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Defensive Line Is A Big Question Mark Leading Into Summer Practices

Portland State v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

When you need a big stop in the fourth quarter on fourth and short with the game on the line will Arkansas’ defensive line find a push to hold on for a potential upset?

That question has been a definite no for quite some time. That started to change in 2020 under first year coordinator Barry Odom. His defenses were more aggressive, hit harder and opportunistic throughout last season. What they did lack was depth on the defensive line.

Sure, there were a lot of injuries and Covid-19 throughout last season that led to a few younger guys receiving playing time. However, the time is now when it comes to the Razorback defensive line. Via the transfer portal and regular recruiting, Arkansas added a lot of prospects to the line to hopefully bolster its depth at the position.

Arkansas allowed offenses to convert on 46-percent of their third downs (11th SEC). The Razorbacks need to figure out how to stop opponents drives and not let them control the time of possession. Which Arkansas lost more than they won.

Being able to dictate the line of scrimmage against opponents will be another key to winning eight games. Arkansas has been pretty bad at run defense but the addition of size and depth at defensive line should help Arkansas take the next step on defense under Odom.

This offseason, Arkansas added graduate transfers John Ridgeway, Tre Williams and Markell Utsey to the defensive line. Ridgeway had a very solid career for Illinois State where he recorded over 100 career tackles and more than 20 tackles for a loss. The 6’5 300 pound lineman could be the plug in the middle that Arkansas has needed for the longest.

Williams brings speed off the edge. The ability to rotate quick defensive ends will be helpful. Dorian Gerald, Zach Williams and Mataio Soli were in the rotation last season and likely will be again.

JUCO transfer Jalen Williams (6’3 300) and freshman Cameron Ball (6’5 300) are two other big guys you can anchor the defense with. With the influx of talent will Odom think about leaving the 3-2-6 and go back to a 4-2-5 or a 4-3? It will be worth monitoring through the next 75 days to see what he decides to do as we await the 2021 season.

Predicted starters: Dorian Gerald, John Ridgeway, Isaiah Nichols, Zach Williams

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