Alabama Football: Struggling Arkansas offense comes into Tuscaloosa

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football welcomes in the Arkansas Razorbacks after a two-week stint on the road. The Arkansas offense has struggled this season despite having the bruising backfield tandem of KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders back for another year, and yards won’t be any easier to come by against this Alabama defense.

The Hogs were the second-best rushing team in the SEC last season, averaging 236.7 yards per game on the ground. So far in 2023, they rank 11th in the league with just 111.5 yards per game. Their 3.0 yards per carry bests only South Carolina within the conference.

Arkansas hasn’t been much better through the air, and has the lowest total offense output in the SEC, both in terms of yards per game and yards per play. The Razorbacks are on a brutal road stretch that has likely hindered their offensive production.

After opening the season against Western Carolina and Kent State, Arkansas hosted BYU, a close game that it unexpectedly dropped.

Following the loss, the Hogs had to go to LSU before meeting Texas A&M at a neutral site in Dallas. It then went to Oxford to play Ole Miss, and now comes to Tuscaloosa.

This means that Arkansas will likely have played the top four teams in the SEC West in consecutive weeks, all away from home. It would be difficult for any team to post gaudy offensive statistics through that stretch.

Alabama Football vs Arkansas’ offensive personnel

KJ Jefferson is a three-year starter at quarterback for the Hogs with over 7,000 yards passing and 60 touchdowns through the air in his career. The 250-pounder has also added over 1,500 yards on the ground with 20 more scores. Things just haven’t been easy for the senior in 2023.

He has taken a lot of sacks behind a struggling offensive line, and is averaging just 1.7 yards per carry. Additionally, he has already thrown a career-high six interceptions through six games. Protecting the ball has been a strength of his throughout his time in Fayetteville, but he has suddenly caught the turnover bug in year five.

Junior running back Rocket Sanders is an absolute load to bring down, much like Jefferson. He was second in the SEC in rushing last year with 1,443 yards and 12 total touchdowns. However, he has totaled just 91 yards this season on 2.7 yards per carry while missing time with a knee injury. In his absence, sophomore Rashod Dubinion and junior AJ Green have carried the load, combining for 382 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Sanders is expected to be firmly back in the lineup this week, and is hoping for a breakout game to get him back on track. It will be tough sledding against an Alabama defense that surrenders just 3.0 yards per carry.

When KJ Jefferson goes back to throw, he is primarily looking for 6’4” Texas A&M-Commerce transfer Andrew Armstrong. Throughout his career, Jefferson has been at his best when he has a jump-ball target at receiver in the mold of Treylon Burks.

Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers served in that role last season, and Armstrong has been Jefferson’s favorite target this year. His 35 catches are more than double the production of any one else on the team, and he has team-highs of 437 yards and four touchdowns.

Tight end Luke Hasz was another consistent playmaker in the passing game for the Hogs, but has been ruled out for the season with a broken collarbone.

Any offense spearheaded by Jefferson and Sanders cannot be counted out, but it could be a long Saturday afternoon for an Arkansas offense that has not performed well against teams with a quality pass rush.

Next. Saban eliminating rat poison. dark

The front seven for Alabama Football is finding its groove at the right time, and should spend a lot of time in the Hogs’ backfield this weekend.