FAYETTEVILLE – A couple days ago in “Hogs for Breakfast,” I labeled my top 10 Arkansas players. Most didn’t have much issue. But by far the question I received most:
Where is Ryan Pulley?
A warranted query. Pick-sixes are highlight-reel things and his injection into the starting lineup has seen him on the field a majority of games. His rise is even more pronounced after a sub-par freshman season. Without a doubt Pulley has been good and he was on the shortlist of those who just missed the cut.
Ultimately, such lists come down to preference. But for the fun of it, here’s a closer look at what I was thinking when I kept him off and placed Jared Collins and Henre’ Toliver.
Collins is the most experienced of the three. A senior, he’s in his third year as full-time starter. Toliver, a junior, started part of his freshman year and a good chunk of last season and all so far this year. The sophomore, Pulley, has been a starter just this season. A greater sample-size is provided by Collins.
He was the team’s shutdown corner last year and has continued that trend into this season. Of the three, Collins has seen the fewest amount of passes his direction. Opposing quarterbacks thrown in his direction five times in three games. Louisiana Tech, in the season opener, didn’t do it once. TCU did it four times and complete two of the throws, one for a touchdown.
But on a whole, on passes his way, quarterbacks are 2 for 5 for 17 yards when aiming toward Collins.
Contrast that to Toliver, the most athletic of the three. Back on the inside after the demotion of D.J. Dean and insertion of Pulley, Toliver has seen more throws than anyone, thanks in large part to the pass-heavy-to-the-slot offenses the Razorbacks have played.
Toliver has been the primary target on more than 70 percent of opposing screen passes and passes to the flat. Those are the biggest contributor to his team-high 21 targets-against. In all, quarterbacks are 17 of 21 throwing his direction, but he’s allowed just 100 yards. The 100 yards are most impressive as it comes out to fewer than yards per completion, a stat you’ll take all day if you’re an Arkansas fan.
Pulley has had the best showing. His downfall is the sample size.
He has had a mix of short passes and long passes at almost equal rates. By far his most impressive stat: quarterbacks are 4 for 15. That’s it. A completion percentage of just over 25 percent. Terrible. Terrible if you’re the offense, that is. Those four completions have gone for a grand total of 22 yards.
No denying Pulley was basically Deion Sanders against TCU. Kenny Hill was just 1 of 8 for seven yards that game. In an ordinary game – and that wasn’t one – he would have easily been the reason Arkansas won. Instead, he was a key player, but his performance went somewhat under the radar.
Where Arkansas must improve is with their defensive help. Safeties Santos Ramirez, Josh Liddell and De’Andre Coley have allowed a combined 11 of 21, which is solid, but for 191 yards.
Again this is all preference. Fact remains, the three corners have been close to studly with only the one tough quarter – the fourth against TCU – out of 12.