The Arkansas Razorbacks will have many key defensive players returning to the squad for the 2013 season.
Of all the changes that new head coach Bret Bielema is expected to make, one is that the Hogs will begin playing a more hard-nosed, defensive brand of football than fans saw in past seasons under offensive-minded former coach Bobby Petrino.
Bielema will have the benefit of some of the Razorbacks’ most prolific tacklers, such as A.J. Turner and Rohan Gaines, and other players who seem to have the ability to be successful but lacked a strong coach to point them in the right direction.
Here is the projected depth chart for the players who will keep the opposition from moving the chains in 2013.
The Razorbacks are looking good at the defensive end position, losing only senior Colton Miles-Nash.
The Hogs have most of their players from this season’s depth chart, including Trey Flowers, Austin Flynn and Chris Smith.
Chris Smith and Trey Flowers are in the best positions to retain their spots in the Hogs’ depth chart. The two players ranked No. 7 and No. 8 on the team in total tackles.
The most likely candidate to replace Miles-Nash is freshman Deatrich Wise, Jr. The freshman featured for the Razorbacks in two games this season, and he notched more tackles than any other defensive end that did not regularly feature in the Hogs’ depth chart.
The Razorbacks will be losing two of their primary defensive tackles next season. Alfred Davis and Jared Green were seniors during the 2012 season and will be taking their 68 combined total tackles with them.
The other tackles on the Hogs’ roster are either seniors like Lavunce Askew and DeQuinta Jones or freshmen like DeMarcus Hodge and Darius Philon.
Hodge featured in three games this season and produced two total tackles for the Razorback defense. Philon will have to put on some heavy muscle in the offseason, as he currently weighs 30-40 pounds less than the starters.
In order to fill out the roster for the position, Bielema and company will have to do some serious recruiting in the offseason or switch a player from the current roster over to defensive tackle. Either way, it will be interesting to see what the new coaching staff comes up with.
Projected Depth Chart:
DE: Trey Flowers, Austin Flynn
DT: DeMarcus Hodge, Darius Philon
DT: Byran Jones, Robert Thomas
DE: Chris Smith, Deatrich Wise, Jr.
In a season marred by bad defensive play, the loss of senior Alonzo Highsmith to a foot injury suffered during the game against Auburn could have spelled doom for the under-coached defense.
Instead, A.J. Turner, a 216-pound freshman from Lepanto, Arkansas, got the call to replace the Hogs’ best defender and ended the season ranked fifth for the Hogs in total tackles. He is all but guaranteed the position when the 2013 season begins.
Otha Peters, another freshman, also received heavy playing time during the 2012 season. Peters took over for Terrell Williams following Williams’ DWI arrest in November. He finished the year with 32 total tackles and is another defensive player who should prove valuable to the Hogs’ defense in the years to come.
Sophomore Braylon Mitchell also saw more playing time after Williams’ arrest. Mitchell broke onto the depth chart the last three games of the Hogs’ season and featured for the Razorbacks during the close game against LSU, arguably the defense’s best performance of the season.
Projected Depth Chart:
OLB: A.J. Turner, Jarrett Lake
MLB: Otha Peters, Braylon Mitchell
The Razorbacks are losing one of their most prolific defensive players this season in safety Ross Rasner.
Rasner leaves the Hogs after a 2012 season in which he led the team in total tackles with 92 and three interceptions. But he is the only graduating safety on the current roster.
Season regulars Eric Bennett, Jerry Mitchell, Alan Turner and breakout freshman Rohan Gaines should all be returning to Arkansas in the fall.
Arkansas is also returning most of its cornerbacks in 2013. It will lose seniors Kaelon Kelleybrew and Darius Winston but will return Tevin Mitchell, Davyon McKinney and Will Hines.
The rest of the cornerbacks on the Arkansas roster are all freshmen, save for sophomore Eric Redmon, who will be a likely candidate to replace departing senior Darius Winston behind Will Hines in the depth chart.
Projected Depth Chart:
CB: Tevin Mitchel, Davyon McKinney
S: Eric Bennett, Jerry Mitchell
S: Rohan Gaines, Alan Turner
CB: Will Hines, Eric Redmon