The Dogwoods are blooming. The weather is getting warmer. That can mean only one thing, spring football is almost here.
With the spring football season kicking off March 30th, it’s time to get excited for the 2010 football season (that is if you weren’t already excited). Blake Stansbery has been providing you with previews for the offense, and I am here to preview the hard hitting, quarterback rattling, snot bubble inducing defensive unit.
Yesterday was the secondary, today let’s take a look at the young men who hopefully will strike fear in the hearts of opposing quarterbacks and running backs next year—the defensive line.
The secondary and the defensive line work together in sort of a catch-22. Without solid coverage from the secondary, the work of the defensive line becomes much harder. Without pressure from the defensive line, the work of the secondary becomes exhausting.
Give a quarterback enough time and someone will be open.
These are the young men that aim to shorten the opposing quarterback’s stay in the pocket and make every single rushing yard hard earned. Let’s go through and take a look at the players as they appear on the depth chart this spring. Defensive ends will be listed as DE1 and DE2 and tackles will be NT and DT.
The defensive ends will be under the tutelage of the new assistant coach, Steve Caldwell. Caldwell is an Arkansas native and a recruiting force. At Tennessee, Caldwell coached a number of "manimals"that were drafted into the NFL. People who follow recruiting in Arkansas, know Caldwell as the man who stole a number of recruits from the "Natural State" to wear the circus peanut orange of the Volunteers.
Jake Bequette (Jr., 6′5″, 271lb)
Bequette made the SEC All Freshman team in 2009 and improved upon his stats in his sophomore campaign. He had an absolutely dominant performance in the Swamp last year against then the No. 1 rank Florida Gators. With his ability to rush off the edge and force fumbles, he might be the most certain thing the Hog’s have at defensive end. I fully expect him to flourish under Steve Caldwell.
Bequette lead the line last year with 5.5 sacks and forced then recovered two fumbles last season. He has a knack for getting to quarterbacks and jarring the ball loose.
Damario Ambrose (Sr., 6′5″, 270lb)
Ambrose spent his time last year spelling the starters on the defensive line. He finished the season with 13 total tackles. With the arrival of highly anticipated freshman Chris Smith, Ambrose needs to use the spring to grow as a player to ensure ample playing time in 2010.
Tenarius “Tank” Wright (So., 6′1″, 241)
Wright is listed first on the depth chart at his position heading into the spring. He has big shoes to fill after the departure of Adrian Davis. In reserve action last year he had 34 tackles and one sack. His forced fumble in the Texas A&M game lead to linebacker Jerry Franklin's scoop and score.
He has the fire to be great at his position. He has the intensity and the nasty streak the could make him a star in the SEC. He has the competitive drive that leads to fist fights in practice. I don’t know about you, but I like that out of my defensive line because it means that he’s ready to struggle for what’s his.
Caleb Evans (Sr., 6′4″, 254lb)
Evans, like Ambrose, spent most last season in a reserve capacity, only recording two tackles last season. Evans was a very late addition to the Razorbacks, transferring from Palomar College well after national signing day.
Evans has to be ready to compete, especially with Colton Nash nipping at his heels.
Colton Nash (So., 6′6″, 261lb)
Colton Nash was switched to tight end his freshman year after Chris Gragg’s season ending ankle dislocation in fall camp. When he was recruited Arkansas’ focus was getting taller and longer. Nash is definitely tall and long. He has a 6′6 frame with an impressive wingspan.
He showed his speed and strength playing the TE position running routes and blocking. Hopefully that speed and strength will translate to an impressive rush from the edge.
Zach Stadther (Jr., 6′1″, 295lb)
Stadther was committed to play football at Kansas before flipping close to signing day to join Bobby Petrino’s first Hog recruiting class. Stadther saw plenty of playing time in his freshman year and last year he started a number of games.
He, like Bequette, has a nose for the ball and he recovered two fumbles last year to go with his 42 total tackles.
With Malcolm Sheppard heading off this year Stadther could make himself a full time starter this season, barring one of the highly touted four star defensive tackles that were recruited outshining him in practice. Like I’ve said before, spring is the time to set yourself apart.
Lavunce Askew (Jr., 6′3″, 290lb)
Lavunce was part of the Camden Fairview haul from Bobby Petrino’s first recruiting class. Askew saw limited playing time the past two seasons, but did get a bump in production recording 18 tackles, two of which were for losses.
Askew spent last year in the dog house after being arrested in connection with a stolen laptop before the season began. He’s still on the team so I’m sure he payed his penance and could use a good spring to back into Petrino’s good graces.
Alfred Davis (So., 6′1″, 326lb)
Alfred Davis redshirted his freshman year and has been lost in the depth chart. He has the size to be a gap-plugger on the defensive line. Maybe he could find his way on the field as a bulky run stopping specialist.
Patrick Jones (Sr., 6′1″, 309lb)
Jones is one of the last holdovers from the Nutt Regime. Jones was second on the depth chart heading into last season behind Malcolm Sheppard. He was eventually edged out of the two deep and saw very limited action recording eight tackles.
DeQuinta “Dee Dee” Jones (So., 6′5″, 307lb)
Dee Dee's impact on the defensive line was almost as immediate as signing day. He was blessed with the skill set that led to plenty of playing time last year.
He played through one of the toughest schedules in the country last season and more than held his own. He finished the season with 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
A ankle injury held him out of the Liberty Bowl victory.
Jared Green (Jr., 6′0″, 303lb)
Green is intriguin; he’s a Little Rock native and a Central High graduate. He spent the first two years of his college career at Mississippi Valley State before transferring to Arkansas. He had pretty good numbers at MVSU, but we’ll have to see how he performs on the SEC stage.
The pass rush is crucial to the Hog’s success in 2010. They had a habit of turning average quarterbacks into SEC players of the week.
Vast improvement is needed in stopping the run also. Long sustained drives late in the game kept them from beating LSU and nearly bit them in the ass in the Liberty Bowl. They might be the most interesting story line of the spring.
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