Scott: Arkansas' line rotation strong

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, August 17, 2017
Arkansas assistant coach John Scott watches warmups prior to practice Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas assistant coach John Scott watches warmups prior to practice Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— As his defensive line entered practice Thursday with two weeks left before the season opener against Florida A&M, Arkansas assistant coach John Scott felt better about getting to the finish line.

“We tell the guys all the time it's not a sprint it's a marathon,” Scott said. “We’re working hard and we're getting better. Right now with depth, that's a big thing we're working on - getting a solid core of guys. I've said all along it's going to take eight, nine guys to keep us fresh to get this thing done the way we want to.

“That's what we're really honing in on now is the depth. In my mind, I'm going over how I see things playing out in the ballgame. Today's practice will be big for us and the rest of camp will be big for us working on getting that set.”

The Razorbacks plan to play at least three nose guards in its new 3-4 alignment with senior Bijhon Jackson (6-1, 325 pounds), sophomore Austin Capps (6-4, 300) and redshirt freshman Dylan Hays (6-3, 300).

“Bijhon Jackson is a big kid, a 325-pound kid that's athletic and has good feet," Scott said. "Those guys don't need 50 plays a game. Even when you go to the next level.

“(Damon Harrison), the guy that was with us my first year with the Jets and is the most dominant nose guard I've seen, would play 30 snaps a game. Now, they'd be 30 great snaps but with the way people spread you out and tempo, you've got to be able to roll those guys. They get tired.

“Having a guy like Austin Capps, another 300-pounder, that can go in there and bang around and hold the point. Then we've got Dylan Hays, another 300-pound guy that can do that. That's a nice little rotation for us and those guys are working hard. We're going to need all three of those guys to get through the ballgame and stay fresh.”

Jackson, who has 25 tackles with 2 1/2 sacks and a quarterback hurry in 38 career games for the Razorbacks, has picked up a nickname from Scott.

“Bijhon, we call him the dancing bear in our meeting room because he is a big kid that has great feet and athleticism,” Scott said. “You know he has the potential to really do some big things for us, but as you all know with potential you have to show it. He’s got so very high athletic qualities that we like at that position plus he is heavy and does not give up and those type of things.”

While nose guards don’t pile up high tackle numbers, Scott stresses they are the key to the defense working.

“In order for our defense to be successful and play the way we want to play, that nose guard has to be the rock and the core of your defense," Scott said. "Because if those guys can't hold the point or they're getting beat up or their soft in there, then it just weakens the whole defense.

“They're kind of like that atom that sits in there that everything starts and builds off of, so those guys have to be solid.”

Scott noted that if the season had started Thursday, sophomores McTelvin “Sosa” Agim (6-3, 286) and T.J. Smith (6-3, 290) would be the starters, while Jake Hall (6-5, 263), Armon Watts (6-5, 309), Jonathan Marshall (6-3, 310), Briston Guidry (6-2, 279) and Michael Taylor (6-2, 258) would be in reserve roles, but all seeing plays.

“Right now, Sosa is having a good camp.” Scott said. “He's doing some great things. It's been nice to see him, just even from the spring, his growth and his leadership is showing up more and more and I think he's practicing well for us right now.

“T.J. Smith has been really solid. He continues to work and get better. I like what he's doing for us. Armon Watts is doing a nice job in competing. So is Jake Hall, he's making some nice gains. You've got Jon Marshall, who we feel like if we needed him inside could go inside, but he's also playing the end position for us. So, he brings versatility there.

“We've got Briston Guidry who is an athletic kid who is working and competing to get better. That's the biggest thing we're doing with those other ends. Mike Taylor is the other end that we've got and he's got some pass-rushing ability. You get all those ingredients.”

Scott said playing time for each defensive end could change based on the opponent.

“I guess a lot of it depends on how the game is going and what’s the situation, but all of those guys are going to play and come in to spell guys,” Scott said.

“They all kind of bring different things to the table. John is a versatile guy that can play outside and inside for us. Jake Hall is the kind of kid that you love, a high-motor kid that brings some different abilities than the other guys, but they all have a unique quality about them.”

Nose guard is a spot where Scott would like to have three guys playing a specific number of plays.

“When you are seeing teams, you have got to roll bodies if you want to bare there in the end and keep those guys playing at a high level,” Scott said.

“I haven’t seen a lineman yet that can go 75 to 80 full-speed reps. I’m just saying that I haven’t seen that yet. So you have got to keep them fresh and if you are able to do that, you see a lot of times that that is the difference in a sack in the fourth quarter when you really need one and not getting an explosive play.”

Guidry missed some practice due to his grandmother’s death last week.

“He was back with us yesterday and like I said my heart goes out to him,” Scott said. “That is never fun when you lose somebody you love and my heart is heavy with him. He has got his brothers (teammates) here and the coaching staff with him. He’s been okay, he’s pushing through it and persevering and practicing so that is good to see.”

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