Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Plenty of intrigue on D-line entering spring ball
Arkansas defensive lineman Landon Jackson participates in a drill Thursday, April 14, 2022, during practice at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said the Razorbacks may need to add defensive tackles through the NCAA transfer portal before the 2023 season.
But for now, ahead of the start of spring drills on Thursday, he likes the pieces he has talent-wise.
Taurean Carter, a spring standout last year prior to a knee injury in mid-April, has been cleared for team workouts. The late-season emergence of Cam Ball was a plus for Arkansas, too, and Eric Gregory returns as a body with quality experience playing both tackle and end.
Pittman said Tuesday that the Razorbacks’ staff will keep a close eye on Carter, but he is excited to have the redshirt senior back in the fold.
According to Pro Football Focus, he had the second-best pass rush grade (72.5) among Arkansas defensive linemen in 2021.
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“(We will) watch if there's any swelling on his knee and things of that nature, but to be perfectly honest with you, he got cleared,” Pittman said. “We'll be smart with him and those things, but at the end of last spring I thought he was as good of a defensive interior lineman as we had.
“And it's almost like getting him out of the portal, because he didn't play last year. Taurean is very, very strong, worked extremely hard and got cleared, and we expect him to have a really good spring.
“We will watch him to the fact that we might limit him a little bit in reps early. We'll have to wait and see.”
In regards to Gregory, who had 19 tackles in 2022, Pittman said he could play more on the interior on account of added size in the offseason. He is listed on Arkansas’ roster at 6-4, 303 pounds.
The biggest question Pittman has along the defensive line is who can and will play the weakside defensive end position. When Travis Williams was brought in to replace Barry Odom as defensive coordinator, the fourth-year head coach said he wanted four linemen on the field.
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Identifying the player or players who can stand up, put his hand down and produce from a pass-rushing standpoint will be essential this spring. Pittman has some names in mind, including Pittsburgh transfer John Morgan and returnees Nico Davillier and Landon Jackson.
Morgan has 14.5 sacks in his career and finished with 6 tackles for loss and 3 sacks last season for the Panthers. Jackson had three sacks in 2022, and Davillier is looking to build on limited playing time as a true freshman.
When asked who jumped out to him during winter conditioning, Pittman relayed that the former Maumelle standout Davillier is “getting bigger, looking good.”
“We’ve been looking at several of them,” Pittman said. “We'll see what happens, but I think we have that person or people on our team that can play that spot. I think that's probably the biggest question mark going into spring ball.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the rest of the guys.”
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