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 Auburn compare at each position
Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders and Auburn tailback Jarquez Hunter are shown carrying the football during games in the 2023 season. (AP Photos by Butch Dill & Thomas Graning)
FAYETTEVILLE — Below is a position-by-position breakdown of Arkansas and Auburn ahead of their 3 p.m. matchup at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday:
AUBURN Payton Thorne (117-183-6, 1,269 yards, 10 TDs, 63.9%) has gotten more run as the top QB in recent weeks over Robby Ashford (14-26-1, 145, 2, 53.8%). Ashford (42 rushes, 188 yards, 5 TDs, 4.5 ypc) is regarded as the better ball carrier, but Thorne (81-337, 2, 4.2) is also solid. Thorne’s 133.66 pass efficiency rating is 13th and last among SEC qualifiers.
ARKANSAS KJ Jefferson (163-250-8, 1,802 yards, 16 TDs) looked much closer to his previous form last week at Florida. Jefferson (129 carries, 292 yards, 2 TDs) also ran for 92 yards. Jefferson needs one passing TD to reach 65 and break his tie with Brandon Allen for the UA career record and 160 passing yards to pass Tyler Wilson (7,765) for the UA career mark. His TD responsibility of 85 is now eight clear of Matt Jones for first.
AUBURN Jarquez Hunter (108 carries, 636 yards, 7 TDs, 5.9 ypc) had a monster game with 183 rush yards, including TDs of 67 and 56 yards, at Vanderbilt. The 5-10, 212-pound Hunter ranks sixth in the SEC with 79.5 yards per game and has 335 yards and 4 TDs in the past 3 games. Damari Alston (32-148, 1, 4.6) and scatback Brian Battie (44-185, 0, 4.2), a 5-7, 170-pounder, also see action.
ARKANSAS Raheim Sanders (52-194, 2 TDs) finally came back to form from his knee injury with 103 yards at Florida. The 1,443-yard rusher in 2022 is now up to 3.7 yards per carry. AJ Green (52-286, 2, 5.5 ypc) had a TD reception vs. the Gators before losing a fumble, the first by a UA back in 15 games. Rashod Dubinion (79-260, 1) should be back after missing the Florida game to attend a funeral.
AUBURN Jay Fair (28-284, 2 TDs) has 52 yards in the past 3 games. Ja’Varrius Johnson (10-172, 1) is 5-10, while Shane Hooks (9-133, 2) is a 6-4 matchup issue. Camden Brown (8-78), Caleb Burton (5-55) and Omari Kelly (2-45) add depth. Top TEs are Rivaldo Fairweather (27-277, 3) and 6-7 Brandon Frazier (4-60, 1).
ARKANSAS Andrew Armstrong (46-623, 4, 13.5 ypc) had his first 100-yard game last week before leaving with a head injury. Isaac TeSlaa (25-248, 1. 9.9) threw a tight spiral on a receiver pass at Florida. Tyrone Broden (12-99, 2, 8.3) caught a TD, while Jaedon Wilson (12-168, 1) and Isaiah Sategna (11-55, 1) factored in more prominently. Var’keyes Gumms (2-27) has the only catches among active tight ends.
AUBURN The Tigers supplemented their front massively through the transfer portal. The projected starting group checks in at an average of 6-4, 317 pounds. C Avery Jones (leg) has missed recent action, with Connor Lew filling in. OGs Gunner Britton, who has 27 starts in 60 games, and Kam Stutts are seniors. LT Dillon Wade (6-3, 307) and RT Izavion Miller (6-5, 318) are juniors. Stutts is a massive 6-5, 343. Jaden Muskrat backs up at both tackle spots.
ARKANSAS The beleaguered Razorback crew put together a strong performance at Florida, including by former Gator and RG Josh Braun, even with a pair of holding calls. OTs Devon Manuel and Ty’Kieast Crawford played well in backup roles for Andrew Chamblee and Patrick Kutas. The veterans LG Brady Latham and C Beaux Limmer, the reigning SEC co-lineman of the week, will start their 45th and 39th games, respectively.
AUBURN The Tigers base out of a 3-man front with a “Jack” on the edge. Freshman Keldric Faulk (20 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 hurries) is a 6-6, 288-pounder at end, backed by Zykevious Walker (16, 1 sack). Justin Rogers (15, 1 sack) weighs 346 pounds and his backup Jayson Jones (12, 2 hurries) is 338 pounds. The DTs are Marcus Harris (35, 8 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and Lawrence Johnson (9, 1 sack,1 PBU), who has 38 career starts.
ARKANSAS Coming off a strong outing vs. the run. DEs Landon Jackson (35, 11.5, 5.5, 2 hurries), Trajan Jeffcoat (14, 7, 2.5, 4 hurries), Zach Williams (7), John Morgan (7, 2 sacks) and Jashaud Stewart (7, 2 TFL, 2 hurries) didn’t have much time to rush vs. Fla. Top DTs: Cam Ball (22, 1.5 TFL, 1 FF), Taurean Carter (18, 2, 1 sack), Eric Gregory (14, 2.5, 1, 5 hurries), Anthony Booker (11, 1.5 TFL) and Keivie Rose (11, 3.5, 2.5)
AUBURN The starting linebacker trio of Eugene Asante (67, 7.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 5 hurries, 1 FR), “Jack” Jalen McLeod (28, 4.5, 2.5, 5, 1) and Austin Keys (11, 1 sack) are all juniors. Larry Nixon (39, 1.5 TFL, 1 hurry) gets plenty of work at MLB with Keys. Elijah McAllister (19, 1 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 hurry) is 6-6, 271 pounds at the edge “Jack.” Cam Riley (24, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 hurries) contributes.
ARKANSAS Jaheim Thomas (79, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 hurries, 2 PBU) and Chris Paul (54, 5.5, 2, 1, 1) continue to go 1-2 in tackles on the team. The linebacking corps missed too many tackles at Florida after being protected well by the D-front. Antonio Grier (20, 1 INT, 1 FR) has contributed after bouncing back from injury. Jordan Crook (16, 1 hurry, 1 FF) has played well in spots, as has Brad Spence (14, 1 INT, 1 FR).
AUBURN FS Jaylin Simpson (31, 4 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FR) was a mid-season All-American by multiple outlets. Junior Keionte Scott (25, 2 TFL, 3 PBU) plays the star as the only non-senior DB starter. CBs are D.J. James (29, 3.5, 2 INT, 4 PBU) and Nehemiah Pritchett (13, 1 INT), with 226-pound Zion Puckett (26, 2 INT, 2 PBU) at weak-side safety. Puckett and Pritchett have 37 and 30 career starts, respectively, all at Auburn.
ARKANSAS Depth is better with the return of Dwight McGlothern (14, 3 TFL, 5 PBU, 2 INT) to pair with CBs Lorando Johnson (23, 4, 3 PBU, 1 INT), Jaylon Braxton (17, 5 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF) and Jaheim Singletary (14, 4 PBU), NB Hudson Clark (38, 2.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 ) and safeties Jayden Johnson (45, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF), Alfahiym Walcott (42, 2 PBU, 1 INT), Clark and TJ Metcalf (10, 1 FR).
AUBURN Brian Battie is averaging 25.2 yards on 17 kickoff returns, and Keionte Scott is averaging 13 yards on 7 punt returns. PK Alex McPherson is perfect on the season at 9 of 9 FGA and 29 of 29 PAT. His long FG is 53 yards and he’s 3 of 3 from 40-plus. P Oscar Chapman is 25th in the FBS, averaging 44.7 yards with a long of 71 yards, 12 punts of 50-plus yards and 16 inside the 20.
ARKANSAS Cam Little (16 of 18 FGs, 25 of 25 PAT) made 4 of 5 field goals in the win over Florida, including a key 49-yarder late. Max Fletcher’s 48.4-yard punt average ranks fourth in the NCAA. The Hogs’ punt coverage unit gave up a few long returns to the Gators. Isaiah Sategna made a couple of questionable decisions on returns at Florida. He averages 15.1 yards on PRs, 22.9 on KORs.
AUBURN Hugh Freeze can join rare air with wins at the same road venue in consecutive seasons after his Liberty team shocked the Hogs last season. The Tigers, who have won 4 of 5 in Fayetteville, would like payback for their 41-27 home loss to Arkansas last year. Auburn is sitting on 5 wins so it has the bowl-eligibility carrot, but the Tigers have a home game against New Mexico State next week sitting in their back pocket.
ARKANSAS Coach Sam Pittman said Arkansas fans deserve a great home effort after consecutive losses here, including a 7-3 setback to lightly-regarded Mississippi State. Can the much-needed offensive electricity generated with the promotion of Kenny Guiton to offensive coordinator be sustained for a second week? Hogs have to win to keep their bowl hopes alive and that’s pretty strong motivation.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.