More Changes Could Come For UA Defense

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring spent the first month of the season sliding players in, out and around the lineup in hopes of finding a productive starting group.

After four games of mixing, matching and moving, Herring said the Razorbacks (2-2) are finally starting to settle in. But it doesn't mean his starting lineup is now set in stone.

"We've gone through changes because we weren't ready," Herring said. "For us to say that we're ready, just to say we're ready, I don't know. We might make five changes next week. We might make 12 changes after the Auburn game.

"This thing is a competitive sport. It's earned on a day-to-day basis and that's the way the system works. As far as continuity, continuity is no good if the quality is no good."

There's been plenty of movement so far.

Defensive end Marcus Harrison was suspended for the opener after his preseason arrest and is now with the second-team defense. Defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell was suspended for a game after his helmet-throwing incident at Alabama. Michael Grant moved from free safety to cornerback in place of sophomore Jerell Norton, sliding Kevin Woods into the starting group. And Elston Forte has moved into the first-team spot at weakside linebacker.

Only five positions have been held down by the same starter this season. Arkansas has had four different starting lineups.

But the changes have been necessary for a defense resting near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in most statistical categories. The Razorbacks are 10th in the SEC in scoring defense (29 points), total defense (397.5 yards) and pass defense (248.8 yards). They're also eighth against the run (148.8).

"The coaches are going to put the best players in," linebacker Weston Dacus said. "They're going to figure it out sometime or another. I think we've got a good crew in there now."

There are no lineup changes planned for Saturday's game against Tennessee-Chattanooga in Little Rock. But Herring said defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard could be moving to defensive end soon.

The sophomore, who once weighed 280 pounds, is now down to 260 pounds and hasn't been as effective inside at that weight.

"We're trying to get things right to win ballgames," Herring said. "It's not a perfect world and it's not a science. But at the end of the day we're somewhat getting into place and settling down."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories