Defense Looking To Force Turnovers

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' defense took an important step against Alabama on Sept. 24, putting together a solid performance one week after its humiliating, 70-17 loss at top-ranked Southern California.

But strong safety Vickiel Vaughn said there's still one area the Hogs didn't show any sign of improvement: Forcing turnovers.

"We're playing good defense as far as containing teams and limiting them to what they do," Vaughn said. "But I think we've still got to make big plays, getting turnovers for our offense."

The Hogs didn't force a turnover at USC and repeated the feat in their 24-13 loss at Alabama. In fact, they've only forced six turnovers in four games. And five of those came in the season-opening, 49-17 win against Missouri State.

Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said the Razorbacks must find a way to make big plays and hopes the turnover drought will end against Louisiana-Monroe.

"We've got to be more aggressive when we tackle," Herring said. "Make more plays on the ball. Players have got to make plays. You don't get turnovers unless players make plays. We just have to play more aggressive, be more aggressive.

"There's no call or there's no poem or there's no magic about that. When turnovers occur, it's usually a defensive player making an aggressive play."

Arkansas hasn't done a good job of that this season. The Hogs are 11th in the Southeastern Conference and 99th in the nation in turnover margin (minus-4). Only Ole Miss, which is 108th in the nation, is worse (minus-5) in the league.

Herring said Arkansas preaches the importance of making plays in practice, but it hasn't carried over to games. Vaughn said the Razorbacks must find ways to step in front of a pass, jar a ball loose or rip it out of a ball carrier's hands. Or, at least, be in the right place at the right time and get "lucky."

"It's always a positive and a plus if you can get turnovers for your team and give the offense the ball back," Vaughn said. "I always think turnovers are contagious for a team. If you get on a roll with turnovers, then they just start to carry over and start to pick up the defense and make you play better and more exciting."

Arkansas has had a tough time forcing opponents to make mistakes the past three weeks. It didn't help that all three were led by senior quarterbacks -- Vanderbilt's Jay Culter, USC's Matt Leinart and Alabama's Brodie Croyle -- who haven't made many mistakes this season.

But cornerbacks coach Bobby Allen said the Hogs defensive backs got their hands on five passes against the Crimson Tide and are getting closer to forcing turnovers. Once they get one, Allen, Herring and Vaughn believe more will follow.

"It's just frustrating that we're starting to play good defense, but we're still not getting turnovers like we need to and want to," Vaughn said. "But I think that will pick up the more our defense picks up."

Happy He's Healthy
Linebacker Pierre Brown, who has missed the past two games with a sprained knee, will start at middle linebacker Saturday along with true freshman Freddie Fairchild (strongside) and junior Sam Olajubutu (weakside).

Herring said Brown is a "little bit stale" because of a three-week layoff and doesn't know how much he'll be able to play. But Herring is hoping Brown will be close to full speed in time for the Indians and intends to play him until he's tired.

"The bottom line is that Pierre Brown is very valuable to us emotionally and as a leader," Herring said. "We need Pierre out there. This team lacks senior leadership and maturity. They just don't know. Pierre, he fills a big void for us right now."

Brown, who started the first two games at strongside linebacker, has moved back to the middle where he began the spring. Herring made the move to keep Fairchild, who has started the past two games in Brown's place, on the field.

"(Fairchild) has some ability to make plays that some of the other guys don't," Herring said. "That's kind of a give and take at that position as far as Freddie goes because he's going to make somefreshman mistakes. But he does have the ability to make some plays. Other guys who won't make mistakes, won't make any plays."

Extra Points
Coach Houston Nutt said tight end Jared Hicks (ankle) won't play Saturday, but running back Darren McFadden (shoulder) "should" get his usual workload. ... True freshman receiver Rod Coleman, who was pulled from the scout team last week, will play against the Indians. Coleman could help an offense that has played without deep-play threat Chris Baker (sprained knee ligament) most of the season. ... Linebacker Tyrell Graham, who didn't make the trip to Alabama because of personal reasons, is back with the Hogs. But Nutt isn't expecting the true freshman to return to practice for a while. For now, Graham will attend class, go to study hall and work out on his own. ... Receiver Richard Bracken is one of 184 semifinalists for the 2005 Draddy Trophy. The Draddy, which also is known as the Academic Heisman, recognizes the individual that best exhibits academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories