FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ defense has been dialing up a lot of pressure in recent games including seven sacks against LSU this past Saturday.
The Razorbacks have 35 sacks through 10 games this season which is tops in the SEC and third in the nation. Bowling Green and Pittsburgh each have 37. The Hogs and Louisville are tied with 35 while Liberty rounds out the top five with 34. Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders is tied with two other players for eighth in the nation with 8.5 sacks which is tops in the SEC.
In addition to the LSU game, Arkansas had four sacks against Liberty and three in the Auburn win. That comes after getting one sack against Alabama and then none against Mississippi State and BYU during a three-game stretch. Sam Pittman was asked what has been the difference, personnel available or opponent, the past three weeks?
“I think a little bit of both,” Pittman said. “I think we were more aggressive early in the year. I think some of our injuries in the secondary might have dictated a little bit in that middle part and who we’re playing and how their protection is. There’s a lot of things that go into that. Obviously, we’ve been a lot more aggressive the last couple of weeks, and it has helped us. I think a lot of it goes into your opponent, their wideouts. Do you believe you can press them? Do you believe you can cover them? Do you need to get after their quarterback? Is he a good quarterback where you’d rather play defense against him, drop eight and things of that nature or go after him?
“A lot of things dictate that, but I do think our kids Saturday changed their mindset of going in I have to be in this gap. I have to make all those type things, and they said ‘I’m going to go sack the quarterback.’ That’s one of the things we harped on last week is when you go now, we’ve got a guy going to spy him up and those things, but the goal is to sack him. I think it helped a little bit as well.”
It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that since true freshman Quincey McAdoo moved into the cornerback spot opposite Dwight McGlothern that Arkansas’ been able to pressure the quarterback while blanketing receivers in the secondary.
“Ironically, I think as good of defense as we’ve played over the last six quarters, Quincey happens to be the corner out there,” Pittman said. “So, there might be some correlations there. I don’t know, but since he has been out there all the time we’ve played really good defense.”
In addition to the sacks and pressure picking up, Arkansas has only allowed 13 points in the last six quarters with McAdoo at cornerback. McAdoo has nine tackles, five solo, an interception, three pass breakups and blocked a punt against Liberty.
In addition to Sanders’ 8.5 sacks here’s Arkansas’ other 26.5. Jordan Domineck (6.5), Pooh Paul (4), Zach Williams (3.5), Landon Jackson (3), Myles Slusher (2), Eric Gregory (2), Bumper Pool (2), Jayden Johnson (1.5), Terry Hampton (1) and Jashaud Stewart (1). Pool talked about the recent improvement in the Arkansas defense.
“Yeah, I think that we just continue to grow as a defense,” Pool said. “We got hit with some injuries early on in the year and then we kind of changed some things up with running our defense. Kind of getting our D-line to slant some more. But then we had some additions, like Quincey coming in, adding some help at the corner position, moving Hud (Clark) to the middle safety.
“I think everyone just kind of found their groove. I think whenever you have corners that can really lock down, it helps you be more aggressive and whenever we can pressure the quarterback, I think that’s whenever we’re best. So, like you said, one touchdown the past six quarters is something we’re proud of, but we have a lot more to prove and I think we have two really good opponents left to prove it.”
Williams also commented on the defense seemingly getting better each week recently.
“Yeah, recent play I feel like we’ve been doing better and better,” Williams said. “I feel like we’ve been doing our job, but just because we’ve been doing our jobs doesn’t mean we’re all the way there. We’re a defense and an offense, but we’re a team together. Defensive wise, I feel like we’ve been doing really good, but we can always have room for improvement.”
Arkansas will host Ole Miss Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network.