If you can believe it, Auburn’s trip to Fayetteville is just two days away. There’s plenty of news and notes coming out of the athletic complex this week, so we’ll quickly get right to it. Of course, it’s all made possible by your local beat writers: David Morrison, Jay G. Tate, Charles Goldberg, and, one final time, Andy Bitter.
– The big storyline going into the game is obviously the homecoming, of sorts, for Mike Dyer, Keihl Frazier, and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. All three made names for themselves in the Arkansas high school ranks in the state of Arkansas, and all three are Ones That Got Away for the University of Arkansas — or, in one case, the one that they let get away. The media got to speak to all three of the Natural State natives on Tuesday night.
For Gus Malzahn, it isn’t a big deal any more — or least that’s what he said. “I’ve been there and done that. I’m just focused on our team and trying to do my best to give our team the best chance to be successful. I get to go home in the offseason and holidays and all that.” When asked about the first time being back, he said, “It was a little weird, a little awkward, there’s no doubt… Second time you’ve got a job to do and the first emotions are all behind you.”
Mike Dyer and Kiehl Frazier have neither been there, nor done that, so those first emotions might still be in front of them on Saturday. Dyer said, “I think anybody who plays at home wants to play their best game, especially going against their friends in their hometown, they’d try to do the best they can.”
Frazier will have plenty of friends rooting against him there as well: “They’ll probably be my friends before and after the game. Probably not during the game.” This Saturday will be the first time Dyer or Frazier has ever played in Razorback Stadium.
– Two guys that probably won’t be playing in Razorback Stadium on Saturday night are the injured Trovon Reed and Emory Blake. Chizik used the word “doubtful” in regards to Blake’s status on Wednesday night. Elsewhere on the injury front, Chris Davis will be a game-time decision. We’ll see how that works out this week, as last week he was supposed to be a “game-time decision,” but in the end didn’t make the trip.
And in some really unfortunate news, Anthony Morgan appears to be out for the season after an off-the-field accident. Tough news for the junior.
– With Blake doubtful, Malzahn listed DeAngelo Benton, Quindarius Carr, Travante Stallworth, and Jaylon Denson as guys that could step up and fill the void. Chizik also mentioned Quan Bray in a similar listing.
Benton has been the guy most have been pointing to this week, as his 3rd-and-13 catch on Auburn’s go-ahead drive last Saturday has people talking. “DeAngelo has had great practice all fall camp,” said Malzahn. Trooper Taylor definitely thinks Benton has the right attitude: “He works hard. He doesn’t complain. Even though he doesn’t get a bunch of reps, he still works the same way… He’s selfless. He doesn’t care whether he gets one play or fifty plays.”
– Facing this Arkansas passing attack, Mike Pelton is planning on throwing a lot of different guys at those offensive linemen in order to show some different looks and cause some disruption, and in order to keep his own guys fresh. “It’s going to come down to just playing a lot of guys; Going back to playing a lot of guys. They’re going to throw it, but let’s not be deceived. They want to run the football. They’re going to run the football,” said Pelton.
One of those younger defensive linemen deeper in the rotation that will be getting plenty of opportunities on Saturday is Angelo Blackson. Blackson has been playing very well as of late, and Pelton has noticed: “If he can continue to go as far as he’s come, he’s going to be an exciting player here at Auburn. He’ll be one they’ll talk about for a long time if he continues doing what he’s doing.”
– Finally, Phillip Lolley mentioned that, with Chris Davis out and unable to hold down corner on the outside, they’re leaving T’Sharvin Bell outside once again on nickel packages, and letting Jermaine Whitehead come in to take the nickel slot.
Meanwhile, Lolley, who was around when Bobby Petrino was on the staff on the Plains, remembers how good Petrino was and is at dissecting defenses. “If he finds a weakness, he’s fixing to exploit it, and he’s not coming off of it. He dwells on that. Same thing with running the football. If he finds a weakness on that side, he’ll attack that weakness and won’t let off. He knows how to stretch you vertically as well as horizontally… In fact, if you sit up here with him at nights sometimes and watch him break down the defenses he was playing, watched him, he’s just very good at what he does.”
Lolley is also very (and rightfully) wary of the Hogs’ receiving corps his unit will be going up against on Saturday. “I’m trying to think, since I’ve been here, if I’ve seen a group of receivers as good, top to bottom,” he said.
Coach, I don’t think you have. But we’ll get to that in tomorrow’s preview.
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