A look at the Arkansas offense and what the Rebels’ defense can expect
OXFORD, Miss. — The Arkansas Razorbacks are headed to Oxford this weekend to face off against an Ole Miss team that is coming off of an impressive 55-49 win over LSU. Despite Arkansas entering the game with a 2-3 record this season, two of their losses came against LSU and Texas A&M, both talented SEC opponents.
Here’s a look at the Razorbacks’ offense and what to watch this weekend.
Quarterback KJ Jefferson
The first name that should come to mind for the Hogs’ offense is KJ Jefferson, the veteran quarterback. KJ has thrown for 1,050 yards on the season and rushed for 125 yards. He has tallied 14 more rushing attempts than Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart who is heavily used in the Rebels’ run game. Jefferson is likely to be treated similarly to Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe by using Rebel linebackers Suntarine Perkins or Ladarius Tennison as a spy consistently throughout the game.
Running back Rocket Sanders returns
In addition to Jefferson’s ability to run, the Razorbacks have found several reliable running backs who have proven their ability to get the job done after Arkansas’ starting running back Rocket Sanders suffered a knee injury early this season.
Sanders was finally able to return last Saturday against Texas A&M, but during his time out of the lineup, it has been junior AJ Green and sophomore Rashad Dubinion carrying the production.
Even though Sanders is still recovering, he will more than likely earn a majority of the carries this Saturday and hopefully the Rebs are prepared. Sanders scored three touchdowns and ran for 232 yards last year in the Razorbacks’ win over Ole Miss, so a plan will need to be put in place to slow the explosive junior.
Receivers and tight ends
In the air, Arkansas’ primary target has been senior Andrew Armstrong who only has one game without at least a 20-yard reception. Armstrong is averaging 13 yards per catch and has scored four touchdowns thus far.
It is important to note that the Razorbacks’ second-leading receiver, true freshman tight end Luke Hasz, suffered a broken clavicle last week against Texas A&M and will not be on the field against Ole Miss. Earlier this week, Coach Pittman explained he’s opening up the tight end competition in practice. North Texas transfer Var’keyes Gumms played TE against Texas A&M, but Ty Washington will get a shot to be the pass-catching tight end this week. It’ll also be a battle between Nathan Bax and Francis Sherman at the blocking tight end spot. Pittman didn’t rule out running back Dominique Johnson getting a look at the position, either.
Offensive line changes for Arkansas
After his offensive line allowed Jefferson to be sacked 7 times against Texas A&M and with just 42 total rushing yards, and giving up 15 tackles for loss, Coach Pittman has made some moves on his offensive line this week ahead of the game against the Rebs.
He has shifted right tackle Patrick Kutas to the starting center position in practice this week and there could be some other moves as well. In fact, the only lineman Pittman indicated wouldn’t move at all is left tackle Devon Manuel.
What to watch
One stat to keep an eye out for the Rebel secondary is that Arkansas has thrown four interceptions this season — and they enjoy taking their shots downfield. After the Rebels struggled to defend the deep ball against Alabama and LSU, Arkansas is almost guaranteed to try and hit on several of them.
Also, similar to Ole Miss and head coach Lane Kiffin, head coach Sam Pittman and his Razorbacks also have no problem going for it on fourth down and have found success five out of eight times this season.
The Ole Miss defensive line could have a big game Saturday. Arkansas has allowed 18 sacks this season, which is six more than LSU. Pay attention to see which Rebel finishes with the most sacks — my pick is Suntarine Perkins. If there was ever an opportunity for a weekend of sacks, fumbles, and interceptions, this is the one!
Tune in at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network to see how Arkansas responds to the hostile environment of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.