Darren McFadden, Lance Alworth, Dan Hampton, Shawn Andrews, Felix Jones, Ryan Mallett, Peyton Hillis, Tony Ugoh, Mitch Petrus. These are some of the most famous Arkansas Razorback players to star in the NFL. (Alworth and Hampton are in the NFL Hall of Fame.)
In the 2012 NFL draft, four Razorbacks were chosen (DE - Jake Bequette, WR - Joe Adams, WR - Jarius Wright, WR - Gred Childs). This is why it is hard to believe anyone who says that Rutgers beating Arkansas on Saturday would be less than impressive. It would be a seminal moment for the Scarlet Knights, and a huge coup for the Big East Conference.
At 7 p.m. Saturday in Fayetteville, injured Arkansas’ quarterback and preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Tyler Wilson will likely return to attempt to stabilize a very rattled 1-2 Razorbacks. But Rutgers’ defense has other plans.
Two weeks ago, the Razorbacks were ranked No. 8 in the country and had national title aspirations. But consecutive losses to University of Louisiana-Monroe (a Sun Belt school) 34-31 in OT, and No. 1 Alabama 52-0, have pushed the panic level to its threshold. In Arkansas’ loss to UL-Monroe, Wilson did not return in the second half because of concussion symptoms after suffering some big hits from the Warhawks’ pass rush.
After getting waxed by the Crimson Tide in Alabama last week, Wilson called out his teammates in a non-requested press conference, chastising the Razorback players for giving up.
The loss did get out of hand early, and many believe Arkansas is in the midst of a catastrophic season. The debate raging in SEC country after these two consecutive defeats is whether a) Arkansas is too heavily dependent on their quarterback to generate any form of offense and lead them to victory (which is how they conceded a 21-7 lead once Wilson left the game against UL-Monroe), b) they are playing with zero confidence and head coach John L. Smith has lost control of the team, and c) maybe they are not as talented and deep as originally believed.
And this is where Rutgers comes in! The Scarlet Knights are coming off a statement victory over Big East Conference foe University of South Florida (in Tampa Bay), so their confidence should be at an all-time high. Their defense is ranked 12th nationally at the moment, and they are yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, or more than 13 points in a game (their points against, – 8.3, is fifth in the country).
Linebacker Khaseem Greene has been as good as advertised, hounding ball carriers and acting as a disruptive force. The Knights’ defense has also been converting more on turnover opportunities, doubling its first two games’ total with four takeaways against USF.
Arkansas running back Knile Davis came into the season with a lot of fanfare, but has struggled enormously in his first three games, cracking 70 yards only once (with a rushing clip of 3.9). If Wilson does not play, the signal calling duties will be relegated to Brandon Allen, who has had a very rough going in his trial by fire. Compounding the Razorbacks’ difficulties is the tremendous ball pressure the Knights can exhibit, as defensive tackle Scott Vallone, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, and defensive ends Jamil Merrell and Ka’Lial Gloud have been terrorizing defensive playmakers.