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Arkansas-Cincinnati position analysis

by Tom Murphy | September 3, 2022 at 2:04 a.m.
An Arkansas football helmet is shown on a trunk on Friday, Nov. 26 2021, during the second half of play at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

Quarterbacks

CINCINNATI Coach Luke Fickell has not named a starter between senior Ben Bryant and sophomore Evan Prater, but top speculation has Bryant in that role. Bryant was 279-of-408 passing for 3,121 yards, 14 TDs and 7 INTs as Eastern Michigan's starter in 2021. Prater went 5 for 11 for 38 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT as Desmond Ridder's backup last year. He also ran for 105 yards and 2 TDs with a robust 8.8 ypc.

ARKANSAS KJ Jefferson racked up these numbers last season: 198 of 294 (67.3%) for 2,676 yards, with 21 TDs, 4 INTs, and 146 carries for 664 yards and 6 TDs. His pass efficiency of 164.66 ranked 10th in the FBS. He threw 171 consecutive passes from Week 6 at Ole Miss into the Outback Bowl without an INT, the second-longest streak in UA history. Malik Hornsby and Cade Fortin are the top backups.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas

Running backs

CINCINNATI The Bearcats don't have a a clear favorite to replace ultra-productive Jerome Ford (214, 1,319 yards, 19 TDs), but they can go four deep like the Razorbacks. RS freshman Myles Montgomery was earning first-team reps at the end of camp, with sophomore LSU transfer Corey Kiner, senior Ryan Montgomery (46-312, 3 TDs, 6.8 ypc) and senior Charles McClelland (37-190, 1, 5.1), who has had two torn ACLs, all in the mix.

ARKANSAS Raheim Sanders appears set to take over the starter's role after rushing for 578 yards, 5 TDs and 5.1 ypc last season. Dominique Johnson (97-575, 7, 5.9), who wrested the starting job from Trelon Smith last year, is recovering from knee surgery and not likely to be ready. AJ Green (47-227, 1, 4.8) and freshman Rashod Dubinion are next on the depth chart and should contribute.

ADVANTAGE None

Receivers/tight ends

CINCINNATI Tre Tucker (34-426, 2 TDs), a 5-9 offensive captain, appears set to take over as lead pass catcher from Alec Pierce (52-884, 7), though transfer Nick Mardner (46-913, 5 at Hawaii in 2021), a 6-6 senior, should factor in. Tyler Scott (30-520, 5) is back for a unit that had 12 players catch TDs. Scott and 6-2 junior Jadon Thompson (14-208) are projected starters. TEs Josh Whyle (26-332, 6) and Leonard Taylor (28-268, 4) are dangerous.

ARKANSAS Projected as a question mark after the loss of Treylon Burks, this unit blossomed in camp behind Warren Thompson (19-304, 2 TDs), Ketron Jackson Jr. (5-97, 1) and transfers Jadon Haselwood (39-399, 6 at Oklahoma) and Matt Landers (20-514, 5 at Toledo). Jaedon Wilson, Bryce Stephens and others factor in, while Trey Knox (20-141, 1) looks to be a prime TE target, with Nathan Bax and Hudson Henry also in the mix.

ADVANTAGE Cincinnati

Offensive line

CINCINNATI The Bearcats are one of eight FBS schools to bring back all five starters. The group of, from LT to RT, James Tunstall, Jeremy Cooper, Jake Renfro, Dylan O'Quinn and Lorenz Metz have combined to make 94 starts in 138 games. However, Metz is listed as backup RG with 6-5, 310-pound Joe Huber penciled in at RT. Tunstall is the biggest at 6-5, 320, and the projected starting unit averages 6-4, 310.

ARKANSAS The Razorbacks return four starters in LG Brady Latham, C Ricky Stromberg, RG Beaux Limmer and RT Dalton Wagner. Senior Luke Jones has won the starting LT spot, while Ty'Kieast Crawford is the sixth man, particularly on the right. Limmer has backed up Stromberg at C. Underclassmen Andrew Chamblee, Jalen St. John, Patrick Kutas and E'Marion Harris are listed as top depth. The starters average 6-5, 316 pounds.

ADVANTAGE None

DEFENSE

Line

CINCINNATI A unit that lost ace Curtis Brooks will be led by sixth-year senior DE Jabari Taylor (29 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and senior DE Malik Vann (33, 8.5, 3.5, 3 PBUs). Projected NT starter Jowon Briggs (43, 4, 3) is a 6-1, 313-pounder who can squat 800 pounds and will present a beefy test for the UA interior. Eric Phillips (5, 1 hurry), 6-6, 270-pound Noah Potter and 6-2, 320-pound Dontay Corleone are top reserves.

ARKANSAS The Razorbacks bring back veterans up front with modest statistics in DEs Zach Williams (23, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and Jashaud Stewart (7, 1 hurry), combo DL Eric Gregory (27, 4, 1, 3 hurries) and DT Isaiah Nichols (21, 3.5, 1.5). It looks like the top depth will come from newcomers or untested players all around: DEs Jordan Domineck and Landon Jackson and DTs Terry Hampton and Cam Ball. Dorian Gerald is an X-factor.

ADVANTAGE Cincinnati

Linebackers

CINCINNATI Wilson Huber (15 tackles, 4 TFLs, 3 sacks) is a 6-4, 250-pound banger in the middle for the Bearcats. Returning "Dollar," a hybrid position, is Deshawn Pace (94, 9.5 4 INT), who is backed by Ty Van Fossen (70, 7, 1, 4 hurries). Pace is joined by his transfer brother Ivan Pace (125, 13, 4 at Miami, Ohio), who is in the rotation at WLB along with Jaheim Thomas (23, 0.5 sacks, 1 hurry).

ARKANSAS Fifth-year senior Bumper Pool (125, 7.5 TFLs, 2 PBUs, 2 hurries) will begin the season 59 tackles shy of Tony Bua's school-record 408 stops. Drew Sanders (24, 2.5 TFLs, 1 sack at Alabama) is expected to be a pass rushing force. The Razorbacks have used some 3-3 fronts with RS freshman Chris Paul (1) joining Pool and Sanders. Top depth comes from Jackson Woodard (7) and freshman Jordan Crook.

ADVANTAGE None

Defensive backs

CINCINNATI Field corner Arquon Bush (42, 2.5 TFLs, 3 INTs) and boundary corner Ja'quan Sheppard (3) face the task of replacing ace NFL Draft picks Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant (the Jim Thorpe Award winner). Bush played nickel the past couple of years. Field safety Ja'von Hicks (55, 2 TFLs, 2 INTs) is a 6-2, 210-pound hitter in the class of recent draft picks. Bryon Threats (8, 1 PBU) is listed as starting boundary safety.

ARKANSAS Can CBs Hudson Clark (22, 1 TFL), LaDarrius Bishop (15, 3 PBUs), Dwight McGlothern (32, 6 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 FF at LSU) and Malik Chavis (14, 1 INT) hold up in man? Safety Jalen Catalon (46, 2 INTs) is looking to recapture his 2020 form. Catalon, Simeon Blair (38, 1 sack) and Myles Slusher (50, 2 INTs, 4 PBUs) have experience. Jayden Johnson (24), Latavious Brini (38, 8 PBUs) and Trent Gordon (2) should play.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas

Special teams

CINCINNATI WR Tre Tucker (25.3 KOR avg., 1 TD) is a premier threat on kickoffs. RB Ryan Montgomery averaged 11.5 yards per punt return. PK was atrocious last season (9 of 19), so the Bearcats brought in 6-3 Ryan Coe (14 of 17 FGs at Delaware). Punter Mason Fletcher averaged 42.9 on the nation's most efficient punt unit last year. Cincinnati blocked 3 punts and 6 field goals in 2021.

ARKANSAS Cam Little (20 of 24 FG) had an outstanding freshman season and he might take over on kickoffs after battling with Jake Bates. Reid Bauer (43.3) had a tremendous camp battle with Aussie Max Fletcher. Bryce Stephens averaged 17.7 yards on 3 punt returns. AJ Green (16.3) and freshman Rashod Dubinion look like the top kickoff return options.

ADVANTAGE Cincinnati

Intangibles

CINCINNATI Coach Luke Fickell said he should have done better preparing his team for the atmosphere vs. mighty Alabama in last year's Cotton Bowl. Problem is, it's nigh impossible to simulate that big-game environment, much less Hog calls, in practice. Still, the Bearcats have recruited well, bring back plenty of talent and should not be prone to beating themselves in a ramped-up atmosphere.

ARKANSAS The Razorbacks should get an additional lift from a vocal, partisan setting at Razorback Stadium. Coach Sam Pittman, with all three coordinators returning for a third season, has instilled a belief the Razorbacks can match physicality with any team in the country and that translates directly to confidence. Lots of returning talent at key spots enhances UA's odds. Will lack of tackling in camp be an issue?

ADVANTAGE Arkansas


Print Headline: Artkansas-Cincinnati position analysis

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