HOGS: O line beat up again
FAYETTEVILLE - Alabama injured starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa won’t play Saturday, while most recent Arkansas starting quarterback Ben Hicks’ injured left shoulder gets reevaluated to be certain he can play vs. Alabama.
No. 1 and reigning SEC champion Alabama (7-0 overall, 4-0 in the SEC) plays host to Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Razorbacks learned Monday their Nov. 2 SEC West game with Mississippi State at Reynolds Razorback Stadium will kick off at 3 p.m. and be televised by the SEC Network.
Hicks, flip-flopping throughout the season as Arkansas’ starting QB with fellow graduate transfer Nick Starkel, took a pounding Saturday going the distance in Arkansas’ 51-10 loss to now No. 9 Auburn. His left (non-throwing) shoulder seems one of many maladies absorbed from three sacks and many other hits while attempting 39 passes. Hicks completed 19 for 182 yards and a touchdown with one interception and one fumble.
“I asked him after the game how he felt,” Arkansas offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Craddock said Monday. “He said he felt like he had been hit by a car. So he showed a lot of guts and toughness staying in the pocket. We will reevaluate how he is feeling tomorrow (Tuesday) at practice.”
If healthy, does Craddock start against Alabama?
“That’s something we’ll reevaluate at practice,” Craddock said. “He could be healthy and still not be 100 percent. We’ll have to see how he’s doing.”
Craddock echoed the observations of Chad Morris, the head coach ultimately making the starting QB call.
“Ben got banged up a little bit,” Morris said at his Monday press conference. “We’ll see how things are on Tuesday with him. They’ll both (Hicks and Starkel) be out there.”
NO TUA; NO PROBLEM
Tagovailoa suffered a high ankle sprain Saturday during Alabama’s 35-13 SEC victory over Tennessee. He was replaced by redshirt sophomore backup Mac Jones and will not play against Arkansas, Alabama coach Nick Saban announced.
Tagovailoa’s numbers amaze: 145 of 194 for 2,166 yards and 27 touchdowns with two interceptions.
Yet, even without him, the Tide are favored by 35 points over Arkansas by oddsmakers.
“There’s not many deficiencies on that football team,” Morris said. “You’re a quarterback at Alabama. You’re a really good football player. They have a great supporting cast around him.”
Jones’ six of 11 for 72 yards finishing against Tennessee marked by far his most playing time.
“They're gonna let him do what he does well,” Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis said. “There's not enough tape out there to know exactly what that is, but he’s the next guy up at Alabama because he’s a very fine football player. He’s got a good arm, and he can move around a little bit and get away from some pressures.”
Jones will throw to college football’s top receiving corps headed by Jerry Jeudy (45 catches for 579 yards and six TDs), DeVonta Smith (39 for 654 yards and nine TDs) and Henry Ruggs (22 for 466 yards and five TDs).
And if the Tide goes ground game first, running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson have combined for 845 yards and seven touchdowns on 158 carries.
“They may lean on the run a little bit more,” Chavis said. “They've got three or four great tailbacks. We've got to be ready for it all. There's no doubt about that.”
NOT AS MUCH LEFT
While Hicks appears banged up but likely playing, neither senior starting left offensive tackle Colton Jackson of Conway nor senior starting left offensive guard Austin Capps of Star City played in Saturday’s second half following first-half injuries.
Capps is in concussion protocol, Morris said Monday. Jackson, injured foot in preseason and twice in concussion protocol during the season, injured his back, Morris said.
Junior college transfer Myron Cunningham replaced Jackson at left tackle. Third-year sophomore Arkansas natives Kirby Adcock of Nashville filled in for Capps against an Auburn interior defensive line regarded among the nation’s best.
“Myron played better,” Morris said. “He was a little bit more consistent at left tackle. Kirby Adcock got in when Capps went down. When you’re going against what he was lined up against, it was pretty rough sledding. But I think he did a good job considering all the circumstances coming at him.”
Cunningham is the left tackle if Jackson is out. Left guard seems more undefined.
“We’re going to try a couple of things,” Craddock said. “I thought Kirby came in and did OK and played hard, gave great effort. But we are going to look at a couple of different guys in there and just see who gives us the best chance.”