The Arkansas Report: Alabama players and coaches preview road battle


Alabama embarks on a stretch of four straight games against ranked opponents. First up is Sam Pittman and Arkansas.

The no. 2 Tide (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) dismantled Vanderbilt’s revamped offense last weekend. It’ll get an even tougher challenge in KJ Jefferson and the No. 20 Hogs (3-1, 1-1). The quarterback has totaled 1,215 yards with 12 touchdowns (eight passing) and a pair of turnovers. Arkansas lost to Texas A&M at a neutral site, 23-21, in part due to giveaways.

Why does Nick Saban think going on the road to Razorback Stadium is the Tide’s “toughest challenge” to date? How are players preparing for a reunion with transfer Drew Sanders?

Here’s everything Saban and Alabama said about Arkansas before Week 5. What did the hosts say about their biggest game of the season?

MORE Tide football: On Alabama’s past ‘hateful competitors’ boosted road dominance

Nick Saban, Alabama head coach

“Psychologically, I think everybody has to know this is the toughest challenge of the year.”

On Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson: “I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for the way he plays. This guy’s pretty unique.”

“They’ve got a lot of quarterback runs, which create another gap on defense. And to go with that, they have great play-action passes. They make a lot of explosive plays. (Head coach Sam Pittman’s) did a great job there, to me. They play with toughness. They run the ball effectively, stop the run on defense. I mean, their guys play hard. They’ve got a real culture there that shows great intangibles.”

On the Hogs’ offensive line: “I think it’s a reflection of Sam’s personality and that’s how their whole team is and that’s what makes them really a good team. They are good, but they have mental and physical toughness and really play hard and play together as a group.”

Will Anderson, Alabama LB

On stopping a dual-threat offense: “I think that is going to be the biggest thing this week that coach is probably going to harp on a lot. We can’t be pushed behind the quarterback. We can’t open up big lanes to have people escape.”

Alabama’s Bryce Young and Will Anderson on former teammate Drew Sanders

What makes Alabama reunion with former 5-star LB Drew Sanders unique

Bryce Young, Alabama QB

On going up against Arkansas’ pass rush: “We have a ton of respect for them and their pass rush. They have amazing rushers. Obviously, they’ve been really productive and creating sacks and doing a lot of things up front.

“For us, it’s just feeling like we’re doing what’s the best for us, wherever that may be. That’s probably more of an OB (Bill O’Brien) type of question, but for me, whatever the game plan is, I’m gonna go out there and execute it. We’re all bought in. We already know we have to have complete trust in that plan. Whatever that plan may be, we’re just going to try and do it when we feel like it’s best.”

JC Latham, Alabama RT

On pass rush: “Just whatever it is, make sure we handle it, knowing defensive schemes, the stunts that they run, what the tendencies of the players that they like to do and do with. Yeah, they’ve got a really good defensive front seven. They’re really physical. They do a lot of different things up front. But honestly, I think if we just bang out our fundamentals and handle business, I think we’ll be OK.”

On road game energy: “I love playing away. It just gives me juice knowing this is their territory and we’re coming to take over. Just being over there, especially after having my first away game at Texas, I know what to expect now. I know really I’ve gotta lock in more personally on the cadence and understanding what to do.”

The lessons Alabama’s No. 5 all-time recruit learned before winning top job

Arkansas HC Sam Pittman on the ‘piranhas’ within Alabama’s defense

What the Razorbacks said about the Tide

Quarterback KJ Jefferson after the loss to Texas A&M: “Right now for me, I mean, I’m focusing on Alabama right now. I mean, no need to focus on Texas A&M — the game is over now, we can’t go back and play the last play, we can’t go back and wish we could go back on this drive or the second quarter. I mean, we (are) focused on Alabama right now, so we’re about to turn there, focus on Alabama. We nip this in the bud and we’re looking forward and not looking at the past.”

Head coach Sam Pittman on Saban: “I sit right next to him in the SEC head coaches meetings and I ask him questions and he’s been kind enough to answer them. He’s treated me outstanding. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about him. He’s the greatest coach of all time in college football, in my opinion.”

Pittman on Young: “He’ll stay in the pocket until the last second. When he gets outside the pocket he just looks comfortable, like I could run it for a touchdown, I can throw it for a touchdown. I’m just going to do whichever one I decide to do. He’s been so hard to tackle for the teams he’s been playing.”

Redshirt-senior DL ​​Jordan Domineck on pressuring Young: “It’s really going to be a crucial part of the game. … They do throw a lot. We’ve noticed in their tendencies they’re more of a throwing team now on first and second down. We just got to make sure we keep him in the pocket.”

Domineck on team mindset: “We gotta go out there like we’re the best team on the field. Just can’t put (Alabama) on that pedestal. … We just gotta go out there and play like we’re the best team out there.”

Junior DB Myles Slusher on Jahmyr Gibbs: “I think he’s a great player. He can make a lot of moves, especially on the field one-on-one. … We’ve been preparing a lot for this week, open field tackling.”

Senior TE Trey Knox: “I mean it’s Alabama. They’re a well-coached, well-oiled machine, man. They get those five-star players every class. We just gotta look past that cause stars don’t really matter that much. … We just gotta take advantage and take what they give us and not try to do too much.”

Drew Sanders is developing into the player Alabama thought he could be. It started with a 5-year-old wrestling a dog. Fort Smith Times Record’s Christina Long featured the origin of one of the nation’s best tacklers.

Nick Alvarez is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him at


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