Alabama

Players to watch: Arkansas

October 11, 2017

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By outreach@cw.ua.edu (James Ogletree)

Alabama

RB Damien Harris

The Arkansas defense has defended the run 165 times this season in five games, the least of any team in the SEC. The Crimson Tide offense has run the ball 281 times this year, the ninth most in the FBS. So, what I am getting at here, is that the Arkansas defense better be ready to stop the run, because the Alabama run game, led by Harris, is coming. Harris has run for 342 yards and has a staggering 10.4 yards per attempt in the last three games, and he has bolstered himself as the lead back in this deep running back group. The big-play running back is fifth in the SEC in rushing, and is going up against a defense that he went wild against last season, when he ran for 122 yards and had 60 yards receiving.

WR Robert Foster

Last weekend against Texas A&M, Foster had a night to forget. A couple of drops and a fumble, the Crimson Tide’s first turnover of the season, all on the same drive had Foster shaken up. But Saban provided nothing but positive reinforcement to the senior wide receiver, which will only help him as the season goes along. The Razorbacks have done a good job in pass coverage this year, as they are giving up only 200 yards a game through the air, but look for Jalen Hurts to try and air it out to Foster to open up the down field passing game, and give Foster some confidence going forward.

CB Anthony Averett

Averett is tasked with covering the Crimson Tide’s opponents’ best wide receivers every single week, and against Arkansas he will assigned to blanket the SEC’s best newcomer, David Nance. After a few of his buddies in the secondary collected interceptions in the last two games, Averett is itching to join the fun, and should get a lot of opportunity to do so against this Razorback offense. Coming into the season, Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was known to be very conservative with the football, but this season he has thrown four picks, three in his last three games, and is completing only 56 percent of his passes. Spearheaded by Averett, this Crimson Tide secondary is lethal and will be closing down any passing windows Saturday night.

DE Isaiah Buggs

Speaking of newcomers, Buggs has been certainly one of the best and most productive, particularly last week against Texas A&M. The transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College made the most of his opportunity against the Aggies and picked up a season high 10 tackles. The Hogs love to run the football, and have more than one running back who can get the job done. Buggs will have to match the physicality of this Arkansas front, that is leading running backs to 4.5 yards a carry this season. Buggs has improved every single game he has played in this season, and is looking to break out against the Razorbacks.

Arkansas

QB Austin Allen

The Razorbacks’ senior quarterback left last week’s game against South Carolina with a shoulder injury that forced him to alter his throwing technique to reduce the pain. There was speculation early in the week that he could miss Saturday’s game, but Allen said Tuesday he believes he will be ready to go. He was one of the SEC’s top passers last year in his first year as the starter, leading the conference in passing yards and yards per attempt. He also threw for 400 yards against the Crimson Tide, the sixth-most Alabama has given up out of 144 games in the Saban era. This year, though, his completion percentage has declined from 61.1 to 56.4 and he has fallen from first to 11th in the conference in yards per attempt. Much of that regression can be attributed to a poor offensive line and drops by his receivers, and his defense isn’t much help either, as it has given up 91 points in its last two games against Power 5 opponents.

C Frank Ragnow

Ragnow is as steady as they come in college football. The senior has started 31 consecutive games for the Razorbacks, mostly at center but a few at right guard, and is almost universally considered the best center in college football. He is easily the most reliable player on a shaky offensive line that gave up six sacks to Alabama last year and has allowed 10 in three games against Power 5 opponents this year. While in high school, Ragnow and his father met Alabama head coach Nick Saban on a recruiting trip to Alabama. More than three years later, Ragnow and Saban shared a sentimental moment after last year’s game. Ragnow’s father had died of a heart attack a week prior, and Saban, whose own father had suffered a heart attack while Saban was in college, sought him out and offered his condolences.

WR Jonathan Nance

Nance graduated high school early and enrolled early at Southern Mississippi, but coaches wanted him to play cornerback instead of his preferred wide receiver position. Dissatisfied with his role, he made the bold decision to transfer to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College — where he was a teammate of Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs — potentially setting back his career in order to play wide receiver. Once there, he began to catch the attention of FBS coaches, receiving scholarship offers from Troy and Colorado State; not long after, Arkansas became the first Power 5 team to extend him an offer. Now, Nance has burst onto the scene in his junior year. He leads the team with 374 receiving yards, ranking fifth in the SEC. Of the Razorbacks’ 11 receiving touchdowns, Nance owns five, which is tied for the most in the SEC.

RB David Williams

Having graduated from South Carolina last December, Williams got a fresh start by transferring to Fayetteville for his senior season. He is listed as a co-starter with Devwah Whaley, but the Razorbacks use a committee approach that splits the workload evenly among Williams …read more

Source:: The Crimson White Sports

      

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