Texas Football: Going behind enemy lines with Razorbacks Wire

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Both Arkansas and Texas’ seasons got off to flying starts against Rice and Louisiana, respectively. Now, the two will rekindle the old Southwest Conference rivalry for the final time before becoming SEC conference mates again.

Longhorns Wire spoke with Eric Bolin of Razorbacks Wire about the upcoming matchup in this week’s “Behind Enemy Lines” feature.

What can Arkansas do to avoid a slow start like they had against Rice?

Head coach Sam Pittman said he felt like a lot of the slow start was nerves. I kind of believe him, actually. Quarterback KJ Jefferson was making his second career start and only his first with any real crowd because of Arkansas’ limited capacity last year. Once he settled, Arkansas was fine, arguably even good. He’s still inexperienced, though, so running back Trelon Smith playing the way he did last week will take some pressure off, as will an improved performance from wide receiver Treylon Burks, easily the best player on the whole roster.

If Treylon Burks is able to play, how effective do you think he can be against Texas’ secondary?

Unless something wild happens, Burks will play. He didn’t worsen his undisclosed injury against Rice, Pittman said. Because of that, I have to think he will be better against Texas because he’s had a full week of practice. That was part of the mediocrity against Rice: he had only practiced, really, a day-and-a-half the week-plus leading up to the game. The rust was real. When he’s going, he is a legitimately special player. Mel Kiper Jr. has him as a potential Top-10 pick in the NFL Draft if he comes out. If Smith is running well, it should open some things for Burks. If Smith isn’t running well, Texas can probably neutralize Burks, even if they can’t outright stop him.

With Sam Pittman being an offensive line coach and one of Texas’ strengths being the defensive line, who do you think will win that battle upfront?

The edge has to go to Texas right now. Arkansas is fair on the offensive line, but definitely bottom half of the SEC. Center Ricky Stromberg is an All-SEC player in the middle, certainly, but around him are mostly players who could be called “OK, I guess.” Myron Cunningham at left tackle is the best of the rest. But this is a unit that gave up 34 sacks last year to rank 120th in FBS. They were better against Rice in that regard, but until they protect the quarterback against (no offense, Rice) a really good team, it’s wait and see mode.

How big of a factor will the crowd be? Will the energy be consistent for all four quarters?

Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is an odd place for an SEC stadium. The crowd loves their Razorbacks, no doubt about it. They’re practically the only game in town with no pro sports in the state and the only other FBS team on the other side of the state and playing in the Sun Belt. That said, it doesn’t have quite the same cachet as, say, The Swamp or The Bayou, or even Rocky Top. It can get loud, but it’s nothing Texas hasn’t seen before. If Texas pounces early, no worries for the Longhorns, crowd-wise. If not, things could get interesting.

Does Bumper Pool’s first-half suspension change the defensive approach at all?

The suspension probably doesn’t change the game plan as much as it creates a weakness. Arkansas is incredibly thin at linebacker already, so Pool’s suspension is a big loss. But because the Razorbacks almost never play more than two linebackers at a time, they’re built, in theory, to withstand it. That is if nobody else at the position is lost for a significant amount of time. Grant Morgan, the team’s best linebacker, will start and Hayden Henry is a capable third ‘backer who can hold down the fort until Pool returns in the second half. Throw in Andrew Parker, who can take some spot snaps, and Arkansas should be OK. It still isn’t ideal, though.

Longhorns Wire went into Arkansas territory as well. You can check out Razorbacks Wire’s behind enemy lines post here.

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