State of the Hogs: Defensive Ends

They can't smash QBs in spring practice and they won't be hitting the signal callers Saturday night. But that's something Arkansas fans should see more often next fall -- defensvie ends taking out opposing QBs.

If you've attended any of the Arkansas football scrimmages this spring, you know there have been no crunching quarterback sacks from the defensive ends. You won't see any Saturday night at the Red-White scrimmage.

It's difficult to even tell when there is a sack. Whistles don't blow. The plays don't stop. The quarterback continues to play and there might even be a throw down the field and a completion.

"We want to see what happens at the next level, how the linebackers play, what happens in the secondary," explains Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. "We don't blow them dead. But there was a sack and we all know it as we grade the film."

It can lead to frustrations for the defensive ends, if you let it. Sophomore Jake Bequette would prefer to lower the boom, feel his pads pop as he runs through the quarterback on his pass rush. But he also understands why it better not happen.

"We want to get our quarterbacks to the games," Bequette said. "We understand. We just tap them on the shoulder pad or on the numbers as we go by and get out of the way.

"We got seven or eight in the last scrimmage (Friday) and I got two of them. I promise the coaches know if we got one. It was a good day for us."

There have been plenty of good days for the defensive ends this spring.

"We've made some good strides," Bequette said. "A lot has come together right now. We are a lot more confident in our assignments, just knowing the system. That's translating into playing faster, especially in the defensive front, just really getting after the quarterback."

There were times in Friday's scrimmage the ends -- Adrian Davis and Bequette -- collapsed the pocket around the quarterback.

"Yeah, we really did," Bequette said. "You get the sacks, that's always good. It's all about getting pressure. If you can get pressure with just the defensive line it's going to cause problems with the offense. The coaches have really hammered that point home and we are trying to do it."

No one looks better in the uniform than Bequette, 6-5, 270 after adding about 10 pounds this winter. The good news, he got faster.

"Bequette ran some ridiculous times in our testing," strength coach Jason Veltkamp said. "If he'd been at the (NFL) combine, he would have beaten most of the tight ends there. He had an outstanding testing period. We talk about ringing the bell when you hit a personal best. Jake rang the bell in every possible area.

"But we had a lot of defensive ends do well. Damario Ambrose was up 25 pounds and knocked over one-tenth from his 40. Adrian Davis was big, big, big this winter. Adrian played in the low 230s last year and he's up to 253 and he improved one-tenth of a second, too."

Bequette thinks he can still add weight without compromising speed.

"It always seems like when I get bigger, I am able to get a little faster, too," he said. "If I can just keep that up, it will be good."

Bequette and Davis have made things difficult for the offensive tackles. Mike Summers, offensive line coach, thinks they are the real deal.

"They are going to be a real strength," Summers said of the ends. "Both of those guys have gotten a lot better. We see them every day. They are tough to handle. They are stronger and they are faster off the edge."

Quarterback Ryan Mallett has seen plenty. "They have been in my face," the quarterback said. "They've gotten some sacks and they've knocked down some of our passes. I figure they are going to do that to the other team this fall and get us some cheap points. It's exciting to see what they are doing and they are making us all better."

They've done that without roughing up the quarterbacks. I expect they'll be doing that to opposing quarterbacks with regularity in the fall.

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