Defense Takes Step Forward

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema likes what he saw from the defense this spring with three newcomers - defensive coordinator Robb Smith, defensive line coach Rory Segrest and secondary coach Clay Jennings - all coming together to mesh with holdover linebacker coach Randy Shannon.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema feels like he went out and got a defensive coordinator Robb Smith that goes about the game in an offensive frame of mind – and thinks that is a very good thing.

That was his assessment of the effort put forth by Robb Smith, a former Rutgers defensive coordinator who was working for the NFL Tampa Bay Bucs at this time last year.

"He really believes in challenging wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and – he always says – being able to dictate the daylight," Bielema said. "These defensive players are probably tired of him saying it.

"Robb probably takes an offensive approach to defense as much as you can," Bielema added. "He really tries to set the tone defensively of what you are allowed to do offensively by the way they align and make the offense play a little bit left-handed.

"It is not going to make us blitz more or do anything like that, but it allows a corner simply to play his base technique with a lot more aggression and a lot more physical attitude," Bielema continued.

Bielema believes that he has hired the right guy to get the maximum potential out of his current defenders.

"These guys (the players) will be a better indicator of what they are thinking," Bielema said, "but from an outsider, a head coach that knows what Robb was all about before he came here and to see him install his scheme or his verbiage or his language, I like it...I always say this all the time, Robb is a very intense guy, very short and very angry a lot of the time.

"But the part that I love about what he does and what he brings is he gets guys just to maximize their strengths," Bielema added. "I think he made these guys understand there is going to be accountability for your actions and that they have to faith and believe in what they are being told. That as coaches, we are going to put them in the best position and to have faith in that and don't question it, just believe it."

Bielema also lauded his other new hires in secondary coach Clay Jennings and defensive line coach Rory Segrest to go with Smith and linebackers coach Randy Shannon – the only defensive coach returning from last season.

"I think Clay Jennings single handed has probably had an effect on our DB room as positive as I have ever seen a coach have in a short amount of time," Bielema added. "He is a detail teacher, he cares, he does a great job of balancing the fun of football with the business of football.

"I couldn't be happier with those two hires and to be quite honest, to have Rory Segrest to jump in the middle and have three or four new coaches on defense and for Randy to be the only constant voice that was in there from a year ago," Bielema continued, "to have that room come together as well as they have in a short amount of time and to have the defense to play that well, I think it is a sign of only getting better."

No defensive player likely shined more this spring than defensive end Deatrich Wise, who had five sacks in the Red-White game.

"I think the part about Deatrich is that he is a kid with unbelievable talent, a lot of God-given ability who has begun to scratch the surface of how good he can be. He flashed last year and continue to do during the course of spring.

"...He is definitely showing great, great signs and he uses his hands," Bielema added. "He has great separation. It just has to be consistent on first, second and third down. We have always known that he has the ability to flash and do some good things. Plays with a great personality and I think if he gets that under control is only going to benefit all of us. Somebody – I know Coach Segrest in particular -- is very, very excited about."

Fellow defensive end Brandon Lewis had surgery on Wednesday and Bielema also updated cornerback Tevin Mitchel's status.

"He had a preexisting knee condition, goes back actually to me being here prior and ... I give a lot of credit to B-Lew," Bielema said. "He's very tough, keeps it to himself. He doesn't say a lot to begin with, but even when he's injured he keeps it more quiet. I was giving him a little bit of heat down there, should be a full recovery.

"Tevin had a routine shoulder surgery that he should be back with us - if not the first part of fall camp, very soon thereafter," Bielema added. "Doctors are very encouraged, it was a clean surgery, very routine, something that I've had a lot of our guys do in the past that shouldn't be a factor at all.

"And I'll say this about Tevin, and I know he spoke up to his teammates, if there was one guy during the course of the spring that changed everything about who he is and what he is and what he can be, it was Tevin," Bielema continued. "So, I'm very, very excited to get him back in the fall."


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