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Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris will have to keep his eyes on Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta'amu on Saturday.

Arkansas must take advantage of Ole Miss’ backup QB to win Saturday

Eric Bolin

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The most winnable SEC game Arkansas has had all season and the Razorbacks’ opponent is missing its starting quarterback.

All good news for an Arkansas win, right?

Maybe not. Ole Miss will roll with junior college transfer Jordan Ta’amu on Saturday from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game against Arkansas will be Ta’amu’s first career Division I start. Ole Miss’ regular starting quarterback, Shea Patterson, tore his right MCL in the Rebels’ 40-24 loss to LSU last weekend.

Patterson was the SEC’s leading passer, averaging 323 yards per game. Ole Miss is eighth in the country overall in passing yards per game. His absence creates a bit of a hole.

Enter Ta’amu, who played well in Patterson’s stead the rest of the LSU game. He went 7 of 11 for 78 yards. Those aren’t Patterson-like numbers, but they’re efficient. What really scares the Arkansas defense, though, is what Ta’amu can do with his feet.

“He’s a really good athlete. He throws the ball well. Obviously, he can do a lot with his feet. We have to be able to prepare for that,” Arkansas inside linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves said.

The Razorbacks have been much better at stopping opposing quarterbacks from running in 2017. Fleet-footed types from the pocket were the Arkansas defensive bugaboo last season. Largely, it’s the improvement from Hargreaves’ unit that has helped shore up that weakness. Not biting on fakes and keeping active is the trick there, linebacker Dre Greenlaw said.

Ta’amu was rated the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback coming out of junior college last year. He has run for 52 yards on 6 carries so far this season.

No Patterson, though, doesn’t mean the Rebels will change the offensive package much. It’s too late in the season for that. Ta’amu entered Saturday against LSU and continued to run the usual Rebels offense. Only now, there is an added element.

Arkansas must be cognizant of it if the Razorbacks want to snap their 0-4 start in SEC play.

“They’re probably going to just run their offense, too, because they did that when he went in and they were pretty effective,” Hargreaves said. “We have to prepare for all that stuff.”