With the insertion of freshman middle linebacker Brooks Ellis, Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash believes that his front seven has shown improvement the last couple weeks, but it's the secondary – which Ash helps coach – that he knows has to pick it up in the final two games this season.
"He (Ellis) did a nice job and I thought the front seven for the second week in a row improved and did enough to help us win," Ash said. "But the secondary did not. We have got to find some solutions to get that fixed."
Two of those solutions could be sophomore Will Hines – coming back from injury – and true freshman D.J. Dean.
"Will did some good things out there today, but he is also very rusty from not seeing game action," Ash said. "He did some things today, but we were just getting him back out there."
Hines said that he is looking forward to being back out on the field in a game and wanted to do so to help the seniors go out with a win or two.
"It was too late for me to get a medical redshirt because I had played too much so I wanted to just come back and try to get better and help these seniors," Hines said.
Dean was thrown into the mix after Mitchel missed a tackle that led to a long touchdown run.
"I like the fact that he is competitor and goes all out," Ash said. "But at times he is just running around out there and we are just trying to use these two weeks to move him on down the path to where we can count on him some more."
A solution next year could be true freshman Korliss Marshall, who is seeing snaps at tailback this season, but started at safety and has seen snaps there during the two off weeks this season.
Will Ash and Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney fight over Marshall in the off season as head coach Bret Bielema suggests?
"I don't think we will wrestle over it," Ash said. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to look out there and see that Korliss is explosive and if you are going to win games in this league you better have some explosive guys on defense, too. I'm just telling you that if we are going to win games we have got to have guys like him."
Ash is happy with what he has seen from safety DeAndre Coley, who says he has gone from 168 pounds to 197 since he arrived on campus.
"He's a guy who has kind of stood out," Ash said. "He has put on about 30 pounds since he got here. He never really weight lifted in high school so he has physically changed his body.
"When he's out there he can run and he's not afraid to hit," Ash said. "I'm really impressed with him."
Another is defensive tackle Ke'Tyus Marks, who is another true freshmen from Florida that is expected to be a significant contributor next season.
"I say it's good, it has been pretty good," Marks said. "It's a learning experience. Every time I see on Saturday Travis (Swanson) or a guard is going against a D-tackle and doing very well I feel I got my job done. The scout team has helped me progress. It's a positive, you've got to turn everything into a positive."
Ash did tap the breaks just a bit on proclaiming the redshirting freshmen as definite solutions.
"They are redshirting for a reason," Ash said. "It is probably easy for skill players to come in and flash a little bit earlier than the guys up front because they are just not ready to compete yet."
Ellis noted that the game slowed down for him some last week as he made his second start of the season and had 11 tackles against Ole Miss.
"It really was a lot easier for me," Ellis said. "I still have a lot to learn, but the reads were easier for me and I was able to make more plays," Ellis said.
Ellis did have one regret - dropping a sure interception.
"I was so mad about that," Ellis said. "It will not happen again."
Ash praised Arkansas seniors for their effort this season.
"To be able to go through what they have gone through the last couple of years and be able to stay positive and stay focused and continue to try and fight to win games says a lot about their character, their commitment and sacrifice for the program and the University of Arkansas. That has been impressive to me."
o o o
Arkansas senior linebacker Jarrett Lake came into the interview room and was asked about the allegation that an unnamed Razorback player had used racial slurs to Florida center John Harrison, who was ejected in the game between the two teams over a month ago.
"To be honest with you, I guess everybody was saying that or somebody on our team was the one who said it, but to perfectly honest with you, I didn't say anything and I didn't hear anybody on the team say anything like that," Lake said.
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