Junior Ovie Oghoufo (7) moves around creating match-up problems. David Gbenda (5), Jaylan Ford (3) also see playing time in the unit.
The Razorbacks have gone patchwork at this spot due to targeting ejections. Texas native Bumper Pool (14, 1.5 TFL) will miss the first half due to targeting, while Hayden Henry (5, 1) missed last week’s first half. Sixth-year Grant Morgan (1) sat out most of the opener after an ejection. Andrew Parker (4, 2 hurries ) was a key contributor against Rice. Jackson Woodard (1), Deon Edwards and Chris Paul are backups.
All 5 projected starters are seniors. The top corners — D’Shawn Jamison (3) and Josh Thompson (3) — have 32 combined starts, 19 by Jamison. Anthony Cook (4), who has 7 career starts, plays the versatile “Star” spot. Boundary safety B.J. Foster (6) is a 16-game starter. Brenden Schooler (3) is a converted wideout who played 4 years at Oregon. Top reserves: Darion Dunn (3), Chris Adimora, Jerrin Thompson.
The legend of native Texas Jalen Catalon (11, 1 TFL, 2 INT) continues to grow with 2 picks and prime ball-hawking last week. CB Montaric Brown (3, INT) was strong in the opener. LaDarrius Bishop (1) gave up a 41-yard TD. Nickel Greg Brooks (6, 1 TFL) was solid, along with S Joe Foucha (5, 1 PBU) and Simeon Blair (1, 1 PBU). Hudson Clark, Devin Bush (1), Trent Gordon (1) Jayden Johnson (1) sub in.
D’Shawn Jamison had a 25-yard KOR and a 6-yard PR last week, while Xavier Worthy added an 18-yard return of a punt. Cameron Dicker is a rarity nowadays as a three-way kicker. He had 6 touchbacks on 7 kickoffs (.857 touchbacks, matching UA), averaged 51.5 yards on just 2 punts and went 1 for 2 on FGs, making from 49 yards and missing from 45. Kickoff coverage allowed a 21-yard return.
The negatives for Arkansas — a blocked punt allowed, penalties, one super short punt — overshadowed the big plusses, like LaDarrius Bishop’s 36-yard average on 3 KORs. Kickoff man Vito Calvaruso (6 of 7 touchbacks) and PK Cam Little (34-yard FG, 5 of 5 PAT) did their jobs. Greg Brooks Jr. only got half a chance on punt returns. Special teams penalties must be cleaned up.
The Longhorns will have to stir up their own momentum with a sliver of 3,8000 supporters in the northeast corner. Texas’ No. 15 ranking brings the pressure of being a road favorite. The Longhorns looked sharp in dispatching Louisiana-Lafayette, but this is only Game 2 for the Steve Sarkisian regime. The Horns have the incentive of making an impression on poll voters and SEC fan bases in their future home.
Arkansas will have the distinct advantage of massive, sellout home crowd, but can the Razorbacks do extra things to make the Longhorns sweat? Will the boos return with a poor start? Coach Sam Pittman was on the staff that oversaw a 31-7 Texas Bowl win over the ‘Horns in 2014, so he saw the spark this matchup can generate. Both teams will have wrinkles ready to unleash. Which side will handle them better?
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