By Otis Kirk
In a season of disappointments, senior defensive tackle Armon Watts has been outstanding for the Razorbacks.
Watts has 37 tackles, including 12 solo, seven tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three quarterback hurries and a pair of pass breakups. Watts has gone from playing rarely to being one of the best in the SEC at his position.
“I just took ability, took my God-given tools, took the coaching, took the grinding to a whole other level and it’s paid off,” Watts said. “The key thing about it is being consistent and that’s what I pride myself on.”
With 6.5 sacks, Watts is tied for the national lead in that category for defensive tackles. What does that mean to you?
“It’s big, especially to the outside world,” Watts said. “But I think I got where I am because I remain humble and you have to take it one week at a time, so that’s how I approach it.”
At 6-foot-5, 298-pounds, John Chavis feels Watts will be playing football on Sundays in the future and getting paid for it.
“Oh I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Watts said. “I think he’s earned that attention he’s got the body that they’re looking for, and certainly we’re pleased with what he’s done for us here. I think he’ll finish this season out strong and there will be more football ahead for him, no question.”
What are your thoughts about going to get chance to play in the NFL?
“It’s crazy because it’s all coming at once with the success I’ve had this season,” Watts said. “The NFL was always a dream, but I guess now it’s reality and it’s starting to set in, so I have to take it up a notch.”
You have sacks in seven different games this season including the .5 one against Tulsa. What’s it like to get a sack?
“It’s big, man, especially when it’s in a big point of a game,” Watts said. “Most D-tackles, they get them, but they don’t get as many. When you get there, you have to make the most of it.”
Quarterback Ty Storey is a big fan of what Watts brings to the defense.
“The dude’s a beast,” Storey said. “I mean, he’s been there longer than me, so it’s awesome to see that hard work. I mean, he’s always been a hard worker. Real quiet guy. To see it finally kind of come out for him and have a breakout year like he is, it’s just awesome.”
Did you honestly think Watts was capable of playing at this level?
“With a guy like Armon, you’re never surprised by it because he comes in everyday, he’s a hard-worker, he knows what he’s doing,” Storey said. “So when you see a guy working as hard as he did to have a breakout season, then it’s really nothing you’re not expecting.”
Also count linebacker De’Jon Harris among those who feels like Watts has earned himself some long looks from the NFL.
“He has,” Harris said. “He has had a great season just coming on in a new scheme and playing at a high level. I have been hearing he is getting a lot of recognition and I think he deserves it, just seeing the way he worked in the off-season and his play speaks for itself.”
Safety Kamren Curl gets to see Watts working front of him each game. Curl has been impressed with Watts’ play this season.
“Yeah, he really turned it up this season,” Curl said. “We’ve seen it in the offseason. He was working really hard in the offseason and really this is what he deserves because he’s been working so hard to be a Razorback.”
How does he keep getting those sacks?
“Sometimes he’s using a finesse move and sometimes he’s just running through the line,” Curl said. “He really can do it all. It’s his offseason work coming through.”
You being a senior and the team at 2-8 some might let go of the rope. It doesn’t seem as if that team has done that. What do you credit that to?
“I think the pride of team, the things Coach (Chad) Morris preaches, the culture we have here,” Watts said. “You have to stay the course. It’s not going to be easy, but you don’t want to let people think you just lay down and give up. You have to go out with some pride and that’s how we’re planning on doing it.”
Arkansas will once again play an 11 a.m. game. This will be the second time on the road to kickoff early. What are your thoughts about that?
“Me personally, I just take it as, as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, you have to be ready,” Watts said. “They do a good job of getting us ready at the hotel. You have to approach it like the other team doesn’t see it coming. That’s how you have to play.”
The Hogs and Bulldogs will be televised on ESPN with the 11 a.m. kickoff.