Barry Odom enters his third season as defensive coordinator having lifted the Razorbacks’ defense into a Top 40 unit in scoring defense (22.9) a season ago. They were better against the pass than the run. They gave up 214.2 yards passing to finish No. 41 in FBS, while they gave up 153.3 yards rushing to finish No. 69. So Arkansas will look to get better there.
The Razorbacks are likely to continue using a 4-2-5 formation, which means cultivating depth at linebacker will be key. They have a high-performing linebacker returning in Bumper Pool.
But to get better against the run, Arkansas will have to replace players like defensive tackle John Ridgeway, who was the Razorbacks’ best run stopper, and Tre Williams, who was one of their best pass rushers.
With that in mind, here are a few defensive players to watch for the Razorbacks when they face the Aggies in Week 4.
Be sure to stick with AllAggies.com as we preview every aspect of the matchup with the Razorbacks throughout the week
LB Bumper Pool
It’s hard to believe Pool only started one game given his numbers from a year ago. Not only does he have one of college football’s coolest names, but he was also the team’s leading tackler last season. Pool had 125 tackles, and 7.5 tackles for loss and he enters this season as the most experienced linebacker in the program. If you know anything about the 4-2-5, you know that Pool plays a position that makes that defense hum.
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S Jalen Catalon
Catalon played in just six games last season, finishing with 46 tackles and two interceptions. He played hurt last season until he finally underwent season-ending surgery on his shoulder. Catalon could have taken a shot at the NFL but decided to come back for another season with the Razorbacks to bolster the one position group on defense that has quality starting experience coming back. Having Catalon back is a huge boost for the Razorbacks.
DT Isaiah Nichols
The Razorbacks need a run-stuffer, someone who can be as consistent as Ridgeway was last year. This player could end up being Taurean Carter. But, Nichols, a redshirt senior who comes in just north of 300 pounds, might be the more likely player to assume Ridgeway’s mantle of clearing the path for Razorbacks tacklers. Nichols had 22 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks. You can’t judge players like Nichols on numbers, though. His value will be in how well he opens up spaces for players like Pool and Catalon.
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You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.