Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Petrino recruits dot UA defensive line
LSU running back Terrence Magee is taken down by Arkansas defenders Darius Philon and Brooks Ellis in the 2nd quarter of a Nov. 29, 2013 game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
FAYETTEVILLE - It is ironic that the decidedly offensive Bobby Petrino era left the defensive line as Arkansas’ deepest point on which Coach Bret Bielema began his Arkansas tenure.
Petrino staffs recruited the 2013 Razorbacks’ defensive ends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers and tackles Robert Thomas, Byran Jones and Darius Philon.
All could end up in the NFL some day. Smith, Jones and Thomas, who have no more eligibility, yearn that some day start in the NFL Draft.
As a third-year player, Flowers could have availed himself for the 2014 draft. Flowers tested the NCAA-permitted NFL exploratory process and opted to return to Arkansas for his senior year.
Starting in 2015, Philon, who will be a third-year sophomore in 2014, will have the draft or stay in college option that Flowers had for 2014.
Arkansas’ defense struggled in 2013 with the Hogs, 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC. The problems did not stem from the front end.
“Robert Thomas and Byran Jones inside were really good players,” Bielema said. “Chris Smith was a very good player for us but Trey has always been a dominant player and I think he can be a bigger and better player than he ever has.”
During the exploratory process, Flowers said he was told that he could be a third-round draft choice for 2014. Flowers, his family and Bielema concluded he could be selected even higher in 2015 off a showcase senior year while completing his UA degree.
“Coach Bielema was very supportive throughout the process and helped me and my family navigate my decision,” Flowers said. “Even though my junior year was good, I believe another year under Coach Bielema will help improve my draft status.”
Bielema said mutual trust led to the mutual conclusion that Flowers truly could benefit returning for his senior year.
“One thing that costs nothing that kids really like is the truth,” Bielema said, “In today’s world people get lied to so much, and it gets disregarded as ‘Well, that’s the way people do things.’ I just don’t buy into that line of thinking.”
Many variables eventually will determine if Flowers took the right path, but there’s no conjecture that the hapless 2012 season under interim Coach John L. Smith did at least one thing right in redshirting Philon.
Beginning 2013 as a backup, Philon finished with more tackles than any of Arkansas’ defensive linemen. He totaled 46 including 9 behind the line for minus-38 yards.
Philon started some when Jones was injured early then starred starting the last five games that Thomas missed with a broken leg.
“Darius Philon is going to be a very, very good player,” Bielema said, revealing a staff consensus. “One of the things in the season analysis is that our defensive guys watch our offense and our offensive guys watch our defense. One of the common things our offensive guys were blown away with is how good 91 was on film.”
Sports, Pages 14 on 02/03/2014