UA Defense Has Resembled Jekyll And Hyde

FAYETTEVILLE -- After two games, Arkansas' defense has shown that it has a split personality and a tendency to behave erratically.

The Razorbacks can look fundamentally sound and completely out of sync, sometimes in the same half of a football game.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring isn't always sure which personality he'll see: The one that held Troy University to only nine yards passing in the first quarter or the one that surrendered 164 yards through the air in the second quarter.

"I think the bottom line is we just keep shooting ourselves in the foot," Herring said.

The two vastly different sides of Arkansas' defense were even more evident in the first half of last Saturday's 41-38 loss at Alabama.

The Razorbacks were routinely beat on the deep ball and gave up 21 unanswered points in one of the more lopsided first quarters in recent memory. But they responded by holding the Crimson Tide scoreless in the second quarter.

As Arkansas prepares to face its biggest offensive challenge so far in No. 21 Kentucky (3-0, 0-0 Southeastern Conference), the question remains: Which personality will the defense show more of when it takes the field at 5 p.m. tonight in Reynolds Razorback Stadium?

The aggressive one that shut down Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook in the second half of the Sept. 1 season opener. Or the one that put up little resistance as Alabama drove 73 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

"There were a lot of question marks going into the year, and it's like we're trying to get this figured out on the field," Herring said. "We almost got it figured out last Saturday and then that (last drive happened). But that's football.

"Let's wait and see against Kentucky how far we've come (and) what we've learned from Alabama."

So far, though, Arkansas (1-1, 0-1 SEC) has been consistently inconsistent and that has been reflected in its defensive statistics through the first two games of the season.

The Razorbacks rank 85th nationally in total defense, giving up an average of 413 yards per game. At the same time, they rank 96th in pass defense (270.5 yards per game) and 97th in scoring defense (33.5 points per game).

So what's been the cause of the problem?

"Sometimes, it's alignment. Sometimes, it's a missed assignment. It's just little bitty things," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "I think things can be corrected, and for the most part, I think we did get that corrected and really put a lot of emphasis on that (this week)."

To help fix the problem, the Razorbacks made some major changes this week with its defensive line and secondary.

Senior Michael Grant was moved from free safety to cornerback in the hope that he can do a better job defending against the deep ball and limiting Andre Woodson, Kentucky's high-powered quarterback.

"You can tell he's a real smart guy," Grant said. "He's real accurate, so when you go against an accurate quarterback, you've got to be prepared or they'll hit a lot of big plays on you."

Meanwhile, Arkansas' defense will debut three other new starters tonight -- defensive end Marcus Harrison, defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe and free safety Kevin Woods. Talk about being thrown into the fire, though.

Kentucky features one of the nation's top offenses, thanks in large part to Woodson's accurate arm. The Wildcats rank eighth nationally in scoring offense (48.6 points per game) and 15th in total offense (504 yards per game).

"We're worried about what we're doing, not about who we're playing. We don't care if it's Kentucky or whoever; we're going to prepare the same way," Arkansas cornerback Matterral Richardson said. "We just worked on correcting what we did wrong, what we can control."

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