Arkansas football: Previewing the defensive line

The Arkansas football team doesn’t consist of many SEC caliber position groups, but the defensive line for the Hogs is one of the best in the conference.

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Led by defensive end Trey Flowers who opted to delay his entry into the NFL Draft for a chance to help out the rebuilding Razorbacks.

Flowers earned Second-Team All-SEC honors for his performance last season finishing with 44 tackles, 13.5 for loss with 5.0 sacks and three forced fumbles. His announcement to return for his senior season was one, if not the biggest achievements for Bielema and staff during the offseason as he will anchor the D-line.

The other defensive end position will have some very large shoes to fill because of the departure of Chris Smith who was drafted by the Jauars in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.

I fully expect Deatrich Wise Jr. to fill the void that Smith left for this upcoming season. Wise has improved tremendously over the course of the offseason and it showed in the Spring Game when he recorded 5 sacks and a forced fumble all in the first half.

A year ago, Wise appeared in all 12 games where he made 17 tackles, three of them for loss with 2.0 sacks. If there’s anyone who has the ability to replace Smith it’s definitely Wise.

Brandon Lewis is another guy that will have a shot at one of the end spots. He saw playing time in every game last year and totaled 13 tackles, with 2.5 for loss and a fumble recovery.

JaMichael Winston out of Pritchard, Alabama has good size at 6-foot-5, 265-pounds and will look to improve on his stats from a year ago.

Both of these sophomores will see substantial playing time and will mostlikely be backups to Flowers and Wise.

Moving onto the defensive tackle spot, it’s completely clear now that the Hogs have a special player in Darius Philon. The former Alabama commit became a difference maker on the defensive line as soon as he saw time on the filed a last season.

After redshirting in 2012, Philon was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and the Athlon Freshman All-American Second Team for his performance a year ago. In 12 games last season he recorded 46 tackles with 9.0 for loss and 3.0 sacks. In his first collegiate start in his home state against the Crimson Tide he made a career-high eight tackles.

Philon will be looking for a counterpart at the position and Junior DeMarcus Hodge may be the guy. He recorded 27 tackles in 11 games a year ago.

Other young players like Taiwan Johnson and Ke’Tyrus Marks will get their shot at playing time.

Newcommer Bijohn Jackson of El Dorado could come in and immediately see time. The 6-foot-2, 327-pound commit has an incredible upside and will only improve when he gets to campus. I expect Jackson to be a huge part of the Razorback defense every year until he graduates or goes to the draft.

While the back seven of the Arkansas defense has been very lack-luster in recent years, the line always seems to be a bright spot for the Hogs. This year looks to be no different and it should be the best position group outside of the running backs.

Read about the running back position for the Razorbacks here.