State of the Hogs: Offense sees more speed from counterparts

By: Clay Henry
Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Arkansas defensive lineman Gabe Richardson throws a football during practice Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Arkansas defensive lineman Gabe Richardson throws a football during practice Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— There is little doubt what the Arkansas football team needed to make the defense better under new coordinator Paul Rhoads: Add speed.

The best eyes to know if that's happened in 17 days of preseason camp lie with offensive players like quarterback Austin Allen, running back Devwah Whaley and tight end Cheyenne O'Grady.

They know if the Razorbacks are better off the edge. Are the pressures tougher to recognize? Is there any more speed on the new defense?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

That's what I was told Tuesday night from Allen, Whaley and O'Grady. The switch to the 3-4 scheme has been part of the reason more speed can be found on the defense. But there are some new faces on that side of the ball, too.

“I think we are faster on defense,” Allen said. “I see it in the defensive linemen. I think (McTelvin Agim) is one who looks quicker, faster and more sure of himself. When you are more confident, you play faster. Sosa (Agim) is playing really fast right now. I see that in a lot of places on the defense, just playing faster because of the understanding they have in the defense.

“I could go all the way across the front and say that. But the two who are really playing fast are the two inside linebackers, Dre Greenlaw and Scoota Harris. They are playing sideline to sideline in this scheme and look great. Dre is so quick.

“Then, you go the edge where you see Randy Ramsey making plays. He's so athletic. The addition of Gabe Richardson helps our defensive speed. He's really athletic."

Allen said the safeties are also playing well and have added confidence.

“Santos Ramirez is a different player, night to day better," Allen said. " Josh Liddell is having a great camp and De'Andre Coley is playing well, too. That's three really good safeties.

“What I see from the safeties is that they can spin their coverages. It's tougher to read.

“Then, you've got Ryan Pulley and Henre' Toliver playing well at corner. I see really good things from Kamren Curl and Chevin Calloway, the two freshman corners. They are very athletic. All four of those guys are really fast.”

O'Grady has to see the outside linebackers on a regular basis, both in coverages and in blitz pick-up.

“When you say Randy Ramsey's name, you are talking about a real athletic guy,” O'Grady said. “I see more skill in our linebacker set. That's all of them. There are more playmakers on the edge. It makes things come at you a lot faster.

“I thought the switch to the 3-4 would help our defense. I've seen it this fall. Ramsey is the one that is making it tough on us. Then, you better account for Gabe. He's fast and strong. I think the defense will make more plays.”

Whaley said the blitz pickups have been tricky because of the 3-4.

“Our defense is full of athletes,” Whaley said. “Randy is the most versatile guy out there. He's a blitz guy, but he can drop. He gives us trouble. Then, I'd also say that Gabe Richardson and Dwayne Eugene have been tough off the edge, too.”

Allen loves what he sees from the defense. The idea that iron strengthens iron in camp is the big picture takeaway.

“What we are doing each day is competing our butt off on both sides of the ball,” Allen said. “I thought going to the 3-4 would help us because we see so many teams on our schedule in that scheme. That's good for us. We still have the background of working against the 4-3 from the last few years. So that's good.

“I think what has happened in camp is that we've just tried to strain to compete on every play. That is how you get better. I know the defense is doing that. I think that's what I've seen from our offensive line, two deep. Our guys are straining to compete what the defense is bringing each day.”

The defense seems to be bringing it a little faster each day. That's the best news of preseason camp so far.

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