Tom Murphy is a sports 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. He was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
How Arkansas and Alabama compare at each position
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
ALABAMA Bryce Young (83-121-2, 1,029 yards, 13 TDs) won the Heisman Trophy in 2021 and is a preseason All-American. The 6-0 sophomore has completed 68.6% of his passes and his 172.2 efficiency rating is 18th in the FBS, fourth in the SEC. He has 150 rushing yards and 2 TDs. Backup Jalen Milroe (12-18-1, 86 yards, 1 TD, 66.7%) has been efficient as well.
ARKANSAS KJ Jefferson (67-97-1, 941 yards, 8 TDs) is on a school-record pace with 69.1% completions. He is 14th in the FBS with 175.72 pass efficiency. The 6-3 junior has 274 rushing yards, 4 TDs, and a streak of 5 games with a rush TD. His ball security has been lax the past two games. Backup Malik Hornsby’s appearances at WR had been productive until last week.
ALABAMA The Crimson Tide’s 1-2 punch has been mostly Jase McClellan (29-245, 2 TDs) and Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs (25-172, 0 TD), who has 3 receiving TDs on a team-high 17 catches. McClellan averages 8.4 yards per carry, and Gibbs 6.9. Jamarion Miller (20-146, 2, 7.3 ypc) and Roydell Williams (17-104, 1, 6.1 ypc) have also been productive behind a strong line.
ARKANSAS Raheim Sanders (83-508, 3 TDs, 6.1 ypc) was held below 100 yards for the first time last week. He leads the SEC and is fourth in the FBS with 127 rush yards per game. AJ Green (23-99, 1, 4.3), Rashod Dubinion (14-54, 1, 3.9) and Dominique Johnson (5-32, 6.4) all had flash moments vs. Texas A&M. Johnson (knee) is coming off surgery and could see his numbers rise.
ALABAM The Tide have completed passes to 17 players compared to 9 for the Hogs. Traeshon Holden (15-214, 4) leads the team in TD receptions. Kobe Prentice (12-119), Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton (12-155, 2), TE Cameron Latu (10-106) and Ja’Corey Brooks (10-179, 2) have all exceeded 10 receptions and 100 yards. Alabama has replaced great speed with almost as much speed.
ARKANSAS The Arkansas rotation has been mostly 4: Jadon Haselwood (18-214, 2 TDs, 11.9 ypc), Matt Landers (15-230, 0, 15.3), Warren Thompson (8-122, 2, 15.3) and Ketron Jackson (3-103, 1, 34.3), who has 50-plus yard grabs the past 2 games. TE Trey Knox (11-118, 2) didn’t seem himself last week. Malik Hornsby (2-8) has contributed and Nathan Bax got his first career catch last week.
ALABAMA The Tide always boast some all-star standouts and this year’s group is no exception. RS senior Tyler Steen leads the group at LT, joined by classmate RG Emil Ekiyor, senior C Darrian Dalcourt, junior LG Javion Cohen and sophomore RT JC Latham, the biggest starter at 6-6, 326. The group averages 6-4, 311 pounds, a little smaller than their standard set of behemoths.
ARKANSAS The Razorbacks hang their hats on this unit’s efforts, and they’ve produced 243.8 rush yards per game, ninth in the FBS. The same quintet has started every game: LT Luke Jones, LG Brady Latham, C Ricky Stromberg, RG Beaux Limmer and RT Dalton Wagner. The first four of those have played all 301 offensive snaps, while Wagner has played 292 and Ty’Kieast Crawford the other 9.
ALABAMA The Tide’s 3-man front is anchored by NG DJ Dale (4, 1 sack, ) a 300-pounder, who is backed by 346-pound Jaheim Oatis (7, 0.5 TFL, 1 hurry) and 343-pound Tim Kennan III (1, 0.5). DEs Tim Smith (3), Jamil Burroughs (1) and Damon Payne Jr. (2) all top 300 pounds. Ends Byron Young (9, 2 TFL, 0.5 sacks) and Justin Eboigbe (11, 2 hurries) are slightly under 300.
ARKANSAS Jordan Domineck (13, 4.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR) leads the unit with 4.5 sacks, with Zach Williams (9, 4, 3 hurries) next with 3. Landon Jackson (12, 2.5 sacks, 1 hurry, 1 FF) and Jashaud Stewart (2, 1 hurry) also rotate. DT Eric Gregory (4, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 hurries) got a sack last week. The mix also features Isaiah Nichols (7), Terry Hampton (8, 1 TFL) and Cam Ball (6).
ALABAMA Will Anderson Jr. (20, 7.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 hurry), who wreaks havoc and commands attention, plays the “Jack,” along with Chris Braswell (6, 2 TFL, 2 hurries). Team tackle leader Jaylen Moody (25, 2.5, 1, 1 hurry) and Deontae Lawson (16) play the key WLB spot. Top MLB is Henry To’oTo’o (23, 3, 1 sack). Dallas Turner (9, 3 hurries) nabbed the “Sam” role after Drew Sanders’ injury last year.
ARKANSAS Bumper Pool (36, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 3 PBU, 4 hurries) and Drew Sanders (31, 6.5, 5.5, 2 FF, 2 PBU, 2 hurries) are productive. Sanders was the Butkus Award’s national LB of the month for September. Pool is 23 stops away from Tony Bua’s school record 408. Chris Paul (13, 2, 1, 1 FF, 1 FR) is off to a strong sophomore season. Jordan Crook (2) is also getting a little run as a true freshman.
ALABAMA Brian Branch (20, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU) and Malachi Moore (11, 2 PBU, 1 FR) play the Tide’s “Star” position. Top corners are Kool-Aid McKinstry (11, 1 sack, 5 PBU), Terrion Arnold (13, 1 TFL, 2 PBU), Khyree Jackson (5, 1 TFL) and LSU transfer Eli Ricks (2). Safeties Jordan Battle (14) and DeMarco Hellams (24, 1 TFL, 2 PBU) are well regarded.
ARKANSAS The Hogs got big relief with the return of NB Myles Slusher (9, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 hurry) last week. CB rotation of Dwight McGlothern (11, 2 INT, 2 PBU), Hudson Clark (7, 4 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR), Malik Chavis (2) will be tested vs. Tide as will open-field tackling for DBs Simeon Blair (25, 1 TFL, 1 PBU), Latavious Brini (18, 1 hurry, 1 FF), Jayden Johnson (16, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 hurries), Khari Johnson (8) and others.
ALABAMA Will Reichard (6 of 6 FGs, 25 of 25 PATs) hasn’t missed yet. P James Burnip averages 42.8 yards and the team is 109th in net punting (36.0). Touchback rate on kickoffs is low at 52.9% but may be intentional, as coverage is outstanding. Opponents average 15.3 yards per KOR. PR Brian Branch has a 68-yard TD return and FBS leader Kool-Aid McKinstry averages 17.4 yards.
ARKANSAS Cam Little’s 42-yard FG miss last week dropped him to 2 of 4 on FGAs after a stellar freshman year. He is 18 of 18 on PATs. PR Bryce Stephens (8-117, 1 TD) and KOR AJ Green (2-50) got basically no action last week. Freshman Max Fletcher’s punting average (37.2) ranks 70th in the FBS and the Hog are 123rd in net punting (33). Jake Bates’ touchback rate is a strong 83.3%.
ALABAMA The Tide sometime comes across as an intimidating amassing of 5-star replaceable robots, an image Coach Nick Saban downplays. However, that portrayal as a machine-like unit serves a purpose. However much noise and commotion the Razorback crowd can muster, these Tide players have seen it all before. Home teams have hung in against Alabama during Bryce Young’s road starts.
ARKANSAS The Hogs will need Razorback Stadium, the kicking game and the turnover margin to be positive factors to have a chance. The Razorbacks have been competitive a few times here since Nick Saban’s arrival, but the Tide turned back upset bids in 2010 and 2014 by a combined five points. Alabama has rolled the Razorbacks by an average of 34 points in the past 3 meetings here. Average score: 55-21.
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