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Early 2021 Crimson Tide Opponent Preview: Arkansas

Nearing the regular season's end, Alabama will face a more-experienced Arkansas team when the Razorbacks come to Tuscaloosa in late November ahead of the Iron Bowl.

On paper, a 3-7 record isn't something to get excited about. 

However, when you've lost 20 consecutive games in the Southeastern Conference then you go on to win three in one season, that's something to cheer about and that's exactly what happened with coach Sam Pittman and the Arkansas Razorbacks. 

Pittman awakened the program back to relevant status in his first year at the helm in 2020, beating Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee all within the first six weeks and was five points combined from also besting Auburn and LSU.

Part of the resurgence was thanks to quarterback Feleipe Franks, a transfer from Florida, who completed 68 percent of his passes and threw for over 2,100 yards and 17 touchdowns with just four interceptions. 

In 2021, with Franks now signed by the Atlanta Falcons, Pittman will turn to KJ Jefferson as his signal caller. Jefferson made one start last season, which came against Missouri where he accounted for four total touchdowns and 342 total yards from scrimmage in a 50-48 defeat. 

The former four-star recruit will have returning playmakers in running back Trelon Smith, wide receiver Treylon Burks and tight end Hudson Henry to work with. Arkansas also added wideout and Oklahoma transfer Jaquayin Crawford to the fold despite losing second-year pass catcher Mike Woods to the Sooners through the NCAA's transfer portal. 

Pittman, who was a career offensive-line coach before taking the Arkansas job, will appreciate the fact that all five of his offensive linemen will return in 2021 led by Myron Cunningham, Ty Clary and Brady Latham. 

Where things get really tantalizing for Razorback fans this upcoming season is on the defensive side of the ball with assistant Barry Odum, who heads up a unit that returns 10 starters including linebackers Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool and a rising star in defensive back Jalen Catalon. 

If Arkansas can generate a consistent pass rush up front with defensive lineman Dorian Gerald, Eric Gregory and Zach Williams, its experienced defensive backfield, which led the SEC in interceptions with 13 a year ago, can wreak some havoc yet again.

Alabama and Arkansas are set to meet on Nov. 20, which will mark the fourth straight and final home game for the Crimson Tide of the 2021 campaign inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

Arkansas at Alabama

Date/TV: Nov. 20/TBA

Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium

2020 Record: 3-7

Final 2020 AP Ranking: None

Head Coach: Sam Pittman, 2nd year

Number of returning starters:  17 overall, 7 offense, 10 defense

Key returning players: WR Treylon Burks, TE Hudson Henry, OL Myron Cunningham, OL Ty Clary, TE Blake Kern, DB Jalen Catalon, OL Brady Latham, RB Trelon Smith, LB Grant Morgan, LB Bumper Pool, DB Joe Foucha, DB Greg Brooks, DL Eric Gregory

Key departures: WR Mike Woods, QB Feleipe Franks, DL Jonathan Marshall, DB Myles Mason

Last time out: Arkansas' final game of the 2020 season was a 52-3 loss to finalize its record at 3-7, which was the first time that the Razorbacks won multiple SEC games in a single season since 2016. Its win over Mississippi State in Week 2 last year broke a 20-game losing streak in the conference.

Series: The 32nd meeting. Alabama owns the all-time record 24-7 and hasn't lost to Arkansas in Tuscaloosa since 2003.

Last meeting: The Crimson Tide dominated the Razorbacks, 52-3, inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium behind an 84-yard punt return touchdown by the eventual Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and a combined six touchdowns from three different Alabama running backs (Brian Robinson Jr. - 3, Najee Harris - 2, Jase McClellan - 1).

BamaCentral is previewing every Alabama game of the 2021 season. Check out the rest of the series:

Miami

Mercer

Florida

Southern Miss

Ole Miss

Texas A&M

Mississippi State

Tennessee

LSU

New Mexico State