Behind Enemy Lines: The Traveler’s Antonio Tinajero previews Arkansas matchup

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Desk Editor

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Q: The Chad Morris era has gotten off to a bumpy start (Arkansas is 1-4), but Nick Saban said that he’s seen the Razorbacks improve each week. Do you concur with that viewpoint? And if so, how?

A: The beginning of the season couldn’t have been worse for Arkansas. Losing to Colorado State and North Texas was nightmare fuel for Razorback fans, but ever since the game against Auburn we saw just how much fight this new defense has in them. Despite every game ending in a loss since the first game, the Hogs’ new defensive coordinator John Chavis has sparked something in this defense that has made it Top-5 in all SEC defensive categories: total, passing and rushing. So, yes the Hogs have improved—on the defensive end. Last week against Texas A&M, Arkansas’ offense went to the halftime break minus three in total offense. It stayed that way until junior quarterback Ty Storey finally got the offense up and running in the third quarter. The offense and special teams need to catch up with the defense or every game will continue to go South for Morris and company.

Q: What changes has Morris made to the program?

A: Morris came into Arkansas and hit the ground running, shaking a lot of things up from the past coaching staff. All but two coaches, the tight ends coach and one of the defensive line coaches left the program. Arkansas even shook things up in the strength and conditioning department. Apart from that, Morris and Chavis brought the new 4-3 base defense to Fayetteville and, on the offensive end, Morris brought his famous ‘hurry-up’ style of play. With all these changes, it does make sense that the Hogs have been struggling. The old players haven’t exactly executed all the new coaching staffs’ wishes to perfection, but that’s to be expected. It’s the first year. We’ll all have to wait a couple of years before we see if hindsight will be kind to all this turnover.

Q: Do Arkansas’ struggles on special teams worry you, especially when facing a dangerous punt returner like Jaylen Waddle?

A: In short: yes. Special teams severely struggled against Auburn and Texas A&M, and you could say the games would have been much closer without their poor play. It all comes down to depth and Arkansas doesn’t have it. The Hogs’ special teams have many walk-ons on the roster, including our kicker, Connor Limpert, who was just put on a full scholarship a few days before the season opener. Not to mention Arkansas has no real special teams coaches. Tanner Burns is listed as a “quality control coach that deals with special teams”. Not ideal for a team that has had so much noticeable trouble in that area.

Q: What do you anticipate the atmosphere for the game being like, since it is an 11 a.m. kickoff and Arkansas has struggled recently?

A: I’ve been asked about this a lot. Some people think it will be a poor showing, but at the end of the day: It’s football. It’s Arkansas and Alabama. No matter what record the Hogs have, Razorback fans will most definitely show up to watch the No. 1 team in country, and cheer as their slightly-improved Hogs try to topple it. Even though in the back of their mind another Alabama blowout is more than likely, expect a good attendance number, at least for the first half.

Q: Arkansas has had trouble settling on a quarterback, but it appears Ty Storey may have secured the starting job. How do you think Storey will fare against Alabama’s strong pass rush and defensive backs?

A: Storey will do as good as his offensive line protects him, which as of late hasn’t been much. There’s a noticeable lack of effort in the O-line and that does not bode well for Storey, especially when facing an Alabama team that leads the SEC (and fifth nationally) in sacks per game.

Q: What do you expect Arkansas’ game plan to be to slow down Alabama’s offense?

A: Arkansas’ linebackers have to elevate their game. Not saying they’ve been bad, on the contrary, they’ve been some of the best players on the field. Elevating their game would take the defense to the next level. Dre Greenlaw and De’Jon Harris have been spectacular. The duo had 28 tackles between them against A&M alone. Harris leads the league in tackles with 53 tackles, while Greenlaw [is] ninth despite missing two games with injury. Look for these two to be key against Alabama, and maybe even have a career game if they’re in the right mindset.

Q: What would need to happen for Arkansas to pull off the upset?

A: It will be anything short of a miracle for Arkansas to beat Alabama. Even if the defense plays a perfect game, the offense would have to significantly improve from last week, and special teams cannot allow a single mistake. Too many factors have to go right for a Hog team that is in the midst of what could end up being one if its worst seasons of all time.

Q: What is your score prediction, and how did you arrive at it?

A: Alabama 49, Arkansas 17. Two touchdowns and a field goal are a stretch for this Hog team, so that’s saying something. Alabama’s just too powerful in all positions for the Hogs to have a chance. I want to say the Hogs will continue to improve as they’ve had each week, but Alabama is another monster completely. It’s going to be business as usual for the Tide, and Arkansas is going to have to wait until Ole Miss to even think about winning.