It doesn't take a genius to figure out where Arkansas has to get better next season and that’s squarely on the defensive side of the ball.
It will have to come via a combination of correcting simple mistakes, tackling better, player development and - as always - recruiting.
Arkansas already has some vaunted defensive commits in Hope five-star prospect McTelvin Agim - who will enroll in January - Star City four-star defensive tackle Austin Capps and Manvel, Texas, four-star linebacker Jordan Carmouche among its seven defensive pledges in the 2016 class
There’s also Metairie, La., Archbishop Rummel defensive lineman Briston Guidry, Lake Minneola, Fla., safety Deon Edwards and a pair of linebacker commits in Pompano Beach, Fla., Coconut Creek Alexy Jean-Baptiste and De’Jon Harris, who will be taking his official visit this weekend.
The Razorbacks will also have Stanford defensive line commit Michael Williams (6-2, 305) of Fort Worth All Saints Episcopal in this weekend on an official visit this weekend along with Snow, UT, College offensive lineman Garrett Bolles (6-5, 300).
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, who now expects to sign 24 prospects in the 2016 class, and his staff will hit the road soon after Friday’s game with Missouri to find some more defensive helpfor a class that seven defenders among its 15 pledges.
“I just basically this morning locked down my schedule for next week,” Bielema said Monday. “We will leave out on Sunday and I have everything locked up until Friday morning where I am going.
“Really starting in the middle of the country, going East and going West and come back to the center. That first week really makes you think about where your priorities need to be and guys that are signing early.
“Because when we came here we were so deficient in the type of players our offense needed to have, I over signed at wide receiver, I over signed at offensive line, I over signed at tight end and defensive line in particular because that jumped out to me right away.
“I did a little bit at DB as well in terms of numbers. I wish I had put two or three more players the last two years in the linebacker depth chart because we are just so thin there right now, especially losing a couple of guys to injury magnified the problem times one thousand.”
Losing freshman linebacker Randy Ramsey to academics after last season was a big blow per Bielema.
“Ramsey sticks out in my mind because he was a guy that could play, but just couldn’t get it together off the field,” Bielema said. “There were some other guys that we signed and hoped they converted into a linebacker and haven’t.
“There’s that case in all of them. Some guys that were listed at linebacker that weren’t ever going to be linebackers.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith is well aware things have to change.
“What we have done this week as we looked at the film, we have tried to address what we felt were the immediate issues that we will be able to see and hopefully correct this upcoming Friday.
“There are other things, starting from the end of the season on Saturday morning. We will be our own worst critic, starting with this guy and what can we do better, how can we prepare better in the bowl, whose our bowl opponent and that type of thing.
“That kind of carries into the offseason and you try to address those problems - are they schematic issues? Are they technique issues? Are they personal issues?
“I think you can of put them in those three categories and try to figure out why you are coming up short. Once you address where that issue is and where it lies, you make moves to fix it and then move forward.”
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Since Arkansas has qualified for a bowl, the younger players on the team will get a chance to put their best foot forward during the 15 bowl workouts in December.
“I’ve got 50 guys that don’t travel with us - and we have 120 kids - so I kept that 50 guys after yesterday’s team meeting and just said ‘This is going to be a great month for you. Take care of your academics.’
“We have a couple of guys that are in jeopardy that have to get right academically but ‘I get unlimited practices with you guys, unlimited practices with the developmental crew.’
Agim and a few others - including fullback commit Hayden Johnson - could have the chance to work out with the Razorbacks during the bowl workouts as did Ty Storey and Zach Rogers last December.
“We may have three or four freshmen or signees that graduate early and do what Ty did a year ago and come in and practice with us during bowl prep and that is just like purely awesome,” Bielema said.
“December, if you are going to a bowl game, is one of the most enjoyable times of your life.”
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Arkansas battles with Missouri for several recruits each year so a victory this weekend could certainly help.
“I think we recruit against Missouri quite a bit to be quite honest of all the schools in the East,” Bielema said. “Obviously we are in Florida and recruit against Florida quite a bit, in Atlanta we go against Georgia, but for everything in Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City and Louisiana and even here in Arkansas, we go against Missouri quite a bit.
“We both look for the same type players, kids that do things right, kids that are project type kids that are developmental players that do well in our program.
“I always consider it a badge of honor when we got into a recruiting battle with them and were able to have success.”