By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt junior Malik Chavis is preparing for the 2022 season and could be on the verge of a breakout season for him.
Chavis, 6-2, 192, played in 11 games during the 9-4 2021 season while making two starts. He finished with 14 tackles, eight solo, and an interception against UAPB. He played 344 snaps with 198 on special teams and 146 on defense. Chavis has spent time at both corner and safety after signing with the Hogs in the Class of 2019 out of Rison High School.
“Really when I got here, coming from a 2A school, small school, I really didn’t know a lot of DB stuff, so my first couple years, I had to get accustomed to DB technique and all that,” Chavis said. “Then just switching from corner to safety, at safety, you’ve just gotta look a lot more for the whole field and then for corner, it’s just you’ve got to focus more on that one guy. So I would say that would be the biggest difference.”
It’s not all that common for a player to go from safety to cornerback. Chavis talked about why he’s able to pull it off.
“Really just my speed,” Chavis said. “Like, if I mess up, you know, just bite on the wrong thing, I have a lot of catch-up speed. So I would just say just catching up and being long, a receiver has to go around me and stuff like that. And then, Coach (Dominique) Bowman, he’s got my technique right a lot. So it’s really just the whole nine yards, putting it together, and just going out there on the field and executing.
Chavis and the cornerbacks are working with a new coach. Bowman came from Marshall to replace Sam Carter who went to Ole Miss following the bowl game. Chavis likes what Bowman brings to the cornerbacks room.
“Coach Bowman is more of a detail guy,” Chavis said. “He’s focused on the details. There are a lot of things you can take from him, different stances and stuff. Basically like just an inch step closer to being in the right position to make that play. That’s what I’d say about Coach Bowman. He’s a very detailed guy.”
Bowman talked about what has impressed him with Chavis.
“He’s very athletic,” Bowman said. “He’s 6-3, long, 200 pounds, can run and jump. Every single opportunity that he gets to play corner, he gets better. So, every single day he lines up at corner, he’s just better. I think he’s a pro if he buys in to the technique and the fundamentals and gets it from the neck up, he’ll be a good player. He’s long, athletic, he’s big, he’s strong. Fastball starts, he has been going with the ones, but it’s still a competition.”
One player that Chavis has had to defend is Toledo transfer Matt Landers. The 6-foot-5, 197-pound Landers is a tough matchup for defensive backs.
“Speed,” Chavis said. “Speed. He’s very long, very good guy. He can run and he can catch. So the deep ball, the 50-50 ball, yeah, I like Matt.”
Chavis has seen plenty of Treylon Burks the past three years at Arkansas. While Burks is now in the NFL Chavis still sees a lot of room among the wide receivers.
“I’d say the whole wide receiver room,” Chavis said. “They have gotten better catching the ball-wise, and all of them are running good routes. They’re getting open and they’re catching the ball. They’re finishing. That’s what I would say about the receivers. Good group.”
Malik Hornsby is another fast athlete the secondary has to worry about when he lines up at wide receiver.
“I think he’s a real threat on the outside or in the core wherever they put him,” Chavis said. “He goes in motion, goes deep. He can play quarterback. I think he’s a real threat especially on the outside. When you get him one on one with no safety help I think you’ve got to be real aware when he comes out ther
Dwight McGlothern is expected to help at cornerback after transferring over from LSU at midterm. McGlothern considered the Hogs out of high school and then chose them this time.
“Nudie, he’s the guy,” Chavis said. “He’s very confident and, like, that’s what you need as a corner — confidence that I can go out there and make that play. That’s what Nudie brings to the table — a lot of confidence.”
The Hogs are ranked No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll that was released on Monday. Chavis talked about the attitude of the players as far as being ranked.
“We look at it like we like being an underdog,” Chavis said. “You never know what you might get. Coach (Sam) Pittman’s always talking about the blue collar chip. That’s a real thing. You’ve always got to have a chip on your shoulder when you go out there and play, and that’s just what we go as a team.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields Tuesday afternoon.