FAYETTEVILLE — Last Thursday night at War Memorial, Arkansas defensive line coach John Scott played lots of Razorbacks because he could.
Against the No. 23 TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday, Scott says he’ll play lots of linemen because he must.
Subbing top to bottom was an easy luxury for Coach Bret Bielema, defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and Scott in last Thursday’s 49-7 rout of the outclassed, lower division Florida A&M Rattlers.
Against Coach Gary Patterson’s Big 12 contending Horned Frogs, Scott says it’s a necessity to sub his D-linemen trying to chase TCU run-pass quarterback Kenny Hill in TCU’s hurry-up, no huddle Spread offense. It’s an offensive protected by five linemen, four of them seniors, weighing from 300 to 340 pounds including 338 and 340 at right guard and right tackle.
“Sometimes these games defense plays 90 to 100 snaps,” Scott said of going against hurry-up no-huddle outfits. “If your nose guard is playing 65 or 70 snaps, that’s too many. So you’ve got to find a way to limit those guys’ snaps. The fresher they are if you can keep them in the fourth quarter that’s going to count because their guys get tired, too. It really comes down a lot to who can stay fresher.”
So senior nose guard Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado still will split time with sophomore Austin Capps of Star City and Dylan Hays of Little Rock Christian.
All three bring different things to the table, Scott said.
“Bijhon is a really powerful, skilled, big guy that can do a little bit of everything,” Bielema said. “He can play the run. He’s got quick feet so you can move him. Capps comes in there and he’s like the old man wrestling the grizzly bear. He’s a tough dude and has got great hands and is very physical. And then you’ve got Dylan Hays in the game who is really, really athletic and you like to do different stuff with him. So I think the combination of all three it’s nice to have as a coach.”
Only Jackson and junior 1-year letterman reserve defensive end Jake Hall are beyond sophomores going up against TCU’s nearly all senior line.
“You don’t have any more young freshmen after you play that first game,” Scott said. “That’s the way I feel. It will be a challenge because those (TCU) guys have played together for awhile and have run that system very well and are very well coached. But you’ve still got to go out and execute and you have to do your assignment and do your job. So that’s what we’re going to try to do on Saturday.”
At least with three D-linemen, Arkansas first-year D-line coach Scott isn’t trying to rotate four positions like the Razorbacks tried to rotate in their 4-3 defense when TCU amassed 572 yards though Arkansas did win the game 41-38 in double overtime at Fort Worth.
One drawback to the 3-4, it’s easier for offenses to double-team your best D-lineman which FAMU often did last week against Arkansas sophomore defensive end McTelvin “Sosa” Agim of Hope.
“People like to key in on him,” Scott said. “He’s a good player. I feel like he handled it well and he was able to make some nice plays. He disrupted things for us.”
Agim still made four tackles, including a sack, against FAMU. And if he consistently occupies two Horned Frogs on the line, the better the chance for Arkansas linebackers to make the tackle.
“I’ve just got to be stout in my gap,” Agim said.
It isn’t being double-teamed but having to march double time that concerns Agim recalling last year’s second half when TCU came roaring back as the Hogs paid in fatigue from chasing Hill in the no-huddle.
“We were tired,” Agim recalled. “We weren’t ready at the line most of the game. We had a system where we had to trade ends, and trade noses and tackles last year, so we had to get calls from the sideline and they’d tempo us. So if you weren’t prepared for that they could burn you, and that’s what they did to us. So this year we’re trying to just simplify our defense, simplify our system and be able to be ready at the line when it’s coming.”
And rely on his backups, Jonathan Marshall and Armon Watts, to give him some breathers.
Senior defensive captain and nickel back Kevin Richardson of Jacksonville said he and starting safeties Santos Ramirez, also a team captain, and Josh Liddell and starting corner Henre Toliver are rallying the secondary having to start true freshman Kamren Curl at corner while Chevin Calloway, also a true freshman, and Britto Tutt, a second-year junior college transfer coming off a knee injury surgery sidelining him all of 2016, are in reserve.
All got moved up a notch because starting corner Ryan Pulley’s season ended with torn pectoral muscles last week, the same first-game injury that cost Richardson the rest of his 2016 season.
“We’ve been saying it all along that Kam has the ability to play right now,” Richardson said. “Kam came in physically ready to play. Him and Chevin both. Britto was coming off an injury, but he can play right away. It’s just a matter of preparing them with the game plan and getting them to be mentally ready to play their game.”
For his 120 yards with a touchdown on 14 carries against FAMU, Arkansas freshman running back Chase Hayden was named the SEC Freshman of the Week Tuesday by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.