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 LSU compare at each position
Arkansas running back AJ Green (0) celebrates with wide receiver Andrew Armstrong (2) and tight end Francis Sherman (44) after Green scored a rushing touchdown, Saturday, Sept, 16, 2023, during the first quarter against BYU at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Below is a position-by-position breakdown of Arkansas and LSU ahead of their matchup Saturday night in Baton Rouge:
KJ Jefferson (55-77-1, 629 yards, 6 TD) is 1-0 against the Tigers with a road win in 2021. He was hurt for last year’s game. Jefferson is coming off a rough game with 2 turnovers, 2 strip-sacks, 4 total sacks and lots of pressure. Jefferson is No. 26 in pass efficiency (163.16). He has accounted for 74 career TDs, 3 off Matt Jones’ school record. Jacolby Criswell (2-2-0, 28 yards, 1 TD) has played in 1 game.
Jayden Daniels (70-95-1, 976 yards, 8 TD) is off to a sizzling start with 73.7% completions. The 6-4, 210-pounder ranks fourth with 325.3 pass yards per game and 10th with a 185.66 efficiency rating. Daniels is also the team’s leading rusher with 35 carries for 157 yards and 2 TD. The Tigers have been sacked 7 times.
Backup Garrett Nussmeier is 5 for 9 for 54 yards.
A return today seems unlikely for Raheim Sanders (15 carries, 42 yards, 2 TD), so AJ Green (28-190, 2), coming off a 2-TD performance against BYU, projects as the lead back in a deep field. Rashod Dubinion (26-96, 1) scored in Week 2 but his 3.7 ypc is not ideal, nor is QB KJ Jefferson’s 2.6 ypc. Dominique Johnson (12-36, 3.0) and Isaiah Augustave (4-20) could also factor in.
Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs (24-156, 1 TD, 6.5 ypc) trails QB Jayden Daniels by one yard for the Tigers’ leading rusher. Though LSU has done most of its damage through the air, their 192.7 rushing yards per game is 3rd in the SEC. Josh Williams (14-104, 1, 7.4) has been effective and ex-Penn State standout Noah Cain (14-52, 2, 3.7) and Kaleb Jackson (16-81, 2) have contributed.
The trio of WRs Andrew Armstrong (18-197, 3 TD) and Isaac TeSlaa (10-143, 1) and TE Luke Hasz (9-123, 1) have clearly emerged as Jefferson’s top targets. Hasz had a huge showing vs. BYU and he must be an effective hot read vs. LSU. Jaedon Wilson (7-130, 1) must show more consistency, and Isaiah Sategna (3-19) and Tyrone Broden (2-15) need more involvement.
Malik Nabers (24-393, 3), a 6-foot junior, had 188 yards in the first half last week at Miss. State. He averages 16.4 yards per catch. Brian Thomas Jr. (20-280, 3) hit 1,000 career receiving yards on the nose last week. Kyren Lacy (6-98, 1, 16.3 ypc) and Chris Hilton Jr. (4-62, 1, 15.5 ypc) are big contributors. TE Mason Taylor (5-39) is expected back this week.
The Razorbacks’ struggles with hand injuries and inconsistency have reached three games now. The physicality level and pass protection must improve and penalties must decrease. Veterans in C Beaux Limmer and LG Brady Latham have to show the way. A healthy OT Devon Manuel would be a nice bonus. RG Josh Braun, LT Andrew Chamblee and RT Patrick Kutas have started 3 games.
Position coach Brad Davis oversees a huge group that averages 6-6, 320. Stud tackles in sophomores Will Campbell, an offensive captain, and Emery Jones were freshman All-Americans last year. C Charles Turner is a 6-4, 300-pounder with 15 career starts. OGs Garrett Dellinger (6-5, 325) and Miles Frazier (6-6, 335) are super sized. Lance Heard, DJ Chester and Bo Bordelon are key backups.
Tackle Taurean Carter (11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 hurry) and end Landon Jackson (10, 6, 2) have reached double-figure tackles. Cam Ball (7), Keivie Rose (6, 2, 1.5), Trajan Jeffcoat (5, 4, 1.5), Eric Gregory (5, 0.5 TFL, 2 hurries), John Morgan III (4, 2 sacks, 1 FF), Jashaud Stewart (4, 1 TFL, 2 hurries), Anthony Booker (3, 1.5 TFL), Zach Williams (2) and Nico Davillier (2) in the mix.
DT Maason Smith (3, 1 TFL) returned from ankle surgery to pair with Missouri transfer Mekhi Wingo (10, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 hurry) for one of the best combos in the FBS. The top ‘Jack’ ends are Ovie Oghoufo (5, 1 PBU), who was limited last week and Bradyn Swinson (9, 1 TFL, 1 hurry). LE Sai’vion Jones (5, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 4 hurries) and DT Jacobian Guillory (6) are contributors.
Chris Paul (17, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack) has had three strong halves since coming off a targeting suspension to climb to second on the team in tackles behind Jaheim Thomas (30, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 hurry) who had a key sack last week. Antonio Grier (3, 1 INT, 1 TD) drew a suspect roughing call vs. BYU. Jordan Crook (3) and Brad Spence (6, 1 INT, 1 TD) are fourth and fifth.
Harold Perkins (10, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 3 PBUs, 2 hurries) ravaged the Hogs for 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles last year as an edge spy, but he’s not been as involved as a rusher yet this season. Greg Penn III (11, 0.5, 1 INT) and Omar Speights (9) are the regular starters. True freshman Whit Weeks (12, 1 hurry) started for injured Speights last week and paired with his brother West Weeks (8).
The Hogs’ coverage skills will get their sternest test yet. Jaheim Singletary (7, 0.5 TFL, 2 PBU), Jaylon Braxton (5, 2 PBU), Lorando Johnson (4, 1 TFL, 1 PBU), Dwight McGlothern (4, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF) and Kee’yon Stewart (2) have all rotated at CB. Jayden Johnson (15, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF). Al Walcott (8, 1 PBU) and Hudson Clark (5, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR) are the top safeties.
Not a super deep unit without senior nickel Greg Brooks Jr. (8, 2 PBU), who is out after a tumor removal from his brain. The Tigers will probably employ more Andre Sam (14, 1 PBU) to pair with safeties Major Burns (15, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 hurry) and Sage Ryan (6, 1 TFL). Top corners have been team tackler leader Zy Alexander (16, 2 PBU) and Denver Harris (1).
Isaiah Sategna (88-yard punt return TD, 25.7 average) got a much-anticipated breakaway score. Sategna averages 22.8 per kickoff return. P Max Fletcher (44.1) has a high average despite a 10-yard shank and the Hogs are No. 14 in net punting (43.3). Devin Bale is also expected to punt today. Cam Little is 1 of 2 on FGAs, making from 26 yards and missing from 49, and has 12 touchbacks on 16 kickoffs (75%).
Placekicker Damian Ramos is 3 for 3 on FGAs of 36, 22 and 41 yards and 17 of 17 on PATs. P Jay Bramblett (42.4 avg.) has 2 of 5 punts inside the 20 and has permitted no return yards. The Tigers rank No. 23 in the FBS in net punting (42.4). Kaleb Jackson is averaging 24 yards on 3 kickoff returns. Kickoff man Nathan Dilbert is 9 for 22 on touchbacks and opponents average 19.5 yards per KOR.
The Razorbacks have never won in back-to-back appearances in Baton Rouge, so they have a rare chance here. So many factors stack against them: first road game, dinged-up hands for O-linemen leading to protection issues, probably no Raheim Sanders. If bouncing back and showing improvement are important, they should put up a stronger, more disciplined battle than last week vs. BYU.
LSU gets a night game for its home conference opener and the Tigers are riding high after blitzing Mississippi State on the road in their SEC opener last Saturday. Coach Brian Kelly guided a nice rebound from a season-opening loss to Florida State last year to the SEC West co-championship and things are pointed up again with a high-powered offense and a fast, agile defense.
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