TSD is previewing the Razorbacks on both sides of the ball. Below is an overview of the Hogs’ defense under first-year coordinator Robb Smith, previously on Greg Schiano’s staffs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2013) and Rutgers (2009-12).
Included are a projected starting lineup, list of key rotational players and plenty of notes and stats on the Arkansas defense.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
NG: Taiwan Johnson (So., 6-2, 255)
DT: Darius Philon (So., 6-2, 272)
DE: Trey Flowers (Sr., 6-3, 270)
SLB: Braylon Mitchell (Sr., 6-2, 234)
MLB: Brooks Ellis (So., 6-2, 237)
WLB: Martrell Spaight (Sr., 6-2, 231)
CB: Jared Collins (So., 5-11, 172)
FS: Alan Turner (Sr., 5-11, 210)
SS: Rohan Gaines (Jr., 5-11, 195)
CB: Henre’ Toliver (Fr., 6-1, 186)
Key Backups: NICKEL Tevin Mitchel (Sr., 6-0, 190), MLB Josh Williams (So., 6-1, 240), CB D.J. Dean (So., 5-11, 200), DE Mitchell Loewen (Jr., 6-5, 276)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- The defensive front generates a good deal of pressure behind the line of scrimmage on its own. Arkansas as a team has compiled 56 tackles for loss, setting opponents back 213 yards. Consider that three of the starting defensive linemen in the 4-3 scheme – senior bookend Trey Flowers and inside guys Taiwan Johnson and Darius Philon – have accounted for 25 of the TFLs and eight of the team’s 13 sacks in 2014. Flowers is the ringleader, ranking third on Arkansas’ squad in total tackles (46), tied for first in TFLs (9.5) and tops in quarterback hurries with five.
- The leading tackler is senior weakside linebacker Martrell Spaight, whose 87 total stops are 36 more than the next man in line – Mike ‘backer Brooks Ellis. That’s to be expected as coordinator Robb Smith’s defenses, even going back to the Rutgers days, put a premium on bottling up the run first. So far this season Arkansas is letting up only 136.8 yards per game on the ground and just 4.04 yards per carry. Expect that to again be a priority for the Hogs on Saturday night, especially given the projected weather forecast.
- This is somewhat random but seems applicable. Arkansas has surrendered 80 points combined in the second quarters of ballgames this fall. In no other quarter have the Razorbacks given up more than a combined 59 points. Smith’s bunch has been vulnerable heading into the half, and LSU would be wise to take note of this trend.
- In the secondary there aren’t many prototypical ball-hawks. In fact no player has hauled in more than one interception through the team’s first nine games of 2014. Strong safety Rohan Gaines has been the most prolific tackler with 45 stops, but none of them have been for loss, which tells you Gaines isn’t frequently deployed in the box. The more likely DB to see sneaking up into the box is corner Jared Collins, who has four TFLs and a sack among his 30 total tackles. For the season opponents have thrown for 228.0 yards per game on Arkansas.
- Finally, and this is probably the most relevant point of them all, Arkansas – in particular the defense – is a different team at home in Fayetteville. Only one of the Hogs’ five losses have come at Razorback Stadium, and that was a 14-13 nail-biter to Alabama in October. Here are the point totals for Arkansas’ opposition in Fayetteville this season: seven (Nicholls), 14 (Northern Illinois) and 14 (Alabama). By comparison Smith’s troops have given up 45 points at Auburn and 45 again in Little Rock to Georgia. Expect Saturday night to be fairly low-scoring and for both LSU and Arkansas to try to squeeze the life, and clock, out of the game.