There are those in the SEC Media that questioned Arkansas’ switch to a 3-4 defense while at the same time making a change at defensive coordinator. It’s a case of too many adjustments for the players in too short a period of time according SEC Network studio host Peter Burns who said at SEC Media Days that it could take a while before the Razorbacks realize a substantial benefit from the move.
“You have to pull the trigger sooner or later,’ Burns told the Pig Trail Nation. “But it’s a big step because you have to change who you are recruiting. If you’re going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 you probably needed to start recruiting those guys two or three years ago to make sure it fits the set that you want.”
“Anything’s probably going to be a little bit better than what we saw last year,” Burns continued. “So I think it’s a step in the right direction but I don’t think things defensively really start coming for at least another year until you get the guys you need.”
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema obviously disagrees. After watching the way his defenders took to the new scheme and Paul Rhoads, the new boss on the defensive side, the head coach said at Media Days, “We’re in new alignments, new positions and doing some things differently. We had some carry over but I think just to give them a new breath of life is a really good thing.”
The offensive guys upfront noticed too. Senior center Frank Ragnow observed, “It’s been exciting. There’s obviously a schematic change to the 3-4 but just the mindset of the defensive players, you can tell they love playing for coach Rhoads and it’s been exciting to watch that.”
Nobody is happier about the change than defensive end McTelvin Agim and nose tackle Bijhon Jackson. After going through spring ball both feel like they were born play out of the 3-4. But college football analyst Barrett Sallee isn’t sure how quickly the two will have an impact in the new scheme.
“Bijhon’s a nice player,” Sallee noted. “Can he be a nose? I don’t know. Agim’s a really good player. Can he be Jonathan Allen? I don’t know. But you need those guys to be really, really good right out of the gate because Arkansas, they’ve got a Texas A&M problem. They get to that Texas A&M game and everything’s fine and then it falls apart.”
Yahoo Sports SEC football analyst Pat Forde believes the defensive switch is one reason why Arkansas will go into the season somewhat of a mystery team. Forde puts Alabama at the top of the SEC West but what happens after that, he says, is a big guessing game.
“We’ll see how the alignment change on defense works for ’em and some of the coaching changes,” Forde emphasized. “But I think you can go in and say ‘look, we could be anywhere from two to six and see how it turns out.’ “
Bilelema himself cautioned against reading too much into the success he saw defensively in the spring. A real opponent will provide a clearer picture.
“You never really do that (start making adjustments) until you’re battle tested. FAM U. (Florida A&M) will be a big one. TCU. Just to have your pulse on what’s going well and what isn’t going well and how you’ve got to adjust.”