Opponent Scouting Report: Arkansas Razorbacks Defense, Position-by-Position

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Nov 29, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) is tackled by Arkansas Razorbacks cornerback Jared Collins (29) in the second half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Arkansas 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Backs

The secondary was the biggest disappointment on defense for Arkansas last season as the group was prone to mistakes that led to huge plays for opposing offenses (remember Sammie Coates’ 88-yard touchdown last year?). Clay Jennings, formerly at TCU, is the new defensive backs coach and will charged with preparing the group to be more physical, aggressive, and overall, more successful.

During the spring, Bielema told anyone who would listen that the defensive backfield had improved more than any other area on the team. The group is more experienced than any Arkansas defensive unit and will rely on three returning starters and three seniors, so there is a chance for that improvement to continue into the fall.

Consistency will be the issue. As we mentioned earlier, the starters surrendered a 45-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half in the spring game. As Bielema put it, “We had a safety fall asleep over there.” Safeties (and corners, for that matter) can’t afford to fall asleep in 2014 for the Razorbacks to stop opponents.

The group will be led by senior safety Alan Turner, who is one of the best safeties in the conference. Turner is a better defending the run than he is against the pass, but he did intercept two passes last season. He led the team with 97 tackles last season and will start at free safety this year after seeing more time as the strong safety last season.

DeAndre Coley is the heir apparent behind Turner, and he could force himself into the lineup at strong safety as well. Coley is known to pack a punch with his hitting ability, but showed he can make plays on the ball as well in the spring game when he picked off Brandon Allen early.

Strong safety Rohan Gaines, a junior, will join Turner as a starter on Arkansas’ last line of defense. Gaines battled through injuries in 2013, but has been impressive in fall camp. Davyon “Sleepy” McKinney and Kelvin Fisher, Jr. are expected to be in the mix at safety, and could eventually test Gaines for playing time. Free safety Randy Ramsey could play as well.

At cornerback, senior Tevin Mitchel is a returning starter, but was unable to secure the starting spot for the Auburn game. Mitchell has made some highlight worthy plays in the past, such as an interception he returned to the house against Rutgers, and as an All-SEC performance as a freshman, but he has also struggled. Bielema has often singled him as the team’s most improved player since last season.

“I can’t even tell you how excited I am about No. 23,” Bielema told reporters following the team’s first scrimmage. “He’s had — in my opinion — the most improvement as anybody on the football team. Just confidence, swagger, ability, toughness.”

Carroll Washington played in 11 games in 2013 after joining the team as a junior college transfer, and will start at the other cornerback spot. Jared Collins will get the start for the Hogs against Auburn. Will Hines and DJ Dean will also compete for playing time.