Paul Rhoads loves growth from Arkansas defense this spring

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017
NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK  Defensive Back Coach Paul Rhoads or the Arkansas Razorbacks Thursday, August 4, 2016 during practice on campus in Fayetteville.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Defensive Back Coach Paul Rhoads or the Arkansas Razorbacks Thursday, August 4, 2016 during practice on campus in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas’ defense made vast improvement from its first to second scrimmage, but new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads is certain it wasn’t about just getting more movement.

“I think a lot has been said about that and mentioned about that, but I would like to believe that wasn’t the catalyst,” Rhoads said Tuesday after the 11th of 15 spring practices. "…I would like to believe the catalyst for why we played better was we played harder, we strained to finish at a higher level, we tackled better and our mistakes were down so you look at those three factors right there and they were all significantly improved.”

The numbers off film backed that up per Rhoads, who is in charge of the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense this

“We limited the big plays to one in 138 snaps, we tackled awfully well with only 14 missed tackles in 138 snaps and we did a great job of stopping the run," Rhoads said. “The added calls to package we played and we utilized and executed at a higher value very much to my liking.”

Rhoads, in his second season at Arkansas after seven years as the head coach at Iowa State, feels good about the way the instillation of the 3-4 is going this spring.

“It is at the pace that I like,” Rhoads said. “I had no intention of getting to X number of calls. We might even be a little bit further right now than I thought we could be. I’ve got some stuff that I would like to do in the next three practices before we get to the spring game, but we will continue to take it one day at a time and see if we are able to do that.”

That is not to say he is content.

“I am pleased, but I don’t think you are ever satisfied and I am not satisfied right now,” Rhoads said. “I think the two practices this week, both of them could have been better and when you add some wrinkles we probably created some thinking and so the onus of that lowered expectations falls to my shoulders,” Rhoads said. “

Rhoads, who said he experimented with different people in different places from the nose guard back to the safety spots last week, is certain the switch to the 3-4 is coming at the right time for a defense that was woeful last season.

“We are taking care of our perimeter better, containing the football – setting the edge if you will – I think we have more people positioned to run to the football,” Rhoads said. “I think the kids are playing faster right now with arguably less to think about and less on their plate with every snap and I think a combination of those things are allowing us to play better defense than we did last year.”

Arkansas will practice but not scrimmage this Saturday, which will allow for more installation.

“We will actually use this Saturday as an installation day whereas on a scrimmage day we would have no calls going in,” Rhoads said. “We would like to add a wrinkle this Saturday as well as getting some scout team work. So we are getting some exposure to some things that our offense doesn’t run that we need to have for our schedule and I would like to see us take advantage of that install time as well as the scout work.”

Rhoads was asked about individuals that had stood out so far this spring and noted defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson and linebacker Randy Ramsey were two.

“I would say that everyone elevated their game from that first scrimmage, some more than others,” Rhoads said. “Bijhon Jackson was certainly one.

“From the first week through the last two weeks and the last two scrimmages, I think his game has really improved.

“Randy Ramsey is a guy that has really improved his game. Those are two guys that without a ton of snaps that * think of that has really showed up.”

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