Arkansas defensive line needs rebuild during spring practice

Arkansas football is set to begin its first spring workouts this week under new coach Chad Morris. The Razorbacks are scheduled to practice 14 times between March 1 and April 9, though another date could be added, with the NCAA allowing up to 15 practices. The spring game will be played April 7 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

During this spring, the Hogs’ defensive line is in need of significant improvements. In 16 SEC games the past two seasons, Arkansas compiled just 57 tackles for loss. That ranked last in the conference by a wide margin. The Hogs weren’t much better rushing the passer with just 21 sacks in conference games the past two seasons. Only Vanderbilt, with 20, was worse.

As the Razorbacks aim to improve the position group, here are three things they should be doing on the defensive line during spring practices:

1. Follow John Chavis’ lead

Defensive coordinator John Chavis has a long track record of putting together impressive defensive line play. While at Texas A&M the past three seasons, the Aggies improved their sack total in conference games every year. A&M led the SEC with an average of 4 sacks per game (32 total) against conference opponents last season. The Aggies also led the conference in tackles for loss per SEC game each of the past two seasons.

The Hogs’ defensive line needs a reboot as much as any position group on the roster. Chavis is just the coach to get that done, assuming the players buy in to his approach. This spring is incredibly important if Arkansas has any hope at turning this unit around quickly.

2. Decide who plays where

The shift from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 is going to result in several position changes along the defensive line. It won’t be a huge adjustment for most of the roster, with most of them having been recruited to play in a 4-3 scheme before the Hogs switched ahead of last season.

The most difficult aspect will likely be deciding who fits where. There’s an advantage in that some players on the roster — McTelvin Agim, Briston Guidry and T.J. Smith — could be interchangeable at end and tackle. Expect a lot of experimentation this spring in order to find the best fits for everyone. Ideally, the Hogs will come out of spring practice with the positions set.

Here’s SEC Country’s best projection of the scholarship players who will play end and tackle:

  • End: Agim, Courtre Alexander, Jamario Bell, Kyrei Fisher, Nick Fulwider, Dorian Gerald, Randy Ramsey, Gabe Richardson, David Porter and Michael Taylor
  • Tackle: Austin Capps, Billy Ferrell, Guidry, Jake Hall, Jonathan Marshall, Isaiah Nichols, Smith and Armon Watts

3. Adjusting to new spots

Once the positions are decided, it will take some adjusting for at least a few players. For instance, Guidry will need to add at least a little bit of weight (279 pounds last season) if he is featured at tackle. If Agim is going to be primarily used at end — the position he was recruited to play — then he may need to shed a few pounds.

Some of the players who had been playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 are inevitably going to now play end. It won’t be a totally foreign position to many of them, but they may need to get used to having their hand in the dirt on a regular basis.

This spring is the perfect time for most of these adjustments to be worked out to allow for a smooth transition into the fall.

The post Arkansas defensive line needs rebuild during spring practice appeared first on SEC Country.

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