FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. SOUTH CAROLINA NOTES
1. Smith’s Homecoming
Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith enjoyed one of the biggest moments of his career last Saturday, sacking Tulsa quarterback Cody Green and forcing a fumble to help the Razorbacks preserve a 19-15 win.
The junior is hoping for more big moments a little closer to home Saturday.
Smith, a Mount Ulla, N.C., native, said he’s looking forward to Arkansas’ trip to play at South Carolina on Saturday. His hometown is roughly 120 miles from the Gamecocks’ campus. It’s the closest SEC school to Smith’s hometown.
“It's always good to try and put on a show close to your hometown,” Smith said Monday. “So there are going to be a whole of bunch of family and friends there.”
Smith has been a valuable part of Arkansas’ recent defensive improvements.
He leads Arkansas in tackles for losses (8) and sacks (5 ½), teaming with defensive end Trey Flowers (7 tackles for losses, 4 ½ sacks) to give the Razorbacks a solid duo on the edge. Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said Arkansas expected the production from Smith as he moved into a starting role. He has delivered.
“He is a very strong kid, a very athletic kid, but he also gives those tackles problems rushing off the edge,” Haynes said. “So he'll continue these last three games.”
Haynes said Smith has shown an extra “pep in his step” as he prepares for South Carolina this week because of his familiarity with some of the Gamecocks.
“I wouldn't say he is practicing a lot harder than he's been, but you can see a little bounce in his step,” Haynes said. “I think he's super excited. He knows some guys on that team. He played in high school all-star games with a couple of guys on that team. So I think he is excited about the opportunity to go back home and play.”
Arkansas got a strong performance from Flowers in his “homecoming” against Auburn earlier this season. The sophomore, who is a Montgomery, Ala., native, earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors after notching a career-high 3 ½ sacks during Arkansas’ 24-7 win against the Tigers.
Smith said he’d like to have a similar performance against South Carolina on Saturday. He’s also hoping he can gather enough tickets for family members.
“My dad told me it's a lot,” Smith said about his ticket requests. “We don't have all the names rounded up yet but we'll see. But it's a lot, though. Pray for me.”
2. Still A Challenge
South Carolina will play its first game without injured running back Marcus Lattimore on Saturday. But Haynes said Lattimore’s replacements — Kenny Miles (149 yards and a touchdown) and Mike Davis (157 yards and a touchdown) — still will challenge Arkansas on the ground.
“Their offense doesn't change just because Lattimore is not in there,” Haynes said about the Gamecocks’ ground game. “They are going to do the exact, same thing. They are going to run the power. They are going to run the zone. But the one thing they do, they run hard. And they don't run out of bounds. They all will sit there and as they are going toward the sideline they will turn and try to run you over.”
3. Shaw Update
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said quarterback Connor Shaw was “gimping around” during Monday night’s practice. His report was much better Wednesday.
“Monday night he wasn’t very good,” Spurrier said during the SEC coaches teleconference. “(Tuesday) he was running around close to full speed. Our trainers say he should be fine by this Saturday. So he should be 100 percent.”
Shaw, who is dealing with a foot injury, has thrown for 1,338 yards with 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions this season. The quarterback also ranks second on the team in rushing with 311 yards and two touchdowns.
4. No-Go Knile?
Smith said Arkansas running back Knile Davis (hamstring) has practiced this week, but remains 50-50 for Saturday’s game against the Gamecocks.
“Knile practiced (Tuesday), and he did run, and he did exert himself,” Smith said. “And so we’re knocking on wood that the leg is fine. It’s no more sore, nor worse for wear, and if anything if it’s better, then it’s looking like we may have him for the weekend. That one’s about a 50-50 shot right now and we’re hoping for the best.”
Arkansas will continue to rely on running backs Dennis Johnson and Jonathan Williams whether or not Davis plays. Davis missed the Tulsa game.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau