Fayetteville, Ala.--The leading tackler on the Arkansas defense says he is very familiar with the Auburn football team that will be visiting his campus this weekend.
Sam Olajubutu, a short but productive linebacker, has been the leader of the Arkansas defense this season and one of the top tacklers in the SEC. Through five games the junior from LaGrange, Ga., High School has 57 tackles with 33 solo stops, 4.5 tackles for lost yardage and two of his team’s 10 quarterback sacks.
“It’s going to be real exciting playing against Auburn,” he says. “I grew up watching them a lot. They are just about 25 or 30 minutes away from hometown. I know some people on the Auburn team. It is going to be a real exciting game getting a chance to play against those guys.”
Unless Olajubutu flies an airplane or drives something very fast like a Formula One racing car and ignores the speed limits, he grew up closer to an hour’s drive from Auburn, but that doesn’t make him any less familiar with the Tigers. He notes that he played with former Auburn defensive lineman Dexter Murphy as well as current AU freshman linebacker Tray Blackmon, who is redshirting this season.
“They didn’t recruit me,” Olajubutu says of the Tigers. “I don’t take it personally. I am real happy right now they didn’t recruit me and I got a chance to end up at Arkansas.”
Olajubutu makes a tackle vs. the Texas Longhorns.
Olajubutu is listed as being 5-9, 227 pounds, however, it is unlikely he is really that tall. A lack of height hasn’t hampered his production though. He started eight games in 2003 as a redshirt freshman and made 85 tackles as a middle linebacker. He finished third on the team in tackles.
Last year he also started eight times and made 52 tackles, including three solos and three assists in a 38-20 loss at Auburn.
Olajubutu says his work ethic and football instincts help him succeed at the college level. “I had a good offseason this summer,” the linebacker says.
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt notes that he is impressed with the junior. “Pound per pound he may one of the toughest guys on our football team even though he is not the six-foot-two or six-foot-three linebacker that we normally face each Saturday in the SEC,” Nutt says.
“What a leader for us,” the coach adds. “He does his talking on the field. He is a tremendous tackler. He has a great nose for the ball and you just love his heart and his ability to go make plays.”
As a junior, Olajubutu says that new defensive coordinator Reggie Herring has made a major overhaul in the system. “It is a totally different defense,” Olajubutu says. “We have got like three true linebackers now and last year we had two true linebackers. The linebackers have more of a role in play-making this year.”
Last year the defense was a problem for the Razorbacks, who gave up 397.2 yards per contest. “I would say we are better,” Olajubutu says of the 2005 defense. “We are running to the ball and playing harder.”
Olajubutu is playing against the Tigers for the fourth time this week. He had one unassisted tackle vs. AU in 2002 prior to receiving a medical redshirt. He had four solo tackles and seven assists in 2003 as the Tigers won 10-3 in Fayetteville. His six total tackles vs. Auburn last year tied for his third best total of the season.
Through five games this year, his team is 2-3 overall and lost close decisions in its two SEC contests at home vs. Vandy and on the road at Alabama. That makes the contest against Auburn a must-win if the Razorbacks are going to stay in the race for the SEC West title, which is the theme for Nutt’s team this week.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central from Razorback Stadium and there is no television coverage planned.