Agim 'not just a sitting duck' in 4-3 alignment

By: Matt Jones
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Arkansas defensive end McTelvin Agim (3) watches while Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta'amu is tackled during a game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Oxford, Miss.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas defensive end McTelvin Agim (3) watches while Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta'amu is tackled during a game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Oxford, Miss.

— McTelvin Agim does little to mask his excitement for another change in Arkansas’ defensive scheme.

Agim, a junior pass rusher, openly admits he was not able to make as many plays in the one-year move to the 3-4 under former defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads in 2017.

Longtime Southeastern Conference coordinator John Chavis brought another 4-3 look to Fayetteville in the spring. Agim worked out at multiple positions on the inside and outside of the defensive line, and liked the switch back to something more comfortable.

“You’re not just a sitting duck,” Agim said of the 4-3 vs. the 3-4. “I felt like last year we were just sitting ducks in the defense. We were just holding blocks. Now we’re attacking also. You’re able to show your athleticism.”

Agim, who played tackle in Robb Smith’s 4-3 defense as a freshman in 2016, was not as impactful as expected in his sophomore season. The former five-star recruit from Hope had 37 tackles — including 7.5 for loss — and 2 sacks playing at one of two defensive end positions.

“I’m going to be comfortable playing whatever I’ve got to play, but I feel like a a 4-3 is more for a defensive lineman, more for athletic defensive linemen,” Agim said. “That’s what the scheme is meant for. Of course, you’ve got to be comfortable playing anything. I could play in the 3-4 or the 4-3 at the next level. I just feel like the 4-3 is more for an athletic-based defensive line group.”

Agim had what was viewed by many as a breakout game late last season when he recorded nine tackles and a sack, and forced two fumbles in a home loss to Mississippi State the week before Thanksgiving. One of the fumbles was recovered by Briston Guidry for a touchdown.

“I felt like it was probably my best game of the season, just stats wise, but I didn’t really do anything different,” Agim said. “It was just playing in that system and that’s how that system works. Sometimes you can get nine tackles and sometimes you’ll get one tackle in that system we were in last year. In the 3-4, you’re working … all the way around a blocker. That’s where it gets hard.

“In the Mississippi State game, I was playing in the scheme, but Ole Miss, I had one tackle and most of the other games I had one tackle, but I was playing in the scheme.”

Where Agim fits in this scheme is unknown, but it seems most likely that he will line up opposite Randy Ramsey at defensive end this season. Agim, who has lost seven pounds and now weighs 280, worked most of the spring on the left side of the defense, going up against the right tackle.

“We’re just trying to see what he can do,” Chavis said. “One of our biggest goals is to get our 11 best players on the field … and there’s no question he’s one of our 11 best.

“It’ll basically depend a lot on matchups and what we feel like we have to stop and where he can be most effective.”

Agim said he feels comfortable playing both spots. He indicated likes the fact that ends in Chavis’ defense do not switch sides like they did in Rhoads’ 3-4.

Agim recalled watching Texas A&M defensive ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall wreak havoc against Arkansas during a game his freshman season. Chavis coached that defense.

“Those end spots have got to be with somebody who is going to make the plays,” Agim said. “They’re going to be the spots where people can actually make the plays. The ends are going to be counted on a lot in this defense. The ends have to make the tackles they’re supposed to make and some of the ones they aren’t supposed to make.

“I feel like Chavis just gives you more faith in yourself. He’s going to put you in the right position to make those plays.”

Agim said he recently read that Chavis was the current defensive coordinator with the most first-round NFL Draft picks. Many of those came from his long tenure at Tennessee in the 1990s and 2000s.

Also on those Tennessee staffs was Steve Caldwell, who is working with Chavis again for the first time in a decade. Agim said it has been humorous at times to watch Chavis and Caldwell interact.

“Chavis changes his (play) names up every once in a while. He doesn’t have the same names for the calls he had at LSU and Texas A&M,” Agim said. “Coach Caldwell will revert back to the names at Tennessee. They definitely feed off each other.”

Caldwell also has a past at Arkansas. From 2010-12 he served as the Razorbacks’ defensive ends coach and helped recruit several notable players to Fayetteville such as Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Darius Philon and Chris Smith.

All of those players are in the NFL and their images adorn art in or around the position room.

“He recruited every one of them,” Agim said. “He knows how to see talent. He knows what to do with talent when they have it.”

Agim is likely the most talented linman Caldwell and Chavis have to work with this year. He is a candidate to leave for the NFL after the season, but understands he has to have his name called more than he did last year.

“The NFL is going to look at how many plays you make,” Agim said. “They’re going to look at your stats and your film. If you’re not making plays, why should they pay you?”

This article originally appeared in the June edition of Hawgs Illustrated

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