Arkansas National Signing Day Review: Grading the Defense

Taver Johnson - ArkansasRazorbacks.com

The 2014 class included several recruits that could fill multiple needs for the Arkansas defense.


Bret Bielema: I like this class. I like what they represent. They embrace what Arkansas is right now.

Many of the players who signed to play for Arkansas on National Signing Day 2014 could play various positions before they are done. Several of the defensive backs could play either CB, FS, SS, OLB or in the Hybrid LB spot. The LBs who have signed also could be molded into any of the needed positions and none are typical Inside linebackers. Cornelius Floyd (WR or CB), Santos Ramirez (S or CB), and Khalia Hackett (OLB, SS) all have skill sets that have the potential to be used at multiple positions early. How they refine those skills and how the coaching staff chooses to utilize them will determine what we think of this class in 3-4 seasons.

At the defensive tackle position Bijhon Jackson will be able to play right away unlike most of the other signees on this side of the ball.

It seems that the area of focus for the 2014 recruiting class on defense was at the cornerback and safety positions, but they did not land particularly highly rated recruits at either position. However, as some would argue, stars do not mean everything for any individual player and this group of DB's has a chance to prove that as holding true.

Defensive Backs

1. Chris Murphy- Impressive speed, above average cover skills and footwork, average tackling. Has all the tools to be a quality cover corner

2. Henre' Tolliver- Size (6'1) and strength are excellent, does not have elite speed, which may suit him better as a SS or a Nickel cornerback on passing downs.

3. Cornelius Floyd- Could play WR, quality speed, and hands, another instinct player with great ball skills. Former Running Back as well which gives him good vision and could return kicks.

4. Santos Ramirez- Like his height to play corner but will most likely be a safety. He is a center fielder type, breaks on the qbs shoulder turn. Is physical and can run with anybody but does not seem to be a great one on one defender. I see him as that middle field defender role as a FS.

5. Joshua Liddell- Wisbone Option QB in HS, lots of potential. Tough, heavy hitter. Will most likely RS and contribute down the road.

Bottom Line: Murphy is the most polished of the group but several others have unique skills that may get them some opportunities to play on a secondary that struggled last year. Floyd has some impressive return skills and could fill that role if needed. Not enough immediate impact to be considered a great class but several guys who have potential and versatility.

- Overall Grade: B

Linebackers

1. Khalia Hackett- Played some safety in HS and has quality coverage skills, could contribute at either a hybrid S/OLB spot or as a traditional OLB.

2. Dwayne Eugene- Also played safety in HS, does not have top level speed, but has good instincts and is able to read and react to run blocking keys quickly. Could be developed into a strongside linebacker.

3. Randy Ramsey- Played stand up DE in HS, long arms. Good speed in pass rush technique, plays a little high will need to lower shoulder pad level.

Bottom Line: The LB corp needs a player who can fill the middle with Brooks Ellis. Bielema must sign or develop one high level MLB out of every three classes to build a consistent group in my opinion. If he wants to add 15-20 lbs on one of these guys and give them time to get there it will be a struggle at this position again next season. It can be done (and was done during the BCS Era) at Arkansas but it has not been an easy task in recent years. Khalia Hackett has an opportunity to contribute immediately in the OLB/ Hybrid LB postion, but overall this group does not fill their need for a true middle linebacker.

- Overall Grade: C

Defensive Lineman

1. Bijhon Jackson- Extremely quick, first step, needs to improve strength. Can make an impact as a Freshmen in the rotaion.

2. Armon Watts- Talented, has all the size needed to be a run stopper in the middle. May be able to see playing time in first couple of seasons.

3. Jake Hall- Tons of potential to develop into a top level pass rush DE, will need to add pounds.

4. Anthony Brown- Impressive speed for DE, long arms, raw fundamentals.

Bottom Line: Bijhon Jackson looks to be the only early contributor of the group. Losing Chris Smith on the defensive line will hurt in 2014, but Trey Flowers, Brandon Lewis and Darius Philon have the skills to keep them solid up front. Adding Bijhon Jackson to this group as well as the upperclassmen on the roster should leave the Dline in good shape. With Trey Flowers graduating after the 2014 season the defensive end position will be an area of need. Watts, Hall and Brown will need time to be molded into SEC caliber defensive lineman. Even without Soloman Thomas this group is still solid with Jackson and Watts being top level defensive tackles. The rest are players that will not be thrown in to the fire right away, giving this class not a whole lot of room for error.

- Overall Grade: C

What do you think? Will this class be the one that is able to begin the turnaround on defense or will it take several more to get to that point?

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