Hogs play some defense, too

After exhaustive research, I uncovered a little-known fact: The Arkansas Razorbacks have a defense, as well as an offense.

You'd never guess as much, given the buzz surrounding the Hogs' 541-yard rushing performance in last Saturday's 48-36 drubbing of South Carolina. But reliable sources close to the program say Arkansas does, in fact, have a group of defensive players that will show up to face Tennessee this Saturday at 12:30 in Neyland Stadium.

The Hogs' 2007 defense doesn't have a pass rusher as unstoppable as Jamaal Anderson, who was the eighth player selected in last spring's NFL Draft. Nor does it have a cornerback as effective as Chris Houston, a second-round pick last spring. Still, it's a crusty group that leads the Southeastern Conference in turnovers forced (22), pass-defense efficiency and third-down defense, allowing a mere 27.6 percent conversion rate.

Coordinator Reggie Herring's troops aren't the most talented group Tennessee will face but they might be the most physical and the most aggressive.

"They play a ton of man coverage," Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. "They play a lot of press coverage. They bring pressure a lot. Reggie does a great job ... has for a long time. I hired him for a short while at Ole Miss. I thought he was a heck of a football coach, and he continues to prove that fact year after year. He's been a top-notch defensive coordinator for a long time."

Arkansas's secondary shut down Robert Meachem last year in Fayetteville, limiting the Vols' All-America receiver to just four catches for 65 yards. Even without Houston, the Hogs' defensive backs are just as tenacious this fall.

Senior safety Matt Hewitt ranks fourth among SEC players in tackles (78) and sophomore cornerback Jerell Norton shares the league lead with five interceptions. Norton also has 174 return yards.

"They certainly would be more aggressive and pressure-oriented than any team to this point we've played," Cutcliffe said.

That will provide a stern test for a youthful Tennessee receiver corps that consists of juniors Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe, sophomores Austin Rogers and Quintin Hancock, freshmen Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore.

Tennessee's offensive line will be challenged, too. Even without Anderson, Arkansas ranks fourth among SEC teams with 19 sacks this fall.

"They bring a lot of pressure," Vol quarterback Erik Ainge said. "They play a lot of man-to-man. They don't just let you sit back there and pick apart zone coverage. They make you execute, and they're good."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories