The Arkansas Traveler’s Drew Watzke previews the Hogs


CW / Drew Watzke

The Crimson White caught up with Drew Watzke, the sports editor of Arkansas’ student newspaper, The Arkansas Traveler, to get some intel on the Razorbacks.

Q: What are your thoughts on Arkansas’ season so far? What has worked for the Razorbacks and what hasn’t worked for them through seven games? 

A: Arkansas fans knew coming off of a 2-10 season to hamper expectations. If you can ignore the San Jose State loss (which was abysmal, yes), the level of play from Arkansas this year has definitely been higher in Arkansas head coach Chad Morris’ second year than his first. A 4-point loss with a chance to win on the last possession against Texas A&M and Kentucky were signs of life, especially the former. And the performances by true freshman receivers Trey Knox and Treylon Burks have been very encouraging. It seems like the Hogs are still a ways away from winning big games, but there is improvement that any fan can take stock in.

Q: Through seven games, the Razorbacks average around 385 yards of total offense per game. What is the key to Arkansas’ offense this season? 

A: When Arkansas runs a balanced offense, they can be dangerous. Solid contributions from Knox, Burks, running back Rakeem Boyd and tight end Cheyenne O’Grady have kept the total yardage stat pretty high this year. The key for Arkansas is getting the ball in the end zone, which the Razorbacks have struggled to do this year. The Hogs have scored touchdowns on less than 40% of red zone chances this year.

Q: Many will recognize Arkansas’ running back Rakeem Boyd from the Netflix series “Last Chance U.” How has his second season with the Razorbacks gone, and what impresses you the most about his game? 

A: Prior to the Auburn game last week, Boyd led the SEC in total rushing. He has been one of the most consistent performers in the Arkansas offense this season and is always a reliable guy to get the ball if the offense stalls. He is a tenacious runner who fights for every yard and will run the ball 20-30 times a game if the team needs him to. 

Q: On the defensive side of the ball, De’Jon Harris looks to be having a career year in his senior season as he has 54 total tackles. What has been working for him and the rest of the Arkansas defense this season? 

A: De’Jon “Scoota” Harris is the anchor of the Razorback defense this season. Our defensive coordinator John Chavis has trusted Harris to man the middle of the field in order to get help on the defensive line or in the secondary, and Harris has thrived in the position. He has two scoop ‘n’ scores this season, so look for him to make a difference on the defensive side of the ball.

Q: At quarterback, Arkansas has used both Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks to lead the Razorback offense. What makes both quarterbacks so unique, and do you notice a change in the offensive scheme when one quarterback is in over the other? 

A: Both quarterbacks are graduate transfers, Hicks from SMU and Starkel from Texas A&M, which means both guys have played a lot of football in their careers. Hicks is a great game manager, as he does not turn the ball over often and can control the clock. Starkel is aggressive under center and wants to get the ball downfield. When Starkel is on the field, Arkansas is striving for a faster-paced offense, while when Hicks is on the field, Arkansas looks to run a more old school SEC-style offense of controlling the clock and wearing down the opposing defense.

Q: What does Arkansas need to do in order to walk out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a win? 

A: For Arkansas to walk out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a win, they must play their best game in the Chad Morris era. The defense must get pressure on Mac Jones to keep the ball out of the Crimson Tide’s playmakers’ hands (Jeudy, Smith, Ruggs, Harris) and force a couple turnovers. On offense, the Razorbacks will need to play recklessly. If the Hogs can establish the run game with Boyd early (which they did last year), then they can spread out their attack, challenging the Alabama secondary with deep shots down the field. Letting Knox, Burks and O’Grady guide the offense is the best hope for the underdogs. And finally, the Hogs will need to show a willingness to keep the energy high, even after tough moments. Alabama will get its share, but it will be Arkansas’ ability to respond that could keep them in the game.

Q: What is your score prediction? 

A: Alabama 42, Arkansas 17.