Arkansas WR Drew Morgan will test Bama CB Cyrus Jones
Arkansas travels to Tuscaloosa on Saturday as big underdogs to Alabama in an SEC West battle which features an up-and-coming wide receiver — the Razorbacks’ Drew Morgan — going against a savvy senior cornerback in the Crimson Tide’s Cyrus Jones.
Morgan, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior, has emerged as the primary aerial threat for Arkansas after a slew of injuries decimated the position. Once viewed as a role player who can move the chains on occasion, Morgan has snatched top billing in Fayetteville this season.
He currently ranks No. 8 in the nation in our wide receiver grades, coming off back-to-back performances of 100-plus receiving yards. He has caught all 23 catchable passes thrown his way this season, with zero drops, and has done most of his work on underneath routes. 10 of his 23 catches and one of his three touchdowns have come out of the slot, from where he ranks fourth in the nation with a 4.04 yards per route run. He has only been targeted on two passes of 20-plus yards, but has caught them both, and has done good work after the catch, averaging 10.2 yards after each reception and forcing five missed tackles.
His two most effective routes have been WR screens (5 catches on 5 targets, 64 yards and 1 TD, including 18.4 yards after the catch per reception) and crossing routes (6 catches on 6 targets for 162 yards and 1 TD), earning a perfect receiving rating on both route types.
Making his second appearance of the season in this feature, Jones has seen every type of receiver line up across from him. The three-year starter is coming off an impressive performance against Georgia, where he held receiver Malcolm Mitchell without a catch on the four targets in his direction. He has earned a positive grade in every contest this season and is our 13th-ranked cornerback. It’s never an easy week in the SEC, and Jones will have his hands full yet again.
Jones has played 187 of his 204 snaps at right cornerback this season, so it’s unlikely we’ll see him track Morgan inside on plays in which the receiver plays out of the slot.
Morgan wins if…
He runs crisp routes and wins against press coverage so QB Brandon Allen can have an immediate open target in the face of pressure. Alabama is a smothering defense that forces opposing offenses to get the ball out quickly. Morgan has flown under the radar and hasn’t received the respect or attention most No. 1 receivers get. He has capitalized on his opportunities thus far, but he needs to shoulder the load if he wants to remain in the conversation as a top wide receiver in the conference and country.
Jones wins if…
He remains patient and trusts his technique. While Morgan has good speed, it’s not world-class. Jones is more than capable of keeping up in a foot race down the sideline, and shouldn’t bite on any double-moves the Razorbacks throw at him. He has faced bigger, more talented SEC receivers this season in Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell and Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell, and held his own.
He’ll have to do well against Morgan on any screens they throw at him – he has only been targeted on a wide receiver screen once so far this season, and it went for a 66-yard touchdown. But overall he has earned a positive run-defense grade this season.
Prediction: Jones over Morgan
Jones turns in a lockdown performance and limits Morgan to a disappointing outing. He keeps tight mid-route positioning on Morgan and lets the Crimson Tide pass rush work their magic up front. He has seen enough film on Morgan at this point to put together a strong game plan to contain him.