FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Auburn’s pass defense has improved drastically from a season ago and the Arkansas coaching staff has taken notice.
The No. 21 Tigers rank third in the SEC in pass yards allowed per game (199.7) entering a clash with the No. 17 Hogs this Saturday (5 p.m. CT, ESPN).
“I compared them to Alabama,” said wide receivers coach Michael Smith. “Very physical defense. Very handsy. It’s going to be another challenge that my guys are going to have to step up and accept. I’m just anxious to go out and watch my guys play.
“The thing that they do a great job of mixing things up and that was something Alabama has always been pretty good at.”
Smith’s group of receivers have also been among the best in the conference this season. Jared Cornelius leads the SEC in yards per reception (20.36), Keon Hatcher is tied for second in the league in touchdown catches (5) and Drew Morgan is tied for third in the conference in receptions (37).
The group believes the success they had against Alabama — Cornelius had 146 yards and Hatcher caught 2 touchdowns — can translate to similar production against Auburn.
“(Auburn) uses their hands well,” Smith said. “I would say some of them could be penalties, but that’s not my job to make those calls. I just got to coach my guys to be able to deal with it. Right now, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had some success, but we put a lot of time in at practice working against that. We challenge our young defensive backs to be like that to give us the best look.
“I’m not sitting here complaining. It’s just part of the game and we’ve got to get better at it.”
Morgan has had prior success against Auburn, catching 2 touchdowns in the Hogs’ 54-46 four-overtime win last season.
“It’s gonna be a challenge for the wide receivers this week to get separation,” Morgan said. “They play a lot like Alabama where they want to jam you in your face and we’re gonna accept that challenge.”