From the outside looking in, Arkansas accumulated a lot of sacks last season after finishing in the top ten. What many outsiders know is that the pressures were very inconsistent and not dominant as dominant as the statistics show.
That’s no knock against the players or defensive line coach Deke Adams. They could do nothing but play within the Barry Odom scheme of ‘bend don’t break’ which Arkansas broke a lot. The pass coverage was unexplainably terrible last year. At one point there wasn’t a unit worse in coverage than Arkansas. The 39 sacks the Razorbacks recorded were the most since the 2011 unit that helped their team to a Cotton Bowl victory.
When Landon Jackson transferred to Arkansas from LSU last year he was coming off a severe ACL tear and still wasn’t completely healthy when cleared to compete in 2022. During the scrimmage, Jackson seemed to be in the backfield constantly, accounting for two of the ten sacks on Saturday.
Sam Pittman said that Jackson was an issue during the scrimmage and gave him praise during the press conference:
“Landon’s so long. I feel like he’s bigger,” Arkansas coach Pittman said. “I know he is. He’s bigger than he’s been since he’s been here, and I think his ACL in his mind is very confident in his legs. He’s so long, man. He’s hard to block.”
In the past, Arkansas hasn’t always had an elite pass rusher. There have been single seasons where elite defensive end play was above average including Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Armon Watts and Tre Williams, respectively. Jackson is going to be leaned on a 6’7 270 pounds to give opponents fits off the edge.
Pittman feels that with Jackson the unit has six ends that can be rotated throughout a game in Missouri transfer Trajan Jeffcoact, Pitt transfer John Morgan, Zach Williams, and Nico Davillier.
During the summer, the Razorbacks will see the arrivals of highly touted freshmen Kaleb James and Quincy Rhodes, Jr.
The linebackers were also very active rushing the passer with Jordan Crook recording a half sack.
Travis Williams’ defense is predicated on third down stops and an aggressive scheme that force opponents into mistakes. There were plenty of bright spots rushing the quarterbacks whether it be on the edge or gaps. The defensive install is far from over so it will be interesting to see what develops over the summer.