Knile Davis and 4 Arkansas Razorbacks Who Must Shine vs. Alabama
The Arkansas Razorbacks began the season as national championship contenders. However, after two brutal performances to begin the season, the team is now out of the AP Poll and fighting for its life in the SEC.
What makes matters worse is that Arkansas must now take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 3, in a game that will likely either make or break the team's season the rest of the way.
The defense has been terrible, the offense isn't as effective as everyone thought it would be and they have struggled against teams that would normally be considered cupcakes on an SEC schedule.
While the odds are certainly stacked against Arkansas, here are five players that must step up in order for the Razorbacks to stand a chance against Nick Saban and company.
Despite some great defensive performances from Alabama, the Crimson Tide defense is still extremely young, especially at the linebacker position.
Therefore, with an experienced and talented tight end such as Chris Gragg at their disposal, the Razorbacks have an opportunity to exploit what could be a huge mismatch heading into this game.
Gragg is the top target in this Arkansas offense. He already has 14 receptions for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
He is well on pace to shatter last year’s totals, which is good enough to consider him one of the best players at his position. With his athleticism, experience and 6'3", 236-pound frame, there aren't too many defensive players that can shut this guy down.
The tight end caught four passes for 31 yards in last year’s meeting, but will need a much more productive day if his team expects to win this ballgame.
With the youth at linebacker, Gragg needs to continue to step up and help move the chains for Arkansas.
When your season is on the line, your veterans must step up and make some plays for your team.
The Arkansas defense is ranked 88th in the country, allowing an embarrassing 436 total yards per game. The sad part is that the Razorbacks haven't even played a true contender yet, but rather, Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Monroe.
That's why I'm looking at linebacker Alonzo Highsmith to step up and become a difference maker on Saturday. One of the team's leading tacklers from last season, Highsmith needs to rally his troops and make one of those key plays that he was known for making a year ago.
Highsmith led this team last year in tackles for loss, and will need to be a key factor in slowing down the running game if this defense expects to have its best showing of the 2012 season.
Whoever Plays Quarterback
Hopefully, for the sake of this team's season, quarterback Tyler Wilson is able to play. However, he is currently listed as questionable due to a head injury he suffered last week, according to USA Today.
If Wilson can't give it a go, senior quarterback Brandon Allen will be expected to lead this offense.
Allen only completed 37 percent of his passes in the loss to Louisiana-Monroe. He threw one touchdown and one interception. We know what Wilson is capable of, as he threw for over 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns last year.
However, if Allen has to step in as the starting quarterback, he must do a terrific job of managing the football game. Nobody expects the backup quarterback to win the game by himself, but he cannot make any crucial mistakes that could end up costing his team the game.
In order to make things easier for the linebackers to stop the run or get to Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, the defensive line has to do a great job up front.
Defensive tackle Byran Jones is the biggest defensive lineman on the team at 6'2" and 312 pounds, and he will need every bit of that size when he goes up against one of the best offensive lines in the country.
Jones needs to be the physical player that he is, draw potential double teams and help collapse the pocket. Western Kentucky was able to pick up six sacks last week against Alabama, which means that getting by this offensive line can be done.
The junior defensive tackle is off to a solid start this season and will be a key player up front to help generate pressure on Alabama. The Razorbacks are 16-5 over the last three seasons when sacking the opposing quarterback at least two times.
Before the season started, running back Knile Davis said he was still the best running back in the SEC.
We all know he is one of the more talented backs in the country, but averaging less than four yards per touch isn't saying much for the junior running back.
Arkansas only lost two games last season, and both were against teams that ended up playing in the national championship.
The Razorbacks had a terrific passing game, but struggled to run the football, which made the offense predictable. When Davis returned from injury, everyone thought it would be just what the doctor ordered, as he could provide that spark on the ground.
If Davis doesn't show up in this game, the Crimson Tide will continue to roll and the Razorbacks' dreams will come to an end. It is time to stop talking and step up on the football field.