Notebook: Saban, players see improved Hogs defense

TUSCALOOSA | That Arkansas will come to Tuscaloosa Saturday with one of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation is a given. But which defense the Razorbacks will bring to face the University of Alabama isn't quite as certain.
If it's the one that allowed only three points to New Mexico on Sept.10, allowing only 95 rushing yards, the Crimson Tide offense could be in for a tough afternoon. If it's the one that allowed 373 passing yards and 21 second-half points to Troy a week later, the Razorbacks offense will have to win in a shootout.
Regardless, UA coach Nick Saban sees an Arkansas defense that is markedly improved, and more than a few statistics back him up.

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"They have been playing a lot of the same guys for two or three years now, and those guys have gotten a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, a little bit more experienced," Saban said. "They've also sort of developed their scheme and package a little bit, probably with having more experienced players being able to handle it, manage it, where they kind of do more things now."
Arkansas is allowing 305 yards per game this season, which ranks 35th in the nation. That's more than 40 yards fewer than it allowed on average a season ago, but without having faced a conference opponent yet, that could be expected. The Razorbacks also have the conference's fifth-ranked rush defense, and its top-ranked red-zone defense.
"I know their linebackers are gonna be pretty good this year. I know they've got a good safety," said UA running back Trent Richardson. "They're always gonna bring everything they can. We know as a unit they're gonna be after it because we beat them two years in a row. I know they're hungry and they're gonna bring everything."
Richardson has been a part of two consecutive UA wins over Arkansas, but the Crimson Tide's winning streak in the series has actually reached four years. The Razorbacks are one of two teams in the Southeastern Conference West Division that have not beaten UA since Saban's arrival in 2007, along with Ole Miss.
The Arkansas defense is led by linebacker Jerry Franklin, who has a team-high 25 tackles, including two for losses. Another concern for Saban is safety Jerico Nelson.
"Jerico Nelson is all over the place, makes all kinds of plays," Saban said. "Seems like he has been there as long as I have been here. He's a very good player."
UA offensive lineman Barrett Jones said the Razorbacks defense doesn't quite look the same as it did a year ago from a scheme standpoint as well.
"They're doing some things this year that they haven't done in the past, so we're really going to have to study and learn," Jones said.
Carter still unable to play
Saban said there has been no change in transfer wide receiver Duron Carter's status. The former Ohio State Buckeye is allowed to practice with the team but will not play in a game until academic transcript issues are settled. Saban has said the school is still awaiting information that would allow Carter to play.
"At this point we have not received the information that we need to receive, and unless something happens that we do receive it, I don't know if there is another option for us at this point, but there could be," Saban said.
Two limited in practice
Saban said only defensive backs Robert Lester and Dee Milliner would be limited in practice Monday. Lester experienced back spasms against North Texas Saturday and was removed from the game, but is expected to participate fully in practice Tuesday. Milliner (illness) is also expected to be OK by Tuesday.
"That's a tough run there. (Greg) McElroy was a big nerd, too. He knows me. I'm always clowning him about it. They're both smart guys. It's really hard to choose between them. You'd have to see them in the classroom together. Whoever raises their hand the most." - Richardson, who had just kidded that lineman Barrett Jones has some nerd-like qualities, on which of Jones or the former UA quarterback McElroy is more of a nerd.
Players of the week, as chosen by the UA coaching staff, included Richardson, running back Eddie Lacy and tight end Brad Smelley (offense), linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, and defensive backs Robert Lester and Mark Barron (defense), and Will Lowery and Jerrell Harris on special teams. ... CBS is exercising its six-day option for choosing time slots for its Southeastern Conference doubleheader on Oct.2. Alabama-Florida, Auburn-South Carolina and Arkansas-Texas A&M are in consideration for the primetime position at 7 p.m. CBS will also choose one of the remaining two games for a 2:30 p.m. broadcast, and the game not chosen by CBS will air on ESPN at 11 a.m. ... After missing Saturday's game against North Texas, lineman Arie Kouandjio was back at practice Monday. ... Linebackers William Ming and Anthony Orr were among the scout team players wearing No.91 Monday, the jersey worn by Arkansas standout pass rusher Jake Bequette.
Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.