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 FIU compare at each position
Arkansas' Andrew Armstrong and FIU's Kris Mitchell are shown during football games in the 2023 season. (AP Photos by Doug Murray & Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE — Below is a position-by-position breakdown of Arkansas and Florida International ahead of their 6:30 p.m. matchup in Reynolds Razorback Stadium:
True freshman Keyone Jenkins (146-247-7, 1,900 yards, 6 TD), 5-11, 190, is upside-down on TD-to-INT ratio. He has dual-threat capability with 287 yards gained rushing and 5 touchdowns (tied for the FIU record), though that yardage has almost been wiped out by sacks. His passing efficiency is 126.07, 81st in the FBS. Junior Grayson James (19-37-1, 218 yards, 1 TD) is the backup.
KJ Jefferson (173-266-8, 1,918 yards, 16 TD) has a 2-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio, his lowest as a starter, and his 65% completions is on track to be his lowest. Jefferson is No. 53 in pass efficiency (139.4) and his rushing numbers (144-342, 2 TD) are down. Jacolby Criswell (4-6-0, 47, 2 TD) got his biggest opportunity as a Razorback and had a 60-yard run and 11-yard TD in two series last week.
Florida International has a solid 1-2 punch of sophomores Shomari Lawrence (112 carries, 522 yards, 4 TD) and Kejon Owens (70-381, 5). Lawrence is a 6-foot, 200-pounder who averages 4.7 yards per carry, and the 5-10, 185-pound Owens is at 5.4 yards per carry. Antonio Patterson (13-33) has also scored a rushing touchdown.
Rashod Dubinion (80-263, 1 TD, 3.3 ypc) has the most attempts among tailbacks, 64 fewer than Jefferson. AJ Green (54-289, 2, 5.4 ypc) leads the RBs in rushing and yards per carry. Raheim Sanders (60-294, 2, 3.2) had 0 yards on 8 carries after his 103-yard showing at Florida. Not much space to work with again last week, and little tackle breaking.
Kris Mitchell (50 receptions, 845 yards, 16.9 ypc), 6-1, 175, who plays “X,” was an add to the Biletnikoff Award watch list. He has six of FIU’s seven TD catches, and “H” Jalen Bracey (23-242, 10.5) has the other. The ”Z” is 6-2, 200-pound Dean Patterson (23-366, 15.9 ypc). Top TEs are Josiah Miamen (13-150), Jackson McDonald (11-116) and Rocky Beers (11-109).
Transfers Andrew Armstrong (48-657, 4 TD, 13.7 ypc) and Isaac TeSlaa (28-280, 2, 10.0) lead. Luke Hasz (16-253, 3) is 3rd despite missing 5-plus games. Isaiah Sategna (12-90, 1) had a deep catch last week. Tyrone Broden (13-105, 2) and Jaedon Wilson (12-168, 1) contribute along with TEs Nathan Bax (2-15), Var’keyes Gumms (2-27). Frosh Davion Dozier (1-14, TD) might see more work.
The Panthers have one of the lightest fronts in the FBS with an average size of 6-5, 291. LT Travis Burke is a 6-9, 290-pound sophomore and RT Phillip Houston a 6-5, 250-pounder. With C John Bock on suspension, sophomore Ming Tjon (6-4, 325) starts for a 2nd week. RS Sophs Wyatt Lawson and Phillip Houston (6-5, 250) start on the right side. Sam Hill (6-3, 345) backs up multiple spots.
The Razorbacks continue to look for quality work at OT, where RS sophomore Devon Manuel and RS frosh Andrew Chamblee work on the left, senior Ty’Kieast Crawford on the right with Patrick Kutas (ankle) slowed. C Beaux Limmer has played a unit-high 665 snaps, followed by transfer RG Josh Braun (646). LG Brady Latham is slated to make make his team-high 46th career start.
Panthers NG Jack Daly (22 tackles, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 hurries, 1 PBU, 1 FR)) is a 6-3, 315-pounder who has drawn good reviews from Sam Pittman. Rush end Alex Nobles (33, 6.5, 3.5, 4 hurries) and Jeramy Passmore (22, 3, 2.5, 2) play the edges. DTs include Jordan Guerad (29, 2.5, 1, 2, 1 PBU) and Steven Shannon (8, 1 TFL). Travonte O’Neal (7, 1.5) backs up Daly.
The Hogs go deep outside at DE with Landon Jackson (38, 12, 5.5, 2 hurries, 1 PBU), Trajan Jeffcoat (15, 8, 3.5, 4), Zach Williams (8), Nico Davillier (8, 2.5, 1) and John Morgan (7, 2 sacks) and inside with Cam Ball (26, 1.5 TFL, 1 FF), Taurean Carter (23, 2, 1 sack, 1 hurry), Eric Gregory (15, 2.5, 1, 5 hurries, 1 PBU), Anthony Booker (15, 1.5 TFL) and Keivie Rose (13, 3.5, 2.5).
MLB Donovan Manuel (99, 14.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 4 FF, 3 hurries) is tied for 3rd in the FBS in forced fumbles (0.4 per game) and 13th in FBS tackles. WLB Reggie Peterson (79, 5, 2.5, 1 INT, 1 hurry) is coming off a 13-tackle effort at MTSU. Alex Nobles (33, 1 FF) is a hybrid rush end/backer. Elijah Anderson-Taylor (39, 4 TFL, 2 hurries) and Avery Huff (14, 1 sacks, 1 FF) also see action.
The Razorbacks need improved tackling, starting with this unit, that features junior Jaheim Thomas (87, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 hurries, 2 PBU) and sophomore Chris Paul (62, 5.5, 2, 1 hurry, 1 PBU) in starting roles. Antonio Grier (24, 1 INT, 1 FR), Jordan Crook (20, 1 hurry, 1 FF) and true freshman Brad Spence (16, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR) have provided solid reserves snaps.
FS CJ Christian (44, 2 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 hurry) is tied for 33rd with 3 INT. Starting CBs are junior Adrian Cole (18, 2.5, 1 PBU) and 6-foot true frosh Hezekiah Masses (40, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 INT), with backup from Brian Blades (29, 2 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 FR) and Larry Preston (10, 2 TFL). D’Verick Daniel (64, 2, 2 PBU, 1 INT) plays ‘bandit,’ along with Bobby Salla (17) and Jamal Potts (54, 6 TFL, 2 FF) is at nickel back.
Lorando Johnson (24, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 3 PBU, 1 INT) might be at CB with the Hogs dinged up. That would mean more ‘Hog’ work for Hudson Clark (43, 2.5, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 1 INT). Top safeties are Jayden Johnson (51, 3 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF) and Alfahiym Walcott (50, 2 PBU, 1 INT). Dwight McGlothern (15, 3 TFL, 3 INT, 5 PBU) is questionable and CB Jaylon Braxton (20, 8 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FR) is doubtful.
PK Chase Gabriel is 9 of 11 on FGAs, 20 of 21 on PATs. His long is 50 yards, his misses from 33 and 40. P Daton Montiel averages 39.1 yards on 60 punts. Lucas Matias has 16 touchbacks on 41 kickoffs, a 39% rate. Six players have kickoff returns, the most by Ross Fournet (17.9) and Jalen Bracey (19.6). Dean Patterson averages 12.3 yards per punt return.
PK Cam Little (17 of 19 FGAs, 26 of 26 PATs) is a Lou Groza Award semifinalist in the midst of 1 of the best PK seasons in UA history. P Max Fletcher (47.7) is sixth in FBS average on 50 punts. Coverage units struggled last week as did kickoff return. Isaiah Sategna (21.9 KOR, 15.1 PR with 88-yard TD) has gone a few weeks without breaking anything long.
This is the big payday of $1.5 million for FIU and a chance to deliver a shocker to a struggling SEC club as North Texas, San Jose State, Western Kentucky and Liberty have done in front of the Hogs’ home folks in recent years. However, the Panthers don’t enter with the momentum and swag of those other clubs, so they’ll have to dig deep and play beyond their shown capabilities to drop the Hogs.
A big question is whether the Razorbacks will play free and loose or tight. Arkansas has lost the motivation of automatic bowl eligibility but must get to 5-7 to have a remote chance if all bowl slots are not filled. The Hogs owe their fans a big showing on campus as the prior four games have been largely offensively challenged and underwhelming, which might impact the attendance level tonight.
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