Tackling not up to par in second scrimmage

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Saturday, August 18, 2018
John Chavis, Arkansas defensive coordinator, leads drills Saturday, March 3, 2018, during Arkansas football spring practice at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
John Chavis, Arkansas defensive coordinator, leads drills Saturday, March 3, 2018, during Arkansas football spring practice at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Shortly after Chad Morris announced that Arkansas’ defense intercepted three passes in the Razorbacks’ second fall scrimmage, defensive coordinator John Chavis was asked to describe the plays.

Chavis, instead, cut straight through the sunshine and lamented his disapproval in the way his unit tackled on Saturday. About 20 minutes before Chavis stepped to the downstairs podium in the Fred Smith Center, Morris hinted at some tackling issues in the secondary.

The interceptions — made by freshman Joe Foucha, Santos Ramirez and D’Vone McClure — were great plays to build on, Chavis said, but he made it abundantly clear his defense wasn’t as sharp as he’d hoped it would be.

“I’ll be totally honest: I’m not satisfied nearly with the way we tackled today,” he said. “We’ll get it fixed. We’ve got good kids that are working hard, but we tackled much better in the first scrimmage — much better. I don’t quite understand.”

Tackling is a major emphasis for Arkansas heading into 2018. The Razorback were among the worst run defenses in the nation last season, ranking 106th in opponents' average yards per carry (5.02) and 104th in rushing touchdowns allowed (28).

Ole Miss and Tennessee, which finished 0-8 in SEC play in 2017, were the lone SEC teams below Arkansas in both categories. Chavis’ Texas A&M defense ranked 55th and 52nd, respectively.

As he’s done before, the veteran SEC coordinator took ownership for Saturday's on-field failures.

“We spend a bunch of time on it, and that’s my responsibility to make sure we tackle well,” Chavis said. “I assure you we will, but we did not today. I’m glad we did not have a real game today because we did not tackle well enough to win. … Honestly, I’m glad today wasn’t our first day or first game to play because we were not where I expected us to be. But I guarantee you we’re going to be better tomorrow.

“We were not as sharp as we needed to be, and certainly that’s got to improve,” he added. “If you can’t block, you can’t tackle, it’s hard to play winning football. And certainly we don’t do a lot of blocking on defense, so we’ve got to be a great tackling defense, there’s no question about that.”

In last week’s scrimmage, the goal was to play with great effort and intensity. Defensive lineman Gabe Richardson felt the defense accomplished that. This week’s focus was technique and sound alignment.

About 75 percent of the plan, Richardson said, was executed properly.

“Other times, we got tired and discipline started to lack, but that’s something we’re going to improve on. … When guys get tired, technique goes out the door,” he added. “We’ve got to do a better job at that. Tackling has got to be something we come with. All the guys recruited here, you know why they’re here — they can tackle.

“You’ve got to do it when you’re tired, too.”

Cornerback Kamren Curl pointed to the defense slipping on its technique as the scrimmage wore on.

“You get sloppy late in a scrimmage, and that’s what happens when you have bad technique,” Curl said. “You’re going to make bad plays, you’re not going to tackle good. You’ve just got to focus and keep your technique.

“We’ve still got some stuff to work on.”

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