SHREVEPORT, La. -– Comparing Arkansas’ Matt Jones and Missouri’s Brad Smith is easy. Two running quarterbacks.
It’s not so simple.
Missouri sees lots of differences between Smith and Jones. Jones is 6-feet-6 and Smith’s is 6-2. Smith is shifty. Jones is brawny.
“He’s got really good strength,” Matt Eberflus, Tigers defensive coordinator, said. “As far as wiggle, as far as comparing him to Brad or whatever, he’s got wiggle, but he’s strong. You see him break tackles and that’s the one thing that we’ve gotta do a really good job of, of trying to wrap up when you hit this guy.”
Jones rushed for 633 yards in the regular season. His play surprised the Tigers when they watched him on film in preparation for Wednesday’s Independence Bowl between the two teams.
“If you just saw him, you would expect him to be just like a dropback throwing quarterback, but he’s actually got speed and moves,” defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison said. “He’s hard to tackle, the first person doesn’t always get him.”
Said defensive tackle Russ Bell: “I’ve seen him do a couple 70-yard runs and just be like, ‘wait a second?’ He’s so big, he can’t run that fast. (If) you don’t take out his legs, you can’t tackle him.”
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has said that Ryan Sorahan might start in place of Jones on Wednesday, and Jones might play elsewhere in the lineup. Jones has also played wide receiver for the Razorbacks.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a guy that’s that big and that athletic in the entire country,” Eberflus said.
Third-string quarterback Brandon Coleman, 6-4, has been simulating Jones in practice. Eberflus said though Coleman has been an effective imitator, the job cannot be totally accomplished.
“They’re simulating game speed, game situation,” Eberflus said. “You’re really only going to see that on game day.”
TURF TWINS: The turf the Tigers have been practicing on for the past two days might feel familiar. Coach Gary Pinkel said AstroPlay, the turf at Independence Stadium, is similar to FieldTurf, the surface installed at Memorial Stadium this past summer.
Pinkel said the stadium has improved greatly since he most recently took part in a game there. In 1987, Pinkel was Washington’s offensive coordinator and the Huskies played Toledo in the bowl.
“What a difference in the facility here,” Pinkel said. “They’ve done a great job in making this stadium a first-class place.”
TUESDAY SCHEDULE: Like they would normally do at practice on a Wednesday during the week of a game, on Monday morning the Tigers practiced in shells. Pinkel said today’s practice will be “light,” typical of a Thursday game-week practice.
The team will meet today before a 10 a.m. press conference, and attend a “Minuteman Luncheon,” where Hal Sutton, captain of the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team and “Spirit of Independence” award recipient, will speak.
The Tigers will practice this afternoon. After a pep rally the team will “lock in,” like the Friday night before a regular-season game, Pinkel said.