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26 days: Rohan Gaines

After a solid freshman season, sophomore safety looking to make strides


It's hard to say there were any bright spots in the Arkansas secondary last year. Among the well-documented problems: 286 passing yards allowed per game and only six interceptions forced on the season.

But from a glass-half-full perspective, the issues are at least somewhat explained away in one word: inexperience. At one time last season, Arkansas' back seven on defense included two freshmen cornerbacks, two freshmen linebackers and one freshman safety.

How much of the Hogs' defensive struggles last season was a function of youth and how much of it was related to coaching and/or talent is a question that we'll begin to be able to answer less than a month from now, and a key piece to the puzzle will be sophomore safety Rohan Gaines.

After redshirting in 2011, Gaines (5-11, 195) started 11 games last season and was sturdy if unspectacular. He finished with 75 tackles, four pass break-ups and one forced fumble, good enough to earn Freshman All-America acclaim from FoxSportsNet and a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team.

Though he was solid in his first year as a starter, if the Hogs are to improve this fall, they'll need to see strides out of Gaines. He'll also have more competition in the defensive backfield this season. In addition to reserve safeties Alan Turner and Kelvin Fisher Jr., Arkansas added JUCO headhunter Tiquention Coleman in the offseason and have experimented with moving 6-foot-3, 195 pound cornerback Davyon McKinney to safety as well.

Also sporting No. 26 this year is wide receiver Alex Cacciarelli, a junior walk-on out of Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis.