The Arkansas coaching staff’s defensive philosophy is a complete one-hundred-and-eighty-degree difference compared to what the previous regime wanted to do. As seen at his previous stops, new defensive coordinator, John Chavis, looks to bring an attack and sack approach to the Arkansas defense. Under Bret Bielema, Arkansas was a team that played a “bend don’t break” approach. That philosophy is good when you have a team that does three things correctly:
1. Able to stop the passing game
2. Able to tackle effectively
3. Stop teams when they face long third downs
This change is a welcome one from the Arkansas defensive line. Randy Ramsey has even been quoted on twitter saying, “He can’t wait to get after the quarterback.”
Fans have expressed their displeasure with BDB approach. Now, with this philosophy, they will get what they want.
Here is a position by position look along the defensive line:
Maybe the most popular player amongst the fans is this former five-star signee and defensive lineman. For the majority of his time in Fayetteville, Arkansas has boasted the most underutilized defensive player in all the SEC. Agim has said before, “The 3-4 defense was not my favorite scheme to play in. One week, I would have nine tackles but the next I would have one tackle. It would make me seem inconsistent. That is just a product of playing in the 3-4.” Agim looks forward to the new 4-3 defense Chavis brings to the Hogs because it applies pressure to the quarterback. This defense is a dream for any football player. Defenses have to be aggressive. Yes, you may give up a few plays here and there, but pressure creates missed opportunities and key third downs for the opposing team. Agim will not only be an exterior lineman, but an interior one as well. “We’re just trying to see what he can do,” Chavis said. “One of our biggest goals is to get our eleven best players on the field … and there’s no question he’s one of our eleven best.”
The top junior college defensive end in 2018 was Gerald. At 6’3 and 260 pounds, Gerald has the size and quickness coming off the edge to make quarterbacks run for their lives. In 2017, he had forty-two tackles, including 19.0 for loss and 10.0 sacks, to go along with two PBUs, two fumbles forced and one fumble recovered in ten games for College of the Canyons. Could these stats alone suggest that he could be a breakout player for the Razorbacks in 2018?
Earlier this spring, Ramsey said “I think it just says that I’m versatile. I can play anything that you put me (at). I can play outside, I can play in, because I’ve kind of been back-and-forth my whole career.” To this point in his career, Ramsey, a junior defensive end, has seen playing time all over the field during his football career. Out of Fort Lauderdale, FL, Ramsey was a low three-star safety prospect brought in by Bielema in his 2014 class. After his freshman season, however, he was suspended indefinitely due to academic reasons and left Arkansas. This was a wakeup call to Ramsey as he later called Coach Bielema about coming back to Arkansas. Even paying his own tuition and fees as a walk-on, Ramsey was ready this time; he would get his work done in the class room and play football for the Razorbacks. This sent a loud message to the coaches and to fans that this Floridian was for real about being a Hog. Ramsey’s ceiling is very high. The sky is the limit for this undersized defensive end. At 6’4 and 236 pounds, Ramsey may be smaller but has the will to be a head hunter in a pass rushing situation. Ramsey has even gone on to say, “He’s more for sending pressure. Last year at Texas A&M, they led the lead in sacks. That fits me really well because I like getting after the quarterback. These coaches do a good job of putting players in the right position to be successful, so yeah I love the new fit.” Ramsey will be a player to watch out for this season, especially knowing Chavis’ history of the rush. Could we see a return of the “Code Red”?
As a defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, Smith started all twelve games last season and also stays there for 2018. Smith compiled twenty six tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks. Those are modest stats for a starter but coaches are going to push for more production out of the junior this season.
Watts compiled four tackles in limited action last season. 2018 will be his last chance to breakout as a senior.
In the 2017 season, Richardson was moved all over the front seven of the defense last season during fall camp with reps at weakside linebacker and defensive end. He played early on in 2017 with playing time in three of the first five games. He compiled six tackles with a forced fumble in the season opener against Florida A&M. Richardson should be more of a factor in 2018.
Newcomers and Walk-ons: Courtre Alexander, Nick Fulwilder, Elias Hale, Michael Taylor, David Porter, Jamario Bell.
Marshall is an intriguing player. He is 6’3 and 301 pounds, combined with his strength and quickness anchoring the middle of the line, opposing coaches will have to game plan around this physical specimen. Marshall had six tackles last season but fans should expect him to be used more in this 4-3 defense than last year.
A part of the 2015 class, Capps had offers from many of the college football bluebloods as a four-star prospect. He even played in the Under Armour Army All-America Game as a senior. That alone should show you what the previous staff thought of the rising senior. As a junior, Capps compiled twenty-two tackles and one and a half sacks. He, Marshall and Guidry should pick up many tackles as they anchor the defensive tackle positions this fall.
As many of these players on the defensive line, Guidry was another lineman under Bielema who was either very underutilized or not as talented as his four-star billing, coming out of Louisiana in the class of 2016. Whatever the reason is, Guidry is another guy looking to breakout in 2018. During the 2017 season, he had twenty-one tackles, including three and a half for loss and 1.0 sack … Added one forced fumble, two fumbles recovered and two quarterback hurries. Look out for this rising sophomore in 2018.
Newcomers and Walk-Ons: Billy Ferrell, Isaiah Nichols, Griffin Hunt
Thanks for the read, folks! Have a great rest of your Sunday.