It’s a big matchup, and in those marquee games, the biggest stars shine brightest. Let’s take a look at six players who should be making things happen for the Horned Frogs Saturday in Fayetteville.
Ross Blacklock: Arkansas likes to run. Ross Blacklock is basically a cinderblock wall in the middle of the defensive line. Should they try and go up the middle, they are going to get hit - hard. While Blacklock didn’t pile up any crazy stats in his first game as a Horned Frog, he was an absolute menace; filling space, taking on double teams, and generally causing havoc. Throw in that the Hogs have three new starters along the offensive line, including a true freshman walk-on, and Ross and his fellow Killer Bs should have some fun Saturday afternoon.
Ranthony Texada: The Hogs don’t have a super-duper star at wide receiver, but they have a lot of steady reliable guys, and a couple that can really burn as well. For the Frogs to take care of business in Fayetteville, it’s going to be key that they can take at least one of those options away regularly. With a rebuilt offensive line that lacks in experience if not in size, Arkansas will likely be playing the quick pass game. That benefits a guy like Texada, who - now healthy - has great speed and quickness in addition to fluid hips and the ability to change directions on a dime. In addition to his coverage skills, Texada was used as a blitzer a couple times last week - and effectively so, causing that 28 yard sack fumble that kept Jackson State off the board on the opening drive. Texada is one of the most under-appreciated corners in the country - but he can put his name in lights with a big game Saturday.
Ridwan Issahaku: I picked safety Innis Gaines as one of my breakout players for 2017, and while I haven’t quite changed my mind, it’s going to be tough for him to beat out Issahaku and get the bulk of the snaps. Ridwan was EVERYWHERE Saturday against Jackson State; making tackles, getting his hands on passes, and taking a pick to the house to top it all off. He looked quick, explosive, and a step ahead of the Jackson State offense, and if that continues... look out.
Jalen Reagor: We are just over one week into the regular season, and y’all, I have got it BAD for Jalen Reagor. Every year, there seems to be one player that I fall in football love with, and this year, it’s the true freshman wide receiver out of Waxahachie. Reagor has good size, is lightning fast, has exceptional football IQ and instinct, and is as tough as a son of a gun. He didn’t have the fireworks of his HS teammate Kenedy Snell (who became a household name for his insane TD Saturday), but damn, he looked so... NATURAL. With all the attention sure to be paid to KaVontae Turpin, John Diarse, and Shaun Nixon, someone is going to have a chance to sneak in and be a difference maker, and my choice to be that guy is Reagor.
Ty Slanina: Do the Frogs have a go-to receiver? If game one told us anything - which is questionable - it’s that Kenny Hill loves him some Ty Slanina. The fifth year senior (who is getting close to being one of those players that seems to have been around forever) led the Frogs with four catches Saturday - which might not seem all that impressive until you consider that 14 different players caught balls and no one else had more than two - so it appears he’s going to be a guy Hill looks for when he needs a big third down conversion or a reliable player to move the chains. Always a great blocker and as sure-handed as they come, Slanina provides a steady reliability that Kenny Hill can trust in the biggest of moments.
Kyle Hicks: Oh, had you forgotten? TCU’s best offensive player has been lost in the shadows of breakout performances by a pair of true freshmen, but don’t neglect the man who ran all over the Hogs a year ago - you can bet that they aren’t. Hicks had 49 yards and two scores on the ground and piled up another 92 through the air. In response, Arky went to a 3-4 defense... and well... are ya going to put a linebacker on him? Assuming he’s healthy... and we can’t until he steps foot on the field... Kyle will be the freshest guy out there and is primed for a monster afternoon behind a better OL than a year ago and a (hopefully) more consistent Kenny Hill.