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Positional Breakdown Part 3: Defensive Line, Does the Scheme Fit?

How much will the 3-4 help an inexperienced D-Line?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Bret Bielema mentioned at media days the rarity of real depth at the defensive line position in college football. Only the really elite teams can go 8-10 deep without seeing a significant drop off and that is one of the reasons for Arkansas’ switch in a defensive scheme. Once you take a good look at the depth chart, oh boy, does that make a lot of sense. Arkansas has a fair amount of talent at the defensive line, but it’s very unproven.

Arkansas 2017 DL

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Bijhon Jackson 6'1" 339 lbs. Armon Watts (RS) 6'5" 309 lbs. McTelvin Agim 6'3" 286 lbs. Briston Guidry (RS) 6'2" 279 lbs.
Jake Hall 6'5" 263 lbs. TJ Smith (RS) 6'3" 290 lbs. Jonathan Mitchell (RS) 6'3" 310 lbs.
Austin Capps 6'4" 300 lbs. David Porter 6'3" 241 lbs.
Elias Hale (RS) 6'4" 219 lbs.
Brandon DePrato (RS) 6'4" 222 lbs.

Arkansas has the same number of defensive linemen (four) that redshirted in 2016 than have recorded multiple tackles. Players like like McTelvin “Sosa” Agim and Bijhon Jackson are great to have, but is that enough. It certainly wasn’t in the 4-3 system. It still may be a problem, but at least the group will be in better shape.

Schematically, the current group of linemen are a better fit for the 3-4 system. If you go with Sosa, Jackson, and Armon Watts as your starters, you’ve got a whole lot of beef taking up space. The three average over 310 lbs, which is so very on-brand for a Bielema coached team, but is also important for the success of a 3-4 defense. Throw in Austin Capps and Briston Guidry and you still have some very large men lining up each snap.

When you have those three occupying as much of the offensive line as possible, you have freed up the linebackers to run and make tackles. You also have “Hog” linebacker who will act as a fourth defensive lineman at times, just not starting in the tradition three point stance on the snap.

The 3-4 scheme also gives Paul Rhodes the opportunity to get creative with his blitzes and how he utilizes a talent like Agim. Sosa has the ability to rush both the inside and outside, and Rhodes can change his schemes to try and take advantage of whatever weak spots the opponent has.

So all of that to answer the question, yes the switch should benefit the defensive line. The 3-4 is a better fit for the kind of players Arkansas has. The biggest question is which of the unproven players takes the next step forward, because if Agim, or Jackson get injured, things could go south quickly.