Hogs: Vols better than record; Miles-Nash shifts back to DE; receiving records
FAYETTEVILLE - At 0-5 in the SEC East, the Tennessee Volunteers are not loaded with superlatives, but Garrick McGee found one.
Arkansas' offensive coordinator preps No. 8 Arkansas (8-1, 4-1) for Tennessee's defense in Saturday's 5 p.m. ESPN2 televised game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"I think their defensive tackle, 97, (senior Malik Jackson) has got to be one of the best in this conference," McGee said after the Razorbacks practiced inside the Walker Pavilion on a rainy Tuesday. "He is big. He is strong. You can tell he's a veteran who continues to play hard throughout the game. They have got young linebackers but they have really good size and length. We have been impressed with them. There is no way their record speaks of the talent and the type of personnel they have."
Though losing 14-3 two weeks ago, Tennessee held South Carolina to half the scoring the Gamecocks produced Saturday during Arkansas' 44-28 homecoming victory.
"They play a lot of match coverages, which are not traditional coverages, which is going to really challenge our passing game," McGee said. They play man coverage on one side of the formation and zone coverage on the other side. These trap coverage where the safeties are coming from different directions. It kind of breaks down your passing angles and your windows that you are used to looking at. So they are going to present some challenge for us. We have to really prepare on Saturday."
With 151 and 150 career catches respectively, Razorbacks senior receivers Joe Adams of CAC and Jarius Wright of Warren are challenging each other in assaulting the UA career receptions record of 153 by Anthony Eubanks (1993-97).
Both likely will surpass Eubanks during Saturday's Reynolds Razorback Stadium season finale before the Hogs play host to Mississippi State on Nov. 19 in Little Rock and visit LSU, Nov. 25 in Baton Rouge, La.
"I can't say enough about what those guys have done for our program," McGee said. "I remember going into those kids homes and when they came here on their official visits and they walked onto the field for us the first day of practice their freshman year. Now, we're at the point where it's the last point where it's the last time they're going to run out on this field."
Wright was asked Monday if he had discussed the record with his good friend Adams.
"Me and Joe still haven't talked about it.," Wright said. "Right now we are worried about each and every game and not really worried about personal goals and personal stats."
Asked about it after Tuesday's practice, Adams said, "We've just got to keep pushing each other and whoever ends up with the most at the end, more power to the guy."
Chris Gragg's emergence as an all-round tight end improved Arkansas' defensive ends.
Because ex-wide receiver Gragg's improved blocking to be an every-down tight end means Colton Miles-Nash plays where he belongs at defensive end. Miles-Nash (Sulpher Springs, Texas) lettered as a reserve defensive end in 2010 after working at tight end as a freshman in 2009. He made 14 tackles for the 2010 season and blocked a punt against Ohio State, setting up Arkansas' last possession against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
However, with Mackey Award winner D.J. Williams graduated to the NFL, Miles-Nash, 6-6, 270, moved back to tight end this season as Gragg's blocking complement.
But he was used less and less at tight end, while starting defensive ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius "Tank" Wright, out since breaking his arm during the Sept. 24 Alabama game, were injured and freshman defensive end Lonnie Gosha quit the team.
So last week Coach Bobby Petrino swapped Miles-Nash's No. 6 tight end jersey for No. 90 and put him at backup defensive end. Nash made three tackles in last Saturday's 44-28 victory over South Carolina.
"In the Ole Miss game (the game before South Carolina) I'm seeing him standing on the sideline and we're not playing him a whole lot," Petrino said, "That's a big man that played well a year ago at defensive end. After the game I just made the decision I'm going to get him back on the field, get him more reps and move him back over to defensive end. It came out he had 17 snaps - we didn't have many snaps on defense and did a nice job. He did a real nice job."
Bequette welcomed Miles-Nash's return to the D-line, which this week may welcome back Tank Wright pending how his arm fares in practice.
"I love having Colton back on defense," Bequette said. "It was good to see him back in a No. 90 and seeing him get rid of that No. 6, that skill position number. You can notice he's learned a lot from his time on offense. He's really using his hands better. His pad level is much better. He's bigger. He's over 270 now. He's just a big body and a big presence out there for us."
Always a defensive end, fifth-year senior Bequette said he couldn't imagine adjusting to Miles-Nash's back-and-forth shuttle.
"That's just incredible," Bequette said. "That's just a testament to his attitude and his work ethic. He's done everything these coaches have asked him to do and done it with a smile on his face and worked hard. He's the kind of kid you can really build your program around.
A BETTER HALF
Bequette smiled when asked how it felt leading South Carolina 24-14 at half, Arkansas' first halftime lead since Sept. 17 against Troy. "It felt better than the alternative," Bequette said. "Those last few weeks, a lot of them, it hadn't been a good feeling in the halftime locker room."