FAYETTEVILLE — When Bumper Pool opted to bypass the 2022 NFL Draft and return to Arkansas the expectations for the defense automatically increased.

In addition to being the leading tackler last fall with 125 tackles, including 45 solo, 7.5 for loss, two pass breakups and a pair of quarterback hurries. So obviously the Hogs got a very talented linebacker back for the season. However, they are also getting more than that with Pool becoming one of the team’s leaders.

“Yes sir, I’ve played here for quite a bit and I’ve had a lot of guys teach me things,” Pool said. “Dre (Greenlaw), Scoota (Harris) those guys poured their knowledge into me and it’s only right I came back and given as much knowledge as I can to these young guys and hope they have more success than I can do whenever I’m done player.”

Though Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry, who combined for 201 tackles, are gone Pool still likes the linebacker room.

“This year our linebacker room completely changed,” Pool said. “There’s a lot of talent in the room. It changed. A lot of young guys wanting to get better. And I just saw today there’s talent, there’s speed, there’s physicality in all those guys. And so if we can continue to make sure that everyone is locked in on their assignment every play, the sky is the limit.”

Pool talked about where the linebackers are after spring training.

“I think we’re exactly where we need to be,” Pool said after 12 practices. “I think that we’ve done a lot of good stuff this spring. And as you all saw today we have some real talent on our defense and guys that are willing to sacrifice for each other. You know we actually just got done watching the tape of the scrimmage with the linebackers and so just continue to do pour for this team and do everything we can to have as much success as possible.”

One thing Sam Pittman wanted out of spring football was for the team to be physical. Pool talked about the physicality of spring as far as the linebackers are concerned.

“I mean you all got to look today what a normal practice is for us,” Pool said. “Physicality wise Coach Pittman breeds it into us that like, hey, we’re going to be physical. At thud tempo, yes, thud. But it’s still come and hit somebody. So just try to go in there and get a lick. Get as close to game time contact as you can get whenever you have got the opportunity.”

One of the linebackers expected to help replace Morgan and Henry is Alabama transfer Drew Sanders. He has had a very good spring for the Hogs and showed his ability with one particular play in the scrimmage when he took on Malik Hornsby.

“Drew covers ground very quickly,” Pool said. “We actually watched him in there with them. He just kind of floats throughout the field. He’s got a long stride. He takes good angles and it’s just exciting to watch his growth from Practice One to where we are now.”

Another linebacker is Pooh Paul who is a redshirt freshman. He has made huge strides this spring and wil be in the rotation this fall.

“Chris has done great for us this spring,” Pool said. “He had a little setback with his concussion but now he’s back and been doing great things for us. He’s very explosive. Whenever you see pulling guards he’ll come in there and smack them. You have to have that switch in your head to where you see something like that you have to come in and be physical. Chris does a good job with that. Like you said, he’s a good kid and he learns. He wants to be good. So his success here is up to how much he wants to work.”

Jordan Crook is a true freshman who enrolled at midterm. The former Duncanville standout has made big strides this spring.

“Yeah, Jordan is also a Texas kid,” Pool said. ” Him and I are always talking. I’m always trying to give him little bitty tips that I’ve used throughout the years to help me in my game. He learns very fast. He’s physical. He’s got a good moxie to him. I really like him and he’s going to have a lot of success here.”

Jackson Woodard is a walk-on linebacker who has turned heads this spring and done well when given the opportunity during the season.

“Jackson is extremely hard working and he will do anything he can to make sure he’s bettering his game,” Pool said. “Watching his growth has been great. As I said all our young guys throughout the spring continue to get better, learn and if we continue that we’ll have a successful linebacker room for years to come.”

Arkansas is a veteran team for the most part and that is something Pool likes.

“I think it makes everyone a little bit more calm,” Pool said. “I think before the play you look around and see guys that have actually been in the fire it just makes everyone settle into their responsibilities and I think when that happens you have guys playing a lot faster because you know exactly where your help is, where your lever point is and it’s been so much fun. I’m glad we had we a good showing for y’all today.”

Kaden Henley is another true freshman who has made some plays this spring as well.