Auburn and Arkansas fired subtle shots across their respective bows this week, and each came from an unusual place — a guy in the trenches.
An SEC West game this Saturday that will likely have minimal impact on the conference race picked up more interest as an Arkansas offensive lineman and Auburn defensive lineman threw verbal shots at their respective units.
Auburn defensive end DaVonte Lambert told local media in Alabama on Tuesday “there’s no big challenge” when it comes to facing the largest offensive line in football — Arkansas’ girth on the line is bigger than any college or pro team.
Two states away, and supposedly unknowing of the bulletin board talk, Arkansas center Mitch Smothers said, “I think we can really move those guys,” referring to Auburn’s big, physical defensive line.
The winner of Saturday’s tilt in Fayetteville will have a 2-2 conference record and keep dim hopes of winning the division alive and making the conference championship game. The loser will have three conference losses,is virtually eliminated from the race and will be left clinging to the hopes of earning a bowl bid. The matchup of the Razorback offensive line and Auburn’s defensive line is one of the main keys this week.
Arkansas’ offensive line consists of Denver Kirkland (340 pounds), Sebastian Tretola (334), Smothers (322), Frank Ragnow (311) and Dan Skipper (331). They total 1,638 pounds, or an average of 327.6 per person. (Note: The San Diego Chargers have the next-highest average weight at 325.0 pounds). The Razorback offensive line also had an SEC-leading combined 3,411 snaps of experience entering the season, which is more than 250 snaps ahead of Georgia’s.
Despite size and experience on the line, Arkansas ranks in the middle of the pack in the SEC with 177.3 rushing yards per game and the Razorbacks have only rushed for eight touchdowns through six games. Tailback Alex Collins has six of those scores.
Before Tuesday’s practice, Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said the Razorbacks need their imposing offensive line to control Auburn’s powerful defensive line in order to open up the running game for Collins and Rawleigh Williams.
“One of our goals is to run the ball to open up that play-action pass,” Allen said. “We need to keep our offense on the field and keep their up-tempo offense off the field.”
Arkansas has reached more than 200 yards rushing in three games — one of those a season-high 275 yards in the win over Tennessee. Arkansas is coming off its worst performance when it gained only 44 rushing yards against Alabama.
On the flip side, Auburn needs any help to offset its dismal start. The Tigers rank 13th out of 14 in the conference in rushing defense with 197.67 yards per game. The Tigers have allowed a league-high 14 rushing touchdowns. However, the Tigers have allowed only 200-plus rushing yards twice this season, including a 411-yard performance by LSU’s vaunted rushing attack.