Do you think our defense will be significantly improved this year? Last year was brutal. 2014 was one of the better Razorback defenses in the past 20 years. That defense carried the team. Then last year the offense was superb, but the defense was just plain bad…there is no other way to state it truthfully. We particularly struggled against spread teams, routinely giving up 550-600 yards a game and 50 points per game. We played soft coverage and were seldom around the football when it was caught by our opponents. I know this must have gutted Robb Smith to play that way.
What do you guys really think about this defense? I know hope springs eternal each fall, but do your best to be realistic about what you think.
I know that Robb Smith thinks that this year will be a lot better than last year on that side of the ball. He knows his group best and he’s not really one to overhype. When I hear him say he thinks it will be closer to what he had in 2014, I believe him.
Based on what I have seen, I think the defense is better in every area. Please don’t misinterpret that as me saying I think this is going to be a defense that can compare to Alabama. But I do think it is better than last year. I can’t say that I have an expectation on points or yards per game.
Moving Jeremiah Ledbetter to the 3 technique is going to help the pass rush and the line is full of quality players. I think having Josh Williams back will help the linebackers and I think Scoota Harris is going to be a good player. Remember that Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw each played almost entire games without a break last season. I don’t think they will have to do that again.
The one area I remain skeptical about is the secondary. I think it will be better, but by how much? Paul Rhoads is an outstanding teacher, but it’s on the players to make the stops. I think there are several (Toliver, Ramirez, Liddell) who can be very good, but they have to be more consistent. I do think teams are still going to be able to hit some big pass plays. The key is to limiting that to one or two per game instead of five or more. A plus in the secondary is that there are a lot of third- and fourth-year players. If those players can put things together, they have a chance of being one of the better secondaries here in a while.
The DL should be a strength, which will make the rest of the defense look that much better. Santos Ramirez has been steadfast in saying that the young safeties are better as a result of going through growing pains last year. If the DL lives up to its potential, Ramirez and Josh Liddell should have big years. They have talent, it just comes down to cutting out the costly lapses/busts, which you’d expect them to be better at.
I know it sounds simplistic, but I really think it boils down to whether the DL can generate pressure and control the LOS. If it does, the defense will be much improved given the more-experienced players (add Greenlaw in with the safeties).
I’m a little different than Matt. What I’ve seen in the spring and fall is a much improved secondary. I see better angles and better tackling from the safeties. I see better alignment. The mistakes for the big plays are generally because of alignment busts. You could see them coming before the snap last year because there were gaps. I see tighter coverage in the secondary. I think the pass rush will be better. Dre Greenlaw is the most improved player on the defense. He made a lot of tackles last year, but they were not near the line of scrimmage. He’s going to make them closer to the line this year because he’ll be in better position. The pass rush is better.
In short, this is a defense more like the one that finished the season two years ago. It will be much better.