Hogs Hope Their D-Line Is On The Right Side

FAYETTEVILLE -- The mistakes were written on the wall. Or at least on a dry erase board mounted on a wall just outside Arkansas' team meeting room.

It's known as the "Razorback Get You Beat Chart."

After every game, the board is updated to show the number of missed assignments, penalties, missed tackles and "loafs" committed by each Arkansas defensive player.

Everything one might need to know about how the defensive line played in last Saturday's 34-13 loss at No. 19 Tennessee was reflected on the board:

Missed assignments: 3.

Penalties: 5.

Missed tackles: 2.

And perhaps most telling, loafs: 15.

"Me, myself, I jumped offsides four times, and I just felt like I let the whole team down," Arkansas defensive end Malcolm Sheppard said. "I let myself down, and (I'm) disappointed in myself."

Arkansas' offensive line had perhaps its worst performance of the season last Saturday in Knoxville, but the defensive front didn't fare much better.

The Razorbacks failed to sack Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge, and by not getting enough pressure up-front, they allowed the Volunteers to string together time-consuming drives.

Making matters worse, Sheppard -- who's blind in one eye -- had difficulty staying on his side of the line of scrimmage. The sophomore jumped offsides four times, making it easier for Tennessee to pick up first downs. He also had a problem lining up in the neutral zone.

"I'm not going to make excuses for him, but he is blind in one eye and he has a depth-perception problem," Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said. "We're trying to make him aware of things like that."

Especially this week.

Arkansas (6-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) will face a Mississippi State team at 1 p.m. Saturday that has shown during its turnaround this season that it can control the clock and make defenses pay for their mistakes.

The Bulldogs (6-4, 3-3) have an offense based largely on running the football and being physical at the line of scrimmage.

"We like to run the ball, much like Arkansas. The difference is they've got backs that can hit a home run from the one-inch line," MSU coach Sylvester Croom said. "Our guys run hard, but we don't have that kind of explosive speed, so we've got to create some somewhere else."

Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe had no reservations about running the football directly at Arkansas' defensive line.

On the Volunteers' first drive of the second quarter, they called 11 consecutive running plays to pick up 47 yards and take 7 minutes, 15 seconds off the clock. The drive ended with a 28-yard field goal that extended UT's lead to 13-3.

"The defensive line, we've always got to be the backbone on the team. It starts with us up-front," Arkansas defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell said. "(If) we shut down the run, we've got a good chance of controlling the game."

Meanwhile, Sheppard said he's been working more this week on not jumping offside. It might sound simple, but for a guy with eye problems, it can be tough.

The sophomore said his penalties against UT weren't caused by the crowd noise inside Neyland Stadium. Instead, they were the result of his tendency to try to guess the snap count.

"(The problem) was not the fact that I wasn't concentrating; it was the fact that sometimes I guess the snap count," Sheppard said. "I had a bad guess. My guessing was off."

If there was a bright spot for the defensive line against the Volunteers, it was defensive end Adrian Davis. Herring said the sophomore had perhaps his best game of his career with seven tackles, including one for a loss.

But the Razorbacks could use more pressure on the quarterback. They had no sacks last Saturday.

Through 10 games, the defensive line has recorded only 9 1/2 sacks this season. That's a far cry from a year ago when former defensive end Jamaal Anderson had 13 1/2 to lead the SEC.

"It's crunch time and (the coaches) want everybody to know it's crunch time," Sheppard said. "We have to prepare ourselves better than ever, not that we haven't preparing hard.

"But we really have to prepare real hard; it's an important game."

A Bad Day

Arkansas' defensive line had its share of problems in last Saturday's 34-13 loss at No. 19 Tennessee. There were too many penalties and not enough linemen running to the football.

Here is a breakdown of the defensive line's miscues, according to Arkansas' coaches:

Missed assignments: 3 (Malcolm Sheppard 2; Antwain Robinson 1).

Penalties committed: 5 (Sheppard 4; Robinson 1).

Missed tackles: 2 (Adrian Davis 2).

Loafs: 15 (Marcus Harrison 5; Davis 5; Sheppard 3; Fred Bledsoe 1; Marcus Shavers 1).

Hawgs Daily Top Stories