"That's been the focus last week and this week. We've got to tackle better and make the big play. Right now what we've got to concern ourselves with is getting better defensively--regardless of who we play."
It's Torbush's mission to rebuild what has become an inconsistent and too often underachieving defensive unit. And so far he's simply not satisfied. Torbush explained; "We've got to tackle better. We've got to eliminate the big plays. (Versus Vanderbilt) we gave up way too many third and longs. We've got to not miss tackles and be more physical in our tackling. And second we've got to eliminate the big play. We've given up a play or two the last two weeks."
"We've done a good job of forcing people into third and longs. The first week we made all of them, but the second week we didn't make anywhere near the number we need to make."
A good but hardly great effort in week one versus UCLA followed by a ragged performance against the Commodores have Torbush looking for improvement across the board. "I think all our guys have played pretty good," he was his assessment. "But I don't think anybody has played what I would consider outstanding football. All of us can improve."
In struggling to defeat UNLV in their opening game and getting manhandled defensively the following week by Tennessee, Arkansas has problems of its own. But Torbush explained the game's importance. "You want to do well in your division, so this is a game that we both put a lot of emphasis on. You've got to get it done. We're playing in our place. I've got tremendous respect for Coach Nutt (Arkansas' head coach) and his offensive staff, because I know most of those guys."
Torbush then provided a general scouting report of the Razorback offense.
"They've got very good skill players. Their wide receivers are good players--they've dropped a couple of balls early, but that won't happen this week. They've got an outstanding running back in (Cedric) Cobbs. Their fullbacks catch the ball well coming out of the backfield."
After two games the Razorbacks are averaging only slightly more than eight points per game, but Torbush isn't taking them lightly. "I think we're going to see a lot better team this week than we saw the last two weeks. They have not been as productive as I know they would like, but they've got a good defense. It makes the plays it needs to make."
"All the match-ups are important," Torbush continued. "But they've got a crew of good wide receivers and a very good running back. They play three or four quarterbacks, but I think they're starting to lock in on what they'd like to do. They've got pretty good experience on the offensive line. They like to spread the ball around and get it to their taller players, so it's not like they have one guy that you just have to earmark."
Early on, Arkansas has frankly been awful at the quarterback position. Completing less than 50 percent of their passes and averaging only 81 yards per game, the Razorback passing attack hardly strikes fear into opponents. "You'd like to make everyone you play one-dimensional," Torbush commented. "But it's up to us to be productive on first down and third and long. I think they've got three quarterbacks that are pretty good football players. Two of them are young, but others have a little experience. But for us to focus on their passing game we've got to stop the run."
And it's at tailback, where Arkansas trots out super-soph Cedric Cobbs, that the Razorbacks are most dangerous. "There's no doubt that they would like to get Cobbs started and get him moving," Torbush agreed. "He's got a lot to do with them being successful on offense, and he has not been able to do a lot the last two weeks."
After two games Cobbs has 87 positive yards, but coupled with 36 yards in losses the all-star candidate is so far averaging only 25 yards per game. "He just hasn't had much room to run," Torbush explained. "Most plays he's been touched before he ever got beyond the line of scrimmage. He had a great run against Tennessee, and that first week he made one or two. But they got their hands on him before he crossed the line of scrimmage, and when that happens you're not going to be very productive."
Despite his lack of yardage so far, expect the Tide defenders to zero in on Cobbs all game. "We know that he has to play well for them to be productive," Torbush acknowledged. "They want him to be successful early, and that's what we've got to keep from happening. We cannot let him hurt us early. Otherwise their passing opens up. He's what they base their passing game off of.
"There's no doubt he is the focus of their offense. You're talking about a guy that's a potential 1,000-yard rusher. They base what they'd like to do around him. He makes their passing game a lot better."
There is no way to sugarcoat the Razorback's poor offensive performance to date, but Torbush believes there are reasons for their lack of success. "I think they've faced two very good defensive teams in UNLV and especially Tennessee," he explained. "Tennessee has got good players, a good scheme, and they're really well coached. Tennessee is probably ranked at the top in the country right now. And I think UNLV is good myself. I thought Tennessee probably pressured them more, whereas UNLV basically played with a 4-3 front. But you've got to realize that was the first game for both teams. Both are athletic defenses that did not give up big plays. They tackled well. And that's two things that we have not done.
"For us to have success, we've got to be the same type team. I think we've made some improvement, but we've still got a long way to go."
Turning to the subject of his own defensive personnel, Torbush identified former walk-on Waine Bacon as No. 1 at strong safety--despite the fact that previous starter Shontua Ray should return to action this week. "There's no question it's Waine's job," Torbush said. "Shontua will have to beat him back out. They were very close when they started (the year). Shontua seems to be getting completely healthy and that's a plus for us. But right now Waine has played good football, and he deserves to be starting. It'll be up to Shontua to get back on the field."
In addition to his overall duties as Coordinator, Torbush is also the position coach for Bama's linebackes, where several back-up players are pushing for more playing time. "I think Cornelius Wortham (at strongside linebacker) needs to be playing more than he is," Torbush said. "(At middle linebacker) Darius Gilbert has played pretty well. And Jason Rawls and Adam Cox help at Rover. We've got several backups that need to be playing more than they are. What I've got to do is make sure they get into the game more than they have."
Like the rest of the nation, Torbush has found it difficult to keep his mind focused this past week. But in that regard at least, he's been pleased with what he's seen from the Tide defenders. "I thought we had a good practice Sunday, and we also practiced well last week. If anybody has got compassion and humanity in the United States it will affect you. I think we tried to be as mentally tough as we could, but it had to be on our minds. I know it was on my mind.
"What's happening in America is awful tough. But at the same time we've got to try and focus, and I think they've done a very good job of that."