John Chavis Looks for Improvement on Defense

Pig Trail Nation

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ defense held Ole Miss to 10 points in the first half on Saturday night, but then surrendered 21 in the final 30 minutes.

The Hogs surrendered 483 yards of total offense. Arkansas’ John Chavis wasn’t pleased with the outcome.

“Not the vision we had going over there,” Chavis said. “I thought we got really good effort out of our squad. Defensively, we made too many mistakes. Usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. From a defensive standpoint that was the case. Whether it was scheme or mistakes we didn’t do a very good job getting off the field on third downs. That gives you something to talk about. It was just slightly over 50-percent and that’s not good enough to win. It’s got to be at 70-percent.

“We only got two takeaways that’s not good enough. I can’t remember whether we had two or three three-and-outs and that’s not good enough. We’ve got to be a better defense. As you saw, and I’m sure you did, tackling had a lot to do with that. I’m not disappointed in our players and their effort. As I said they gave us very good effort. But fundamentally from the standpoint of tackling we’ve got to be better. It’s gonna get better, I guarantee that.”

With Ole Miss scoring 21 points in the second half and Arkansas not substituting much in the secondary did fatigue play a factor?

“No, I don’t think so,” Chavis said. “The tackles that we missed most of them were over pursuit. We’ve got to be able to leverage the ball and not let them cut back on us. I don’t think it had anything do with it. If we get off the field a couple of times and the time of possession will be in our favor. We allowed them to extend drives. We got an interference call on a big third down. We’re off the field, but those kind of things happen.

“We missed tackles on the sidelines where if we had just used the sideline and pressed the ball to the sideline then we’re gonna be off the field again. It’s fundamentals that we can improve and it’s what we’ve got to do. I go back to what I said in preseason it gets down to coaching. We’ve got to do a great job of coaching. We’ve got good enough players to win with.  Do we need more depth? Oh absolutely that’s why we’ve got to go recruit. It gets down to fundamentals and we’ve got to do a better job of coaching fundamentals this week.”

Arkansas opened the season with senior defensive ends and a true freshman on the two-deep depth chart. On Saturday night, due to injuries, it was one senior and three true freshmen at top of depth chart. Senior Gabe Richardson was joined by Mataio Soli in the starting lineup backed up by Zach Williams and Collin Clay. How did the young defensive ends do?

“It wasn’t always the end’s fault when they got to the edge so let’s say that statement first,” Chavis said. “We did a poor job of supporting some of the speed stuff that came at us. You’ve got to understand coverage and who has support and those kind of things. Again, that’s get back to coaching as well.

“We played four true freshmen and we’re not gonna make any excuses for that. Next man up. They’ve got to go, they’ve got to play. I thought they did a good job. Are they SEC ready right now? Yes they are because they’re gonna play. We’ve got to continue to get them better. Steve Caldwell will do a great job coaching them up and they will get better this week. Obviously during the course of the game they got better. So, again, if they get outside it’s not always the end’s fault.”

Richardson had seven tackles, including one for loss and a sack. Williams added four tackles while Soli had three and a quarterback hurry. Chad Morris credited the trio for their play.

“They played well,” Morris said. “I thought Zach Williams gives us some speed off the edge. I thought he did some really good things. Soli is very powerful, going to have a great career. Collin Clay is a force. Again, just getting these young guys the experience they need to get to continue to grow. We’ve got to grow them up. That’s on us as coaches to do.”

Don’t be surprised if the secondary is the next place true freshmen see some action. One, Greg Brooks Jr., is already starting at the nickel. It appears cornerback Devin Bush and safety Jalen Catalon could see some action soon in the secondary.

“Coaches, sometimes they get a little bit nervous, and we were trying to get that thing turned around,” Chavis said. “We kept our best guys in there. That gave us the best shot. We got in a situation where we didn’t play Clay in the first game. We were trying to get him in, trying to get him in and we didn’t. Now he’s got to get go out there in his first game and play a bunch of reps in the SEC. We got to speed that up. We got to find areas where we can get them in the game so can they can gain that experience. It’s the truth, you can practice in practice but you got to get game experience to get ready to play.”

Morris also feels the young secondary members should start seeing some reps.

“That’s something that, from us as a staff, we have to continue to bring these other guys along and get them reps and get them the confidence that they need in practice,” Morris said. “Again, when you put the defense out there as long as they have, you’re going to see some things at the end of a game that we’ve got to do a better job of substituting.”

Morris credited the defense for its play against the Rebels.

“Defensively, I thought our defense kept us in the game, especially in the first three quarters,” Morris said. “We scored on defense. We created some momentum that gave us a chance. But they were on the field entirely too long, our defense was. We had too many missed tackles. More than I can remember in the past. We had a couple of critical third down penalties that kept drives alive. And we just couldn’t overcome it.”

On Saturday night, sophomore linebacker Bumper Pool led the Hogs with nine tackles including one for loss. Junior safety Kamren Curl had eight, a forced fumble, recovered one returned 69 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore safety Joe Foucha added seven tackles and recovered a fumble.

Arkansas will return to the practice fields today at 4:30 to prepare for Colorado State.

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