Arkansas ramps up its defense

Arkansas ramps up its defense

The Razorbacks hope to eliminate opponents' big plays that hurt the team several times last season.

July 26th, 2010 by David Paschall in Sports - College


Camp Start: Aug. 5

Opener: Sept. 4 against Tennessee Tech at Razorback Stadium (7 p.m., EDT, pay-per-view)

Fun Fact: Coach Bobby Petrino has helped develop five quarterbacks who have spent two or more years in the NFL during the past decade - Jake Plummer (Arizona State), Chris Redmen (Louisville), Jason Campbell (Auburn), Stefan LaFors (Louisville) and Brian Brohm (Louisville).

Although the Arkansas Razorbacks produced big play after big play last season behind quarterback Ryan Mallett, their defense allowed other teams to have fun, too.

The Razorbacks gave up an 80-yard run to Georgia, a 70-yard run to Mississippi State and a 60-yard run to Auburn. They also allowed 80-yard passes to Alabama and South Carolina and 77-yarders to Florida and Eastern Michigan.

"We must learn how to eliminate the big play," Hogs third-year coach Bobby Petrino said. "There were times we played very, very good on defense and got beat by the big play. We worked on that in spring ball and will continue to emphasize it."

Hoping to assist in limiting the damage is redshirt junior defensive end Jake Bequette. The 6-foot-5, 271-pounder from Little Rock enters this season with 80 career tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, with two of those sacks occurring in last season's near upset of Florida in the Swamp.

Whether Arkansas can challenge for the West Division crown - the Razorbacks are just 9-15 in league games since winning the West in 2006 - may not be determined by Mallett's strong arm but a defense still trying to get its act together. Arkansas is the only SEC program to allow 230 or more points in league games each of the past three seasons.

"We hear that a lot, but we deserve that," Bequette said. "This is a game where you have to prove yourself, and we're looking to make a statement this year. For the time being, we're looking to fly under the radar and keep that chip on our shoulder and just work hard to be the best we can be.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette photo Jake Bequette helped Arkansas to one of its better defensive performances last season in a 23-20 loss at Florida, but the Razorbacks too often were victimized by the big play.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette photo Jake Bequette helped Arkansas to one...

"I think you're going to see a faster defense than you saw last year. We've got the right combination of guys now."

The Razorbacks return seven defensive starters and both specialists to go along with nine offensive returnees.

Mallett is cornering the market as far as attention for the Razorbacks, but Bequette is certainly among the more unique on the team. He graduated in May and made a 155 on his LSAT this summer, and he hopes to take some law courses at Arkansas this fall.

Bequette also is the fourth member of his family to suit up for the Hogs, joining grandfather George (1954-56), father Jay (1980-82) and uncle Chris (1984-87). Jay played center and is now an attorney in Little Rock.

Arkansas achieved one of its greatest wins in 1981, when top-ranked Texas arrived in Fayetteville and limped home a 42-11 loser.

"I grew up hearing stories about Lou Holtz, and it's just been a lot of fun growing up in that type of atmosphere," Bequette said. "I knew from a young age that if I worked hard and had the opportunity to play at this university that I would. I feel very blessed to be a Razorback."