1. Arkansas O-Line Dirty?
Florida’s Damien Jacobs expects a physical matchup against Arkansas’ offensive front Saturday night.
But the defensive tackle also said Tuesday the Razorbacks don’t always play fair.
“They’re real physical,” Jacobs told the Orlando Sentinel. “I think they’re a little chippy. They’re a little dirty. So we’re going to have to be ready for it all this week.”
Jacobs went on to single out Arkansas center Travis Swanson.
“I just see, from film, a lot of stuff after the play, especially with the center, No. 64,” Jacobs said. “He’s a good athlete after the play. He makes you want to do something to him. We’re gonna have to try to keep our temper and keep cool on that.”
Swanson — who is a fourth-year starter and team captain — has been a key to Arkansas’ ground game success this season. The senior was not among the players requested for post-practice interviews, but offensive line coach Sam Pittman said he didn’t “want to get into all that” when asked about Jacobs’ thoughts Tuesday night.
“I just know that they’ve got a great team,” Pittman said. “The young man that said those comments is a great player, so I’m sure he can back it up. We’re just going to try to go out there and do the best we can. Hopefully we can block them. Do the best we can. They’ve got a great front and certainly we know that.”
The Razorbacks will need a solid performance from its line against 18th-ranked Florida, which has been guided by a dominant defense this season.
The Gators lead the SEC in every major statistical category — total defense (202.5 yards), scoring defense (12.8 points), passing defense (149 yards) and rushing defense (53.5 yards). The Razorbacks are averaging 237 rushing yards a game, while Florida has limited opponents to 214 total through four games.
Freshman guard Denver Kirkland believes the Razorbacks will be ready for the challenge. He also said any thought Arkansas plays dirty is incorrect.
“That’s just his opinion,” Kirkland said of Jacobs’ comments. “I can’t control his opinion. I feel like we play Arkansas football and that’s it.”
2. Williams’ Toughness Shows
Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams didn’t eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark in the 45-33 loss to Texas A&M last Saturday. But running backs coach Joel Thomas was impressed by the sophomore’s overall performance against the Aggies.
Williams rushed for 53 yards on 10 carries, caught 4 passes for 67 more yards and scored two touchdowns. His second touchdown catch — in which Williams bounced off defenders on his way to the end zone for a 19-yard score in the third quarter — was elected as one of ESPN’s top plays late Saturday night.
“I saw it at 1:30 and texted him that I’m proud of how you’re competing and you’re offering us different ways to help our team whether it’s running, catching, blocking,” Thomas said. “He’s playing pretty complete right now.”
Williams is second on the team in rushing (471 yards) and is fifth in receiving (72) through four games. He also leads the Razorbacks with five touchdowns.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Williams’ physical play was critical to the offense’s success against the Aggies. He carried defenders for extra yards or broke tackles nearly every time he touched the ball last Saturday night.
“Jonathan is just playing hard man,” Chaney said. “He was really driven. That’s who he is. There haven’t been many games that he hasn’t done that. He’s strong. He’s 220-something pounds. He’s strong. He’s determined. He’s a solid football player.
“It doesn’t shock me when he does those things. But he made a few of them (last Saturday) that just kept pushing the pile. He played his hind end off.”
Thomas said he watched replay of Williams’ second touchdown catch once again Sunday and got “cold chills.”
“That’s why you coach college football, the effort and enthusiasm,” Thomas said. “That’s what I want our guys to be known as, that kind of effort and passion.”
3. Allen Feels Good
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said his shoulder is “pretty much back to full strength” after returning from his one-game absence against Texas A&M.
“It’s a lot better,” Allen said. “It’s not giving me too many problems at all.”
The sophomore didn’t take many blows to his sore shoulder against Texas A&M because of his offensive line’s performance. The Razorbacks didn’t allow a sack.
“Our offensive line did a great job of protecting me up and getting me through the game without taking many shots. There might have been a couple of little hits here and there, but nothing major at all.”
Chaney said the quarterback is “tender,” but practiced Tuesday as the Razorbacks prepare for Saturday’s trip to The Swamp.
“I’m optimistic he’ll be there playing quarterback for us,” Chaney said.
4. Collins Not Available
Leading rusher Alex Collins is returning to his home state to play for the first time Saturday. But it appears the Miami native — whose signing day tug-of-war with his mother between staying in state to play at Miami or leaving for Arkansas earned national headlines — won’t be talking to the media about his return.
Arkansas said Collins was unavailable for interviews Tuesday because of what the Razorbacks called a “schedule conflict.” Arkansas’ offensive players are only available on Tuesday, so Collins isn’t likely to speak to the media this week.
So Thomas was asked Tuesday if Collins was eager to return to Florida. Thomas said he didn’t sense anything different in the running back’s preparation.
“I mean, he’s going down there for business as usual,” Thomas said.