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Arkansas Well-Versed in Option

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Arkansas will once again be asked to defend an option running attack when it travels to No. 21 Mississippi State this weekend.

Led by quarterback Chris Relf and running back Vick Ballard, the Bulldogs are third-best in the SEC, averaging 211.7 rushing yards per game this season.

“They’re a lot like Auburn and they run the ball well,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. “They have a very physical offensive line, probably comparable to Auburn. The quarterback is a lot like the Texas A&M kid, Jerrod Johnson – real quick They don’t have the big bruiser like they had in the backfield last year but these kids run physical.

“They’re a good football team. They really are.”

The No. 13 Razorbacks have struggled against the run at times this year, allowing more than 150 rushing yards per game. Arkansas has faced several mobile quarterbacks similar to Relf. In addition to Johnson, the Razorbacks have had to defend the likes of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, among others.

“There hasn’t been an offense that hasn’t given us an option look since the Georgia game,” Robinson said, citing the Razorbacks’ third opponent of the year. “The biggest concern here is the fact they have three ways to go – the dive, the quarterback and the pitch. You have to have great discipline and know where your assignments are against these guys.”

Arkansas prepared for the flurry of option offenses by practicing against it quite a bit during the spring. Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Mitchell served as the option quarterback in those drills, though he isn’t on the scout team this week.

“We made sure that we got to practice on some of the things we were going to see throughout the year, option wise, so it wasn’t just three days before you practiced it,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Monday. “There were a lot of things put on video, a lot of study over the summer time. A lot of preparation has gone to it besides this week.”

Joneses Bouncing Back

Robinson said both DeQuinta “D.D.” Jones and Byran Jones have had good weeks of practice despite difficulties off the field and with injuries.

D.D. Jones was suspended one game after being arrested last month for possession of marijuana. Last weekend his brother, Deddrick, was one of three Southern Miss football players shot outside a club. Deddrick Jones remained hospitalized Wednesday, though his injuries are not considered life-threatening, according to reports.

“D.D. is doing good,” Robinson said. “He’s giving it all he can and he does a great job when he gets in there. One thing about D.D. on Saturday is he comes to play hard and has a different mentality about him. If there’s one thing he needs to mature is he needs to continue that as he grows up day in and day out.”

Byran Jones has missed the last two games with an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter against Vanderbilt on Oct. 30. He has practiced all week and should be ready to play Saturday.

“Byran is in the rotation and is giving us some depth there,” Robinson said. “He keeps working on his treatment and he’ll play for us this week.”

Quotable Willy

Robinson is a reporter’s dream when it comes to quotes for his uncanny way to mix words together and his brutal honesty.

The third-year defensive coordinator delivered again Wednesday when asked about his unit’s success this season on third downs and whether it was the most important down during a series.

“I lost a job answering that question a long time ago, answering that question in an interview,” Robinson said. “I always thought the most important down was first down. I still believe that.”

Arkansas ranks tops in the SEC and seventh nationally, allowing opponents to convert third downs at a 30.8 percent clip.

For more visit You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.


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