Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Word to the Wise: End can wreak havoc
Arkansas defender Deatrich Wise Jr. puts pressure on quarterback Rafe Peavey during the Red-White game Saturday afternoon at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Wise men abounded this spring during Arkansas’ football practices.
The better and wiser that Deatrich Wise played, the more Razorbacks coaches and players extolled their third-year sophomore defensive end. Wise, a 6-6, 275-pounder from Carrollton, Texas, improved increasingly with each scrimmage, peaking in last Saturday’s Red-White game.
Wise wreaked havoc for the first-team Red squad against the second-team White offense. Among his eight tackles, Wise recorded five sacks for minus-35 yards. That included one sack where Wise stripped the ball from White quarterback Austin Allen. Defensive tackle Darius Philon scooped it up and returned it for a 19-yard touchdown.
Wise so impressed that Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema didn’t place his customary maturity qualifiers in his praise.
“Deatrich is so long, if he can get you locked out and extended, I don’t care how good a pass pro you are, he’s going to cause problems,” Bielema said. “He creates mismatches and really does a nice job converting into the pass rush from a run stance.”
Wise earned plenty of praise from Bielema after excellent scrimmages April 5 and April 12, but the coach also noted a need to mature more.
“I can’t go out from coast to coast in the United States of America and find a better physical presence than Deatrich Wise,” Bielema said April 5. “He is 6-foot-5. He is 275, 280 pounds. He runs like a deer. He is intelligent. The things that have limited him have been his maturity and ability to handle the moment.
“He is getting so much better than that, the kid is growing by leaps and bounds.”
Later in April Bielema’s references regarding Wise included that he had “gained a level of maturity” and that he was “a little more disciplined than in the past.”
Wise wisely took note of the constructive criticism.
“When I first came here I was only 17,” Wise said. “So I was really young, young in the mind and in the body. But as time progresses I know I am seeing things mature with my body and my mind on the field and off the field.” Razorbacks coaches and players want him to mature, but no one wants him to curb his contagious energy.
“Man, Wise has got another motor,” senior linebacker Braylon Mitchell said. “Every time he comes to practice, Wise is probably one of the most energized guys out there.” Last season Wise found himself playing behind Chris Smith and Trey Flowers, both of whom earned All-SEC second-team recognition.
Wise’s maturity became force fed this spring when the senior Flowers was withheld from scrimmages and Smith exhausted his eligibility.
“I was kind of anxious to see who would take the reins in the [defensive] line group when Trey wasn’t out there, and he seemed to do that,” Bielema said.
Mitchell can’t wait for Flowers and Wise to bookend the defense in the fall.
“I think Wise can be a real distraction out there,” Mitchell said.
“There is not a player in the SEC that can block him when he is playing at his full potential.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 04/30/2014