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Andy Hodges

Defense, quarterback obviously biggest keys to Hogs making improvement

In all the analysis without spring practice surrounding Arkansas during this health crisis, it’s  not that difficult to lose focus of the two biggest areas that have to improve.



In all the analysis without spring practice surrounding Arkansas during this health crisis, it’s  not that difficult to lose focus of the two biggest areas that have to improve for anything to get better.

Folks, it’s going to be the defense and settling things at quarterback. Feleipe Franks didn’t come here to help some of the youngsters figure things out. He’s wanting to hear his name called at next year’s NFL Draft.

On the other side it’s a little more cloudy.

It helps on defense the new guy in charge probably has a little extra motivation he probably won’t admit for awhile.

Barry Odom was fired at Missouri after beating the Razorbacks in Little Rock in November. Eli Drinkwitz replaced him after one year as a college head coach and they paid him $1 million a year more.

No coach will acknowledge something like that but you can bet they won’t forget.

The guess is the defense will not just be better — admittedly not exactly a high bar — but dramatically different and improved.

“You could play really good defense … say you play 75 snaps, you could play really good defense for 68 of those 75 plays, but on those seven remaining plays if you give up chunk yardage or explosive plays then it’s not a very good day,” Odom said over a week ago in a teleconference.

That was the biggest problem with the defense the last couple of years. It wasn’t that hard for teams to figure out what they were going to be doing.

“We’re very multiple and we’re doing some things that I really like,” linebacker Bumper Pool said this past week. “I kind of think that with any scheme it’s just kind of about how hard you play.”

Which is why Odom is changing the scheme, but he’s more interested in changing the effort, which appeared questionable too often over the past couple of years.

“It’s going to be an effort based defense that plays with tremendous speed,” Odom said. “Those things, if you get and train and have the habits of playing collectively together, but also playing hard, understanding your assignment.”

That’s everybody, by the way.

“It’s not just on the defensive line, it’s not just on the secondary, it’s all of them collectively together,” Odom said.

Like we said earlier, it’s not just a scheme, It’s a mind-set. Odom has said putting together a depth chart is going to be a little difficult because there may be six defensive backs starting, five or four … it will change a lot.

Everybody has said that. What the players seem to think is they are going to be expected to play better.

“We find ways to create turnovers and give the ball back to our offense,” Odom said about what he wants to do. “Give them another possession and continue to find ways effectively to get off the field on third down.

“If you can do those and focus on those elements, then you’re numbers start to decrease defensively. You have got to be a really good tackling team.

“All of those components go into playing good defense and ultimately that’s not giving up big plays.”

Pool may have summed up the biggest change without realizing it.

“You can just see coach Odom has a fire in his eyes,” Pool said. “He’s determined to be the best and it shows in everything he does. He’s strict and he’s so fired up about it.

“You can see his passion. And that passion spreads out to the whole defense.”

Which will also spread to the fans quickly … if it improves.


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