Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This week in the Dawg House Part II: Arky Defense

While Arkansas' offense is among the elite in the country, their defense has been a liability in recent years. Last season in conference play, they gave up 29.1 ppg (which ranked 10th), 419 yards per game (ranked dead last), and 6.3 yards per play, which also ranked dead last. This season, they return 7 starters and through two games they appear to be improved (although it's though to say since they have played Tennessee Tech and UL-Monroe). Their D-Coordinator is Willy Robinson who coached with the St. Louis Rams from '06-'07. Arky runs a 4-2-5 defense and has made some position changes since last year. Let's take a closer look at each position group:

Defensive Line -- The Hogs are led by DE #91 Jake Bequette (6-5 271). He is the Hogs' returning sacks leader from last year and already has one this year. DE #58 Damario Ambrose (6-5 270) is the opposite D-end, and rotates with #43 Tenarius Wright (6-1 241). Up the middle they are led by NT #51 Alfred Davis and DT #92 DeQuinta Jones. DT #61 Zach Stadther was supposed to start, but was injured the first two games and is questionable Saturday. The leading tackler on the line so far this season is actually backup freshman DT #54 Bryan Jones, who has 8 tkls. Other backups are DT #99 Lavunce Askew and DE #90 Colton Miles-Nash (uh, Hyphanite). As a team, they have given up 97.5 rush yards per game (thru 2 games) and the D-Line as a whole only has 1 sack and 5 tackles for loss. the D-Line is probably not the strongest position group on the team but Bequette could cause trouble on passing downs.

Linebackers -- The Hogs' two starting linebackers are #34 Jerry Franklin (6-1 241, leads the team in tackles so far) and converted safety #1 Anthony Leon (6-4 227, second in tackles so far). Franklin was the team's leading tackler last year with 94 and also had 3 INTs. While the starters are legit SEC caliber talents, there is only one backup with significant experience; #46 Freddy Burton had 54 tackles last year but backup
#53 Jermaine Love is a senior and only has 11 career tackles. Depth will be an issue for the Hogs' at linebacker this season but their starters, Franklin and Leon, are adept at stopping the run as well as the pass.

Secondary -- Technically, Arky runs with 5 starting defensive backs. #31 Jerico Nelson (5-10 205) is a starting safety/linebacker hybrid who should move into the box frequently Saturday to help with the run. S #5 Tremaine Thomas (6-0 187) is the leading INT man from last year (3). #4 Rudell Crim (6-0 190) is the other starting safety, and is a converted cornerback. The two starting corners are #26 Ramon Broadway (5-9 191) and #24 Isaac Madison (5-11 185), who missed last year with an ACL tear. Combined they have three career INTs. Backup corner #21 Darius Winston might the most talented defensive player (5-star corner out of HS) but has limited experience (only a soph.). The other backup corner is freshman #14 Eric Bennett. The backup safeties are #36 Andru Stewart, who is a converted corner, #9 Elton Ford, who started 8 games last year, and the backup hybrid is #35 Ross Rasner.

Punter -- #14 Dylan Breeding returns as the punter, but he ranked dead last in the SEC in yards per punt last season (38.7), and hasn't attempted a punt this year.

As you may have noticed, Arkansas has a lot of "converted" players starting on defense. This, and the weak opponents they have faced so far makes it somewhat difficult to project if the defense will be improved this season. I would say based purely on chance they can't be much worse since they ranked so poorly in so many categories last season. I think depth could be an issue for the Hogs later this year, but their overall starting defense appears to be serviceable. It's still probably an average at best SEC defense, so the Dawgs will need to get as many points as possible to offset Arky's stellar offense.

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