FAYETTEVILLE – For an illustrated dictionary Jonathan Marshall could pose defining the strong, silent type.
His type spoke volumes for the Arkansas Razorbacks playing defensive line shorthanded in last Saturday’s 27-24 SEC West loss to the LSU Tigers at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Certainly strong, in the weightroom the strongest Razorback for years now, and so tending to the taciturn that he spoke little even when his team preseason voted him a defensive co-captain, the 6-3, 317 fifth-year senior led as the man among rookies against LSU.
Six who have started for the 3-5 Razorbacks in this season’s defensive line could not play last Saturday because of positive covid-19 virus tests or contact tracing, or injuries.
Other than sophomore defensive end Mataio Soli, a starter last year, and last Saturday debut starting for 2020 Marshall marshaled an Arkansas defensive line that career debut started redshirt freshman Taurean Carter and off the bench played redshirt freshmen Marcus Miller and Enoch Jackson and true freshmen Eric Thomas and Jashaud Stewart.
Whoever played with him, Marshall steadied them.
“Well, he’s wonderful,” Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said postgame. “He didn’t say, ‘Hey where’s so and so, so and so, so and so? He said, ‘Hey, let’s go coach these guys. We will be fine.”
Then he showed them how it’s done.
“The guy plays his tail off,” Pittman said. “He’s a fighter.”
Despite constant LSU double teams, Marshall totaled four tackles, one for a 4-yard loss, broke up a pass, was credited twice with hurrying LSU quarterback T.J. Finley into hurried, incomplete passes and drew a key holding penalty, more like tackling than holding, on LSU center Liam Shanahan who apparently engaged Marshall into a rare post-play conversation.
“It was just him trying to say that he didn’t hold,” Marshall said when interviewed on Zoom postgame. “But I was like, ‘Bro you tackled me.’ And that was honestly the whole conversation. It was just kind of funny out there on the field.”
Many tackles Marshall couldn’t make still involved him. Because the more involved with trying to block Marshall frees Arkansas middle linebacker Grant Morgan to make tackles. The fifth-year senior Greenwood native made a game-leading 19 tackles against LSU and amasses a SEC leading 104 tackles heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Missouri.
“J. Marsh, he continues to make us proud as linebackers,” Morgan said. “Because he opens us up to make a lot of plays. He just did his job and continued to free us up.”real
Junior linebacker Bumper Pool added 11 tackles, also no doubt helped by LSU’s preoccupation with Marshall.
The leadership that Marshall provides up front, redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon, 16 tackles vs. LSU, provides in the secondary.
Arkansas losing Catalon to a controversial rest of the game targeting penalty while up 24-20 in the fourth quarter obviously impacted in LSU’s 27-24 victory.
“Obviously you want to play your best players,” Pittman said. “But he brings such a confidence, such an aura around him that he affects the team positively maybe even more than his play. It’s very seldom you might say a redshirt freshman is a leader, but he is. So it affects you, obviously, in a lot of areas – skill wise, playability, communication and the fact that our players believe in him.”
Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek so avidly believes that Catalon was not guilty of the targeting penalty that automatically carries with it missing the first half of Saturday’s 11 a.m, game in Columbia, Mo. against the Missouri Tigers that he will protest it to the highest SEC level.
“I cannot change the outcome or any of the other missed calls, “ Yurachek posted on Twitter. “But I will work with the appropriate SEC Officials to make sure that this “targeting” call does not cost Jalen Catalon our next game. My student-athletes deserve better.”