FAYETTEVILLE — Deke Adams is the third defensive line coach in three years under Sam Pittman, but it seems like the group is progressing well learning from the experienced veteran.

“It’s really been fun,” Adams said. “It’s really been fun. This is a great group of kids. We’ve added some kids to the roster through the portal and other situations. It’s been fun with these guys. They’re working their behinds off. They’re eager. They want to learn. They want to be better. So it’s been a fun group to be with. This is a great group of kids. We’ve added some kids to the roster through the portal and other situations. It’s been fun with these guys. They’re working their behinds off. They’re eager. They want to learn. They want to be better. So it’s been a fun group to be with.”

The defensive line has spent a lot of time in a four-man front this preseason, but worked a lot of three-man on Tuesday morning. It appears they are set to play with various fronts this season. In 2021, the defense worked a lot out of the three-man front, but Barry Odom’s defenses are known for versatility and flexibility.

“We’re a multiple defense and Coach Odom does a phenomenal job with our guys and all that,” Adams said. “But we’re multiple and we’re going to play both. I think it’s going to come down to what fits us best in certain situations. So you’ll see us in four-down some, you’ll see us in three-down some.

“That’s who were are, and that’s who we’ve been from the beginning. I know a big part of what they did last year was three-down, partly because of the numbers. But we feel good about where we are right now, and we feel like we can be versatile and we can be multiple in a lot of situations.”

Junior defensive end Jashaud Stewart from Jonesboro has been one of the biggest positives so far in preseason. He has played in 21 games in two seasons at Arkansas with one start. It appears Stewart is headed for much bigger role in 2022.

“When I first got here in the spring, he was very raw,” Adams said. “But one thing you couldn’t deny about him, he played very hard. He ran to the football. Did a lot of great things in that aspect. But then as he started to learn the system, learned what we were doing and got better fundamentally, then he started to become this dude that I didn’t think he was going to be right away. 

“Right now, man, he’s playing hard, he’s being physical. He plays with a great pad level. He’s running to the ball, he understands the system. He’s doing a lot of great things for us right.”

Another player who has emerged as someone the staff is counting on big is Arkansas State transfer Terry Hampton. At Arkansas State, Hampton played in 36 games with 19 starts. He opted to transfer to Fayetteville after entering the portal. The former El Dorado standout is doing well.

“Terry’s been very impressive,” Adams said. “This is the first opportunity, I guess during camp, to have the chance to see him in pads in person and all that. He’s strong. I guess you say he has heavy hands. … He has a defensive lineman aspect … He plays with great pad level … The maturity and all the different things he adds to the room, he’s been a great addition for us. We’re grateful to have him. He’s going to definitely be a big part of our success this year.”

Two other defensive linemen making a good impression is senior end Zach Williams and redshirt junior Eric Gregory. At 6-foot-4, 303-pounds, Gregory is someone the staff is playing both inside and outside.

“He’s playing both,” Adams said of Gregory. “We’re moving him around a good bit. Right now we’re just trying to fit in both aspects because in this league and in this game inside, you never know what happens. The more versatile you are, the better you are as a group, and as a person, your value to the team.

“Both of them has done a great job. Zach has done a great job. One of the things I challenged him about earlier in the spring is becoming more physical, and he’s definitely taken that to heart. He’s being more physical. He’s playing harder. So I’m definitely pleased with where they are right now.”

Gregory is fine with playing both. He has played in 24 games with the Hogs starting 10 of them. He is just looking to get on the field and help the team.

“Actually, I love it,” Gregory said. “I mean, it gives me opportunity to show I’m versatile and that I can play inside, I can play outside, the nose, I can play whatever they want me to play on the D-line. I’m loving it, I’m enjoying it and I’m getting a lot of insight from guys like Isaiah Nichols, TC, they’re helping me a lot. I love it so far.”

True freshman Nico Davillier is playing himself into a role this season it appears. He was playing end, but after some injuries at tackle he’s moved inside.

“He’s a physical kid,” Adams said. “He’s raw, but a very physical kid who runs hard, plays hard. Right now the challenge is just learning and understanding the defense and how he fits into the defense. Because in high school, a lot of times when you’re one of the bigger players, kids of his caliber, what they do is they play with some freedom. In our defense, we’re a gap-sound defense. But he just always seems to find his way around the football. And so it’s hard to take a kid off the field like that. So now my job is — there’s two great guys that work with me, Keith Jones and Kelvin Green, those two guys, it’s our job to get him ready to play and I think he’ll be ready to play for us at some point this year.”

Adams talked about how hard it is for a true freshman to play both end and inside shortly after getting on campus since Davillier didn’t arrive at midterm.

“Well it’s very tough for a freshman,” Adams said. “I mean, you get them in one position, they’re comfortable. You put them somewhere else and all of a sudden their head starts spinning and it’s like you’re starting all over again. He started outside and we moved him inside a little bit to play some inside. But then we’re doing both. Like I said about Eric earlier, the more versatile we make our kids the better we’ll be along the year. I mean, it’s just inevitable. Things happen throughout the year and you have to have them ready to play. The more versatile they are the better we’ll be.”

Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Domineck overcame a slow start to his career this fall to transition into the player the Hogs thought they were getting from Georgia Tech.

“They were rough,” Adams said. “I guess rough would be an understatement, you know. But I tell you, man, he’s really come along. Personally I just don’t think he understood our standard and what we’re looking for, but he does now. Our kids have done a great job of bringing him up to that point. He’s bought in. He’s playing hard. He’s running hard. My challenge to him is to continue to keep his weight up and become more physical and do some of the things we’re asking him to do. I think he’s going to be a big help for us this year.”

Williams is looking to make a big impact at defensive end this season. He admits it hasn’t been easy having a different defensive line coach each season while at Arkansas.

“It’s hard, because every coach has their own style of coaching,” Williams said. “Just like with Coach Adams, he wants us to be tighter to the lineman, and last year Coach (Jermial) Ashley wanted us to be looser to the linemen. It’s an adjustment period, but as soon as you get it it’s pretty easy.”

Williams has 3.5 sacks so far while at Arkansas to go with two quarterback hurries. Williams feels the pass rush will be better using Adams’ techniques.

“I feel like it’s a lot better,” Williams said. “Coach Adams, he teaches us a lot of stuff, and he’s an old head, so he has a lot of people and plays under his belt. I think he’s really taught me a lot of stuff that other people have tried to teach me. But he taught me in a certain way. He knows how to coach players. I feel like we’re going to be a lot better. Everybody learns differently and he really adapts to each player, so that’s a major benefit.”

Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Wednesday morning.