Alan Turner led the Arkansas defense with 97 tackles last year, ranking him seventh best in the SEC. That's the top number for the Hogs through 10 games this season, but Turner isn't anywhere close to linebacker Martrell Spaight, easily the team leader.
"Last year, I did have 97," Turner said after practice Wednesday night. "Now, those guys up front -- led by Martrell -- are making a lot of plays. You can still get to the pile, but you are going to have a more difficult time getting tackles with what they are doing.
"It shows you what happens when you get in the film room and study. Martrell stays in the film room."
Spaight doesn't keep up with the defensive stats and didn't know where he ranked on the team charts until before practice Wednesday. Safety Rohan Gaines read the stats to his buddies and they go like this: Spaight 97, Brooks Ellis 56, Gaines 50, Trey Flowers and Turner 49, Darius Philon 38.
"I try not to think about that," Spaight said. "Rohan read us the list. I just try to go play the game and not think about what that brings as far as stats. Just play your best."
That's not really the secret. As Turner said, it's about studying the tape. Spaight is so thorough, there are times that he recognizes the tendencies as the quarterback makes checks. LSU coach Les Miles was asked Wednesday if Arkansas might have known their signals.
"I heard about that," Spaight said. "Really, it's about studying the tape, understanding what they are doing. You do hear checks and you do see formations that might give you a little bit of a tip."
Spaight pointed to the spot where he suspected the Tigers were going on the opening play of the 17-0 victory over LSU. Hearing someone recognize his ability to understand the possible play made Spaight happy.
"That makes me feel good for him to say something," Spaight said of the Miles comments. "It's all about film study. It pays off. You watch and you watch and then you see something that might give you a little tip."
Spaight spent time with ESPN's David Greene with some film study this week.
"That was good because even the second time through watching the same tape, I picked up something," Spaight said. "It was a great feeling to break down tape with him. For me, it was the first time I'd been asked to do something like that."
There are a lot of firsts for Spaight, but they are about to run out at Arkansas. He'll play his last home game when the Hogs play host to Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"I'm going to be very emotional," Spaight said. "I feel like I just got here and it's about to settle in that it's almost over. I almost got teared up with you asking me about it. I know I will be Saturday."
Secondary coach Clay Jennings praised his safety with fewer tackles.
"We've got guys up front making plays," Jennings said. "If the ball is not in the secondary, that's a good thing. Alan is definitely making the plays that he should make."
Now it's about making sure that the ball is not behind the safeties.
"We've worked hard on training our eyes," Jennings said. "But what Ole Miss does on offense is difficult and you better be good with your eyes. We've got to keep the ball in front of us."
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace spreads the ball around in the passing game. The Rebels are like the Razorbacks in that the tight end is a big part of the offense. Sophomore Evan Engram has 27 catches and a per play average of 15.2.
"Engram runs like a wide receiver," Jennings said. "He gets matched up on a linebacker and they do a great job of getting him vertical. What happens, they get your eyes in the wrong spot with motion and then they can make you wrong."
Jennings was asked how freshman Josh Lidell is reacting to his first start, with Gaines out for the first half after a targeting penalty last week.
“We tell all of our guys, they are only one play away from being a starter," Jennings said. "He had a great week of practice last week and he’s been doing a good job this week. He has to understand he’s going to be up against an offense that’s a little bit of a different challenge for him. Being able to communicate, I think he will be okay. We have to be able to tackle.”
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