State of the Hogs: Coverage Sack

Secondary coverage is getting tighter. That might bring back a forgotten phrase concerning the Arkansas defense.

How many times have you used the phrase "coverage sack" in the last decade while watching the Arkansas defense? It's probably been the same number of times you've exclaimed, "Gas was cheap today!"

I don't think gas is going to get any cheaper, but I do think the Razorback defense is going to produce tight enough coverage to produce some coverage sacks this year.

More and more, I see quarterbacks Ryan Mallett or Tyler Wilson tuck the ball and head up the middle, convinced that no one is open in a drill. Or, maybe ends Jake Bequette or Damario Ambrose break free and touch the quarterback down. Remember, you can't tackle the quarterback in a Bobby Petrino practice.

The other option is for Mallett to throw into coverage. He's learned this fall that it's going to lead to a tipped pass and a probable interception. Plenty of times it's landed in a cornerbacks hands, probably Andru Stewart.

"He's gotten a bunch," said Bequette, one of the defensive captains. "There have been a lot of picks. I think we are getting some pressure and the quarterbacks are having to hold the ball some because of the coverage from our DBs.

"I think you see the coverage is tighter. Our DBs did a lot of film study in the summer. They know their stuff. I hear them yapping back there, getting to the right spots. The talk and the chatter is there. They talk among themselves and it's great to hear."

One of the main yappers is free safety Tramain Thomas. His confidence soared in the offseason after he stepped in for suspended Matt Harris in the Liberty Bowl.

"I think it's more about the confidence the coaches have in me than me being confident," he said. "Personally, I knew I could do it, but the coaches needed to see me do it. That's what happened with the bowl game.

"I do think confidence comes with experience. I think our secondary is a lot better now than it was even at the end of last season.

"We are better at safety, but where I think we've gotten better also is cornerback. We have a lock down corner in Isaac Madison. Do you see any passes go his way? No, not any. He's with his man. You have a lock down corner, then everything changes. Safeties can play in the center of the field. Safeties don't have to double the field side, where Isaac and Darius Winston are playing. That helps."

Most preseason talk centered on the Madison-Winston battle, but Stewart is pushing Ramon Broadway on the boundary corner side, too. Stewart has jumped some routes for picks, but he isn't getting beat on the deep breaks, either.

"It's just about concentrating on technique," he said. "I read the sink of the hips when the receiver is coming out of his route. If you do that and it's a three-step drop, you can make your break and get to the ball.

"I got here from junior college last year and it was all about learning. If you are learning, you are having to think. It's different now for me. I understand scheme and the mental side, so I can concentrate on the physical side. I think we are good there, too. We are in condition, we are strong and now it's about getting technique right."

Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson likes to say you win with technique. Now that the coverage sack is back in the defensive vocabulary, the Hogs are going to win a lot more.

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