Football season is less than a week away, so I figured we should take a look at what to expect from the Razorback football team. I think we should start with the defense since no one really knows what will happen with them. Fans hope that the Cotton Bowl performance was only a preview for what is coming in the future.
New Defensive Coordinator Paul Haynes and Coach Taver Johnson are in charge of this defensive squad now and it should be exciting to watch. Paul Haynes said his defense is "not complicated," over-complicating the defense has bit former teams in the butt. Missed assignments and being to timid has cost Razorbacks in the past, but with Haynes' new scheme hopefully will keep those mistakes in the past.
If you went to any spring or fall practices you notice the defense is always flying around making plays, and, get ready for this, we have actually been tackling. No more jumping at peoples shoe laces and missing, we have actually been hitting and taking players to the ground this off season.
Now lets look at position breakdowns.
This could be the deepest squad on the entire team. We have multiple ends and tackles that will see substantial playing time. If all the talent comes to fruition, it could be one of the best lines since I have been watching Razorback football. The two-deep depth chart has eight guys that could start for most schools. Even with the loss of Jake Bequette the Razorbacks are in good shape here.
Chris Smith looks like a rising star. He led all returning d-line players last year with 3.5 sacks. He will hold down the starting job at one end position. One player to be excited about is Trey Flowers. The All-SEC Freshman showed that he could play with the big boys last year. I expect big things from Flowers in the future. New on campus is Austin Flynn, he looks the part of a defensive end and now he just needs to raise hell on the field. Flynn, a JUCO transfer, looks like a chiseled piece of rock, at 6-5 260 I wouldn't want to be hit by him.
Other players that will see time at Defensive end are Colton Miles-Nash, Darrell Kelly-Thomas, Horace Arkadie and don't be shocked to see freshman, such as JaMichael Winston or Deatrich Wise. Even though Tenarius Wright has been moved to linebacker, there will probably be some situations where you will see him get down on a knee.
Defensive tackle will be a constantly changing group. The talent there is impressive, as Byran Jones, D.D. Jones, and Robert Thomas have shown that they can play with anyone. Alfred Davis and Lavunce Askew should also see quite a bit of playing time.
A few other players you may see out there are Jared Green, who is just huge. If you go to practice he's the big boy you see running around out there. He is 6-0, 315 and looks every bit of it. Also, I wouldn't be shocked if the coaches decide not to redshirt Darius Philon. He has enough talent to get on the field as a freshmen.
This year's group of linebackers are thin, but their could be some surprises out there. We all know Alonzo Highsmith and what he is capable of. I expect nothing less than a spectacular year out of him. Tenarius Wright is new to the position, but with his size, 6-2, 252, he could be a force in the middle linebacker position.
It will be interesting to watch Kiero Small play ironman football this year. He will be playing some linebacker, while also keeping his duties as the starting fullback.
Now to the unknown, who will step up and play a major role? Jarrett Lake has been named a starter but the battle is far from over.. Returning players that will get on the field include Terrell WIlliams and Braylon Mitchell. Freshmen Otha Peters and A.J. Turner could also battle for some playing time.
There is a lot of talent here, now we just need a few to rise above the rest and give some depth to the position.
The secondary should be improved this year. Corner Darius Winston has had strong showings in preseason scrimmages. It is Winston's last year to show what made him a top-rated recruit four years ago. Playing on the other side of Winston will be Tevin Mitchel. Mitchel played great as a freshmen last year, and this year should be no different.
Eric Bennett returns to one of the two safety spots. Injuries have slowed him in the summer camp, but he should be ready come game time. The other safety spot is less clear. Ross Rasner is listed as the started with Alan Turner backing him up. Jerry Mitchell is another name you could see pop up here by the end of the season. Rohan Gaines had a strong camp and will get some playing time as well.
The Defense has a lot to prove this year. They are often in the shadow of the offense, and if the Razorbacks are to take another step forward this year it's obvious that the defense will have to step up. There are some old names and new names on the roster, but, hopefully, this year will be the season where they put everything together.