Published June 28, 2012 - 5:12pm
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All football experts believe that the key to a solid defense starts in the trenches. Size, speed, strength, talent and especially depth along the defensive line can allow a good Defensive Coordinator to free up his linebackers and defensive backs to make things happen. Luckily for Arkansas, they do have those elements on their defense for the upcoming season.
The Hogs are three-deep at each position along the line, and they return plenty of experience. Defensive Coordinator Paul Haynes, who coached the defense in Arkansas’ Cotton Bowl victory after coming over from Ohio State, will run a base 4-3 defense with some variations. However, the Razorbacks must be better at stopping the run this season, and Haynes has said he is sure that will happen.
Junior Byran Jones (6’2″ 312 lbs.) from Junction City will start at noseguard, and he is a load in the middle. Byran started all 13 games last year, and he was a part-time starter as a true freshman. He has the strength and leverage to be a big factor on the inside for Arkansas. Behind Jones is senior Alfred Davis (6’1″ 320 lbs.) of Hampton, Geogria and redshirt freshman Demarcus Hodge (6’1″ 301 lbs.) of Monroe, Louisiana. Davis is a run-stuffer, and Hodge has the talent to develop into a very good NG. This is a position of strength.
At defensive tackle, junior Robert Thomas (6’3″ 308 lbs.) of Muskogee, Oklahoma is believed to be on the verge of an All-SEC season. Arkansas’ coaches love his inside play, and absolutely love the fact that he has a motor that doesn’t quit. Senior Dede Jones (6’5″ 307 lbs.) of Bastrop, Louisiana and redshirt senior Lavunce Askew (6’3″ 292 lbs.) of Camden, Arkansas, will back-up Thomas.
Also look for Dede Jones to get lots of playing time, and possibly even line up at End on occasion.
One new addition to Arkansas’ interior line, will be incoming freshman Darius Philon (6’2″ 290 lbs.) from Pritchard, Alabama. Philon has the potential to be a big-time player in the middle, and most Razorback fans are hoping he makes Alabama regret not signing him. Tide coach Nick Saban asked Darius to grey-shirt for the 2012 season.
DE Jake Bequette is gone and now playing with the New England Patriots. Arkansas’ other starting DE in 2011 was Tenarius Wright, who has since been moved to MLB. That means there will be two new starters at DE for the Hogs.
Luckily, Arkansas has the depth and talent to help compensate for the losses.
The two most likely suspects to earn starting jobs at DE are juniors Chris Smith (6’3″ 251 lbs.) of Mt. Ulla, North Carolina and JUCO transfer Austin Flynn (6’5″ 260 lbs.) from Torrance, California. But do not be surprised at all if sophomore Trey Flowers (6’4″ 245 lbs.) horns in on the starting rotation. Flowers was a pleasant surprise for the Hogs defense last season.
Other DEs that will be pushing for playing time and providing depth are senior Colton Miles-Nash redshirt freshman Darrell Kelly-Thomas and redshirt freshman Horace Arkadie.
Arkansas’ 2012 recruiting class featured five defensive ends (Austin Flynn was one of those), all with the length, speed and talent to hopefully make an impact. The four freshmen are Deatrich Wise, JaMichael Winston (Darius Philon’s teammate), Brandon Lewis and Taiwan Johnson. Two may play, while the other two redshirt. The question is, which ones?
If the Hogs can get consistent play from their DL, they should be able to stop the opponents’ running game much better than they did last year.
This is a very talented and deep group with more than enough firepower to be one of the strongest defensive lines in the SEC. The interior defensive line will help compensate for the lack of proven experience on the ends.