As the dust settled on spring practice it became a little more clear who the Razorbacks will be leaning on this fall. The easy thought is that a team that loses so much on one side of the ball will depend on the other in the following season. Well here is the dilemma, Arkansas lost the following starters on offense: QB, two running backs (counting Williams), a TE and three OL, and only two defensive players. So naturally you would think defense would be the focus and an even more strict version of ball control offense shortening the game, right?
I believe this version of the Arkansas defense under Robb Smith will make a significant turn around from last year..
Someone may emerge that was a surprise like a Martrell Spaight a few years ago, Dre Greenlaw last season or even make a jump in production like Drew Morgan in 2015. If one of those under the radar players make huge strides, that would be amazing, but here is a list of the guys that have proven they can make the plays when needed on every down. My ranking takes in consideration what effect the individual player makes on the opposing team on a week by week basis. .
Top 5 Players Post Spring:
1. Dre Greenlaw:
He is put here due to his versatility. No other player's role against spread or three plus wide teams can be as important as a weakside/hybrid linebacker. Greenlaw is equally effective in run downs and passing situations. You will very rarely find him out of position and can stay on the field in all packages and formations. The impact on the play that he makes is more noticeable than any other defensive player.
2. Deatrich Wise:
The best pass rusher on the team, but not the greatest run stopper. An improvement in that part of his game would have him at #1, and a lock in the first round of next year's NFL Draft. He does use his long reach to rip pass blockers to shreds and has the speed combined with quickness to get to the QB. As many passing teams that Arkansas will face Wise will have plenty of opportunities. Or, as was the case last season opponents throw quick and try to take advantage of matchups in the secondary. Either way his impact on the opponents game plan is significant.
3. Jeremy Sprinkle:
Would be at the top of this list if he had more consistent hands. He will be counted on to make some big catches in 3rd down situations. His run blocking solidifies him in this spot as it appeared in the spring that he will be used as an H-Back some again and be depended upon to open some holes. He does a solid job of blocking inside the tackles, and those long strides after the catch on throws the the flat chew up chunks of yards.
4. Frank Ragnow:
Played early in his career and can handle just about anything thrown at him up front. His athleticism gives the offense some other options in blocking schemes stirring images back to the days of Travis Swanson. He can pull and get to linebackers in space where some other offensive lineman struggled last season.
5. Brooks Ellis:
Steady and consistent leader on defense. The value of having a guy who can make all the calls for a defense is immeasurable. Would be further up the list if not for the times that he seems to get smothered by larger lineman and lost in traffic.