The buzz is in the air around Fayetteville and throughout the state of Arkansas. Football hath returned to the Natural State and the Hogs are smelling really good.
There are going to be several things the Razorbacks need to do on Saturday to guarantee a win versus the Rice Owls. The first one is winning football in the trenches.
Razorback head hog, Sam Pittman is an O-line coach and played on the defensive line during his college days at Pittsburg State. If anyone knows the keys to winning football games in the trenches it is Pittman. The Hogs went out and brought in three defensive line transfers in Markell Utsey, Tre Williams and John Ridgeway. All three were included in the two deep depth chart that came out on Monday. These three are expected to play and be big contributors this season. Stopping the run has been a huge focus for this position group this offseason and finding these three will surely help shore up the issues there.
Last season, the Owls finished 40th in run defense last season. They are no SEC defensive line but do return their three best players from a season ago in Trey Schuman, Elijah Garcia and Ikenna Enechukwu.
The second key to Arkansas winning is good quarterback play. That is one of the keys I’m not too worried about but it does absolutely need to happen. Pittman has shared how pleased he was with his top two quarterbacks accuracy during scrimmages. There was some concern during camp hearing that all of them (KJ Jefferson and Malik Hornsby) really struggled in practice to be accurate. However, those issues have been put to rest as they are very good during scrimmages. Live action is sometimes helpful to quarterbacks, especially the mobile ones, who like to extend plays with their feet. Jefferson is expected to have a good game on Saturday in preparation for the biggest start of his young career versus Texas next Saturday.
Finally, the biggest key to victory on Saturday is can Arkansas have guys step up for injured starters? What we know is that Treylon Burks is “day-to-day”, Jalen Catalon has been in a green jersey, Ridgeway may miss the game and that Myles Slusher is unlikely.
Arkansas saw guys step up last season like De’Vion Warren when Burks went down with an injury. Arkansas has more depth at receiver than they’ve had previously so the Hogs should be fine there.
Catalon missing in action won’t hurt the Hogs too bad versus Rice but he will certainly be needed versus Texas. If Slusher, who is the third team safety, can’t go that would leave Jayden Johnson sliding over to play backup to Simeon Blair, the former walk-on out of Pine Bluff.
The Razorbacks open up their 2021 football season with the Rice Owls on Saturday. The game starts at 1:00 and will be broadcast on ESPN+.