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Previewing Alabama vs. Arkansas: The Razorbacks Offense

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Arkansas has managed to have one of the most balanced offenses in college football. Can Alabama slow them down?

NCAA Football: Southwest Classic-Arkansas vs Texas A&M Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback

Arkansas v Texas A&M Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Starters:

08 Austin Allen (Jr.) - When Brandon Allen graduated following his 3,500 yard, 30 touchdown season in 2015, very few people thought that his little brother Austin would be able to step up without the offense missing a beat. In some ways, the offense is even better with the younger Allen under center. Over the course of his last four games, he has thrown for 1,041 yards (260.3 yards per game) with 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He is one of the most efficient passers in the SEC, and he has allowed Arkansas to field a balanced attack on offense.

2016 Season Stats: 94/139 (67.6%), 1,232 pass yards, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions

Running Back

NCAA Football: Alcorn State at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

22 Rawleigh Williams III (So.) - Similar to the quarterback position, many analysts believed that losing Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams to the NFL would be detrimental to the Razorbacks offense. Well, to put it simply, they were wrong. The Arkansas run game hasn’t missed a beat either, and Williams III is the main reason for that. He has averaged 111.8 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game. At 5’10” 223, the former three-star from Dallas, Texas, is a sturdy running back who displays impressive power and balance.

2016 Season Stats: 101 carries, 559 rushing yards, four touchdowns

32 Hayden Johnson (Fr.) - Johnson is a former three-star strong-side defensive end/tight end prospect who made the move to fullback once he got to Arkansas. The true freshman has been really impressive this season, but he was arrested for an alcohol related incident this past week. The 6’3” 248 pound fullback from Columbia, Missouri will not start versus Alabama due to the incident, but expect him to play and try to create holes for the Arkansas running backs.

2016 Season Stats: One reception, 18 receiving yards

Names to Know:

21 Devwah Whaley (Fr.) - Whaley is the true freshman who many projected to come in and be the starter from day one. The former four-star isn’t the workhorse -- or even the starter, for that matter -- but he has been impressive. He finished last week with nine carries for 135 yards. Granted, that was against Alcorn State, but he still showed solid burst on a 75-yard touchdown. At 5’11” 216, Whaley looks like he has the potential to become a dangerous second option for the Arkansas running game.

2016 Season Stats: 33 carries, 220 rushing yards, one touchdown

24 Kody Walker (Sr.) - The first thing that stands out about Walker is his size. At 6’2” 240, he is built more like a fullback than a running back. He has a thick lower body that gives him a lot of power in short yardage situations. Whaley has probably overtaken him as the number two option, but still expect to see Walker some on Saturday.

2016 Season Stats: 27 carries, 95 rushing yards, one touchdown

Wide Receiver

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

04 Keon Hatcher (RS Sr.) - After starting the 2015 season off with a bang, Hatcher sustained a foot-injury that ended his season. He returned this season and hasn’t missed a beat when he has been on the field. With that said, the 6’2” 207 pound receiver did miss the Alcorn State game last week with a hamstring injury, and his status for Saturday’s game is in jeopardy. If he can’t go, expect Allen to try to get the ball to Cornelius, Morgan and the tight end Sprinkle.

2016 Season Stats: 14 receptions, 281 receiving yards, three touchdowns

80 Drew Morgan (Sr.) - After hauling in 63 catches with 10 touchdowns last year, Morgan has once again become a go-to receiver for an Arkansas quarterback with the last name Allen. He currently has more than twice the amount of receptions (28) than any other receiver on the roster. After only being a two-star prospect coming out of high school, with his only D1 offer being from Arkansas, the 6’0” 193 pound receiver from Greenwood, Arkansas has developed into a receiver that can win on short to intermediate routes.

2016 Season Stats: 28 receptions, 301 receiving yards, one touchdown

Names to Know:

01 Jared Cornelius (Jr.) - After seeing limited targets as a sophomore in 2015, Cornelius has seen an uptick in usage this season. Some of that can be attributed to Keon Hatcher’s injury, but the former three-star prospect from Shreveport, Louisiana has proven that he is a reliable receiver and can be counted on to step up when needed. Following back-to-back games of more than 100 yards, Cornelius should be looked at as a legitimate threat for opposing defenses.

2016 Season Stats: 14 receptions, 262 receiving yards, four touchdowns

81 Cody Hollister (Sr.) - Hollister hasn’t seen much playing time up to this point, but he is a rotational receiver who has already exceeded his season totals of receptions (4) and yardage (65) from last season. Due to the design of Arkansas’s offense, expect to see Hollister in a limited role, if any, on Saturday.

2016 Season Stats: Six receptions, 77 receiving yards

Tight End

Texas State v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Starters:

83 Jeremy Sprinkle (Sr.) - Sprinkle is considered one of the best tight end prospects in the country, but before this year, he had to live in the shadow of San Diego Chargers’ second-round pick Hunter Henry. Sprinkle still managed to lead the SEC in touchdown receptions from the tight end position despite being second on the depth chart. Just five games into this season, he is well on his way to beating his current highs in receptions (27), receiving yardage (389) and of course, touchdowns (6). Alabama will look to more effectively contain Sprinkle after failing against Evan Engram -- who put up nine catches, 138 receiving yards and one touchdown back on September 17th. Sprinkle does feature a different skill set than Engram, however.

2016 Season Stats: 15 receptions, 157 receiving yards, three touchdowns

Offensive Line

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Starters:

70 Dan Skipper (Sr.) - At 6’10”, Skipper is the tallest offensive lineman in the country. As a result of that height, he does struggle with knee bend at times and naturally, he has trouble in the leverage game against more powerful defensive linemen. Don’t be surprised if Skipper gives up a sack to Tim Williams -- who looked like a man possessed last week. Another area where Skipper might make an impact is on extra points and field goals. With his size and reported vertical jump (30 inches), the former-three star has seven career field goal blocks including two this season. That’s an important element to keep an eye on Saturday.

2016 Season Stats: Five starts

51 Hjalte Froholdt (So.) - Froholdt is a former four-star defensive end who was moved to the offensive line back in the spring.. When watching him on tape, you can tell that he is still raw as an offensive lineman, and as a result, he is a player that can be exploited by Alabama’s defensive line -- who are known for using excellent technique. The 6’4” 318 pound guard, who originally hails from Denmark, is a guy who could eventually become an effective player for Arkansas. That time is just not right now.

2016 Season Stats: Five starts

72 Frank Ragnow (Jr.) - On a very sad note, Ragnow’s father suddenly passed away earlier this week and his playing status for Saturday is unknown at this time. I, for one, would like to send my thoughts and prayers to both Frank and his family. Speaking in terms of football, Ragnow is Arkansas’s most experienced offensive lineman outside of Dan Skipper. He has graded out very well this year, and Arkansas could really use him if they want to establish some sort of run game against Alabama’s defense.

2016 Season Stats: Five starts (four starts at center and one at right guard)

50 Jake Raulerson (Jr.) - Raulerson is a transfer from Texas that has come in and started four games at right guard for the Razorbacks. At 6’4” 295, the junior from Celina, Texas was a welcomed addition after losing Sebastian Tretola and Denver Kirkland to the NFL. Raulerson is a former four-star prospect according the 247-Sports.

2016 Season Stats: Four starts

60 Brian Wallace (RS So.) - Despite being a former four-star prospect with a lot of talent, Wallace wasn’t the starting right tackle coming out of fall camp. The job was originally Colton Jackson’s, but he struggled and was replaced after three games. Wallace finally got his first career start against Texas A&M two weeks ago, and the former four-star prospect did a decent job considering he was going against two future NFL stars in Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. Wallace has excellent size at 6’6” 335 pounds.

2016 Season Stats: Two starts

How Will Arkansas’s Offense Attack Alabama’s Defense?

Alabama’s offense is going to need to have a good day in order to throw the Razorbacks off of their game plan. Allen is an effective quarterback, but I expect them to come out and try use to their three powers backs to wear down Alabama’s defense and shorten the game as much as possible.

If Arkansas is able to establish any sort of run game, it could mean trouble for an Alabama defensive line that is talented but doesn’t have a lot of experienced depth. Alabama’s offense is going to need to put up points in order to create a game of “catch-up” for Arkansas and force them to abandon their traditional style and tempo on offense. The good news is that no team has been able to establish any sort of consistent run game against Alabama’s defense, but the bad news is that Arkansas will be Alabama’s first true test in that area.

Even though I expect Arkansas to try to wear down Alabama’s defensive front, that doesn’t mean that Alabama shouldn’t respect the pass. Arkansas is the only team in the SEC that that has two receivers -- Cornelius and Hatcher -- that are ranked among the league’s top 10 in receiving yards per game, and they also have one of the best tight ends in the country. That cannot be discounted by the Tide’s defense. Arkansas is going to want to create as much balance on offense as possible to keep Alabama guessing.