Oh, that Arkansas defense.Everything you needed to know about it could be found in the final two minutes of the last game of the year: A flash here, a flop there. A sack here, a stunning, mind-numbing, remote control-throwing, foot-stomping, living room-screaming, WHAT-WERE-YOU-THINKING blown coverage assignment there.
Not that we're bitter. Honestly, the sadness hung around longer than the anger. I feel bad for the kid who screwed up. But I'm also tired of feeling sad about football, so what say we get some athletes on that side of the ball to help remedy that?
Arkansas is losing a handful of contributors, so opportunities for early playing time will exist for talented newcomers.
Today, we break down the defense by position, level of need, current commitments and prospects the Hogs are hoping to land.
The Hogs entered the year with a pair of seniors holding down the interior of the defensive line, but by midseason, it was a redshirt freshman that had stolen the show. Darius Philon finished the season first among the team's defensive linemen with 46 tackles, including 9 tackles for loss and three sacks. But if you watched Arkansas play, you don't need those stats to tell you he looked like the most disruptive force the Hogs have had at that position in quite some time. Sophomore space-eater DeMarcus Hodge looks like a nice complement, and should hold down the other starting position. The depth behind these two, however, is unproven.
The Hogs missed out on homegrown four-star Josh Frazier, who recently committed to Alabama. But whatever. Seriously. While it always hurts to lose high-level, in-state talent, the Hogs appear to be in good shape at DT.
Jackson is a big reason why. The El Dorado, Ark., product is the consensus No. 1 prospect in the state and the No. 6 DT in the country. Meanwhile, Watts provides a taller, leaner, body type and is a mid-level three-star (and a teammate of highly touted OL target Brian Wallace).
The Hogs also made waves (inter)nationally this week when Froholdt committed to Arkansas over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, etc.
Arkansas would like to have three DTs in the 2014 class, and either of these prospects would fill out the position nicely. Evans is a four-star and has the more prototypical size; the Hogs are currently trying to pry him away from Wisconsin. Cerenord is a South Florida product and is listed at 6-1. He's a consensus mid-level three star and is weighing offers from the Hogs, Tennessee and Wake Forest, among others.
If Trey Flowers stays for his senior year, the Hogs are loaded with four quality DEs. If he leaves, they're still looking OK with the trio of sophomores-to-be: Deatrich Wise, JaMichael Winston and Brandon Lewis. All three are between 6-5 and 6-6 and 260-275 pounds and have shown flashes of big-time ability.
Hall is Springdale Har-ber product who has come on strong in his senior year. He's a consensus mid-level three-star.
Bell is a Junction City, Ark., junior who's ranked as a low-tier four-star by 247sports.
Thomas is the kind of recruit who could make this class. Think of him as the Alex Collins of the defense. He's a five-star with offers from everybody, though Stanford appears to be the team to beat. Arkansas isn't out of it though, judging by this recent interview. Thomas has a sister currently enrolled at UA, and his father has connections to NW Arkansas.
Jackson is another later bloomer out of South Florida. He's a four-star on 247 and was recently upgraded to a four-star by Rivals. He committed to Miami in the summer, but is slated to visit Arkansas next weekend.
Shaw is a mid-tier three-star currently committed to Louisville. He's doubly valuable, though, as he is believed to be a part of package deal with teammate Sharieff Rhaheed, a highly regarded linebacker with offers from LSU, Alabama and USC, among others.
Linebacker is arguably the thinnest position on the roster, especially considering the disappearance of Otha Peters and A.J. Turner. Both players looked like future standouts as freshman in 2012, but Turner was redshirted this fall due to a preseason injury and Peters had his playing time scaled way back after returning from an early season injury. Freshman Brooks Ellis showed potential this fall, but the need here is great.
Both prospects are listed at safety by most recruiting services and considered low- to mid-tier three stars.
Rhaheed is probably the biggest name out there that is also a realistic possibility. Landing him would be big.
Smith isn't far behind. He's a consensus high-end three star and is currently committed to Miami, but has scheduled a visit to Fayetteville for Jan. 24.
Wary is a Rogers, Ark. prospect who just landed his offer earlier this week. Like the two current commits, he's played a lot of safety in high school.
Arkansas has plenty of depth here, but the talent remains in question. Tevin Mitchel (rising senior), Will Hines (Jr.), D.J. Dean (So.), Jared Collins (So.) and Caroll Washington (Sr.) have all logged significant minutes. The problem is that none of them have done enough to solidify a starting role going into next season.
Total guess at next year's depth chart: Dean and Hines as the starters with Mitchel stepping in and Hines or Dean moving inside for nickel packages.
Toliver is a mid-tier three star out of Louisiana with a solid offer list (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisville), and Murphy is a similarly ranked prospect out of Georgia with offers from Oklahoma State, Missouri and Louisville, among others.
WISH LIST: Raymond Wingo
The Hogs are still in on a handful of other prospects similar to Toliver and Murphy, but Ronnie Wingo's little brother is the one who stands out. He's a consensus high-end three star (a solid four star by 247) with great speed and offers from Auburn, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Missouri, etc. He's set to visit Fayetteville on Jan. 24.
The Hogs have a pair of veterans coming back here, but little depth and no true difference makers. Alan Turner (who led the team in tackles, interceptions and passes broken up) and Rohan Gaines are possible starters next fall, and the coaching staff talked up Deandre Coley as he redshirted this fall. There's also Korliss Marshall, but the more I see him run the ball, the more I believe his destiny is on offense.
COMMITTED: Santos Ramirez
Ramirez looks like a pretty good get; a mid- to high-end three-star with offers from LSU and Baylor. But he's on the thin side (6-2, 180) and will likely need a year in the weight room before he's SEC-ready.
Yes, please. All of them. The top four would be Hampton, Parker, Hester and Hendix, though.
Hampton is elite. He's got offers from everybody and is currently committed to Ole Miss, but he's expected to visit Fayetteville this weekend. Cross your fingers.
Parker is also big-time prospect out of Jenks, Okla. He visited Fayetteville, but at this point appears to be leaning toward Texas A&M.
Hester isn't far behind (low-end four star), and he looks more likely than Parker. He recently decommitted from Rutgers, and the Hogs are vying for his signature alongside Ohio State, Michigan State, Miami and others.
Hendrix is a mid-tier three-star with good size (6-3, 190) and a teammate of current commit Jovan Pruitt. He's expected to choose between Arkansas, Stanford, Notre Dame and Baylor.