Arkansas senior Jake Arledge / ArkansasRazorbacks.com
The Arkansas Razorbacks’ back-to-back losses to LSU last weekend were tough, especially since the Hogs let an 8-1 lead evaporate into a 10-8 loss on Saturday and then the Tigers shut them out 2-0 on Sunday.
However, the No. 19 Hogs (26-8, 8-4 SEC) plan to prove that those losses are in the rearview mirror with a three-game series against Georgia (15-19, 4-8 SEC) starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
First pitch for Friday’s game is 6 p.m. and Saturday’s game is at 2 pm. The series was moved up a day for Sunday’s Easter holiday.
All three games will be streamed by SEC Network-Plus and can be viewed with the Watch ESPN App.
The Razorbacks bounced back from the weekend losses Tuesday by clouting Missouri State, 12-4, Tuesday night. They hope to keep pace at the top of the SEC or possibly gain a game on No. 10 Auburn (25-10, 8-4 SEC), No. 13 Mississippi State (23-12, 8-4 SEC) and No. 14 Kentucky (23-11, 8-4 SEC), all of which are tied with the Hogs for the SEC lead.
The Tigers play at Tennessee (17-13, 3-9 SEC), while the Bulldogs are at No.17 South Carolina (21-11, 7-5 SEC), and the Wildcats are at Missouri (25-9, 6-6 SEC).
No. 9 LSU (23-11, 7-5 SEC) is a just a game out of first place,d like South Carolina, and hosts Ole Miss (21-12, 6-6 SEC) in a key series.
Right-hander Blaine Knight, who was named to the prestigious Golden Spikes Watch List earlier this week, will be on the mound in the first game with Right-hander Trevor Stephan set to go on Friday.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has not announced a starter for Sunday but he could go with sophomore Jake Reindl for his first SEC start or with senior Josh Alberius.
Van Horn said Georgia, which beat Georgia Tech, 5-1, on Tuesday, is a talented team that can play with anyone. It’s just a matter of whether the Bulldogs put it together or not. He added that he hoped it the Bulldogs wouldn’t do it against the Hogs.
Hogs must improve at ‘setting the edge’
If we heard “we didn’t set the edge” once last season, we heard it dozens of times from Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema when reviewing the performance of the Razorbacks defense.
What exactly did he mean?
Setting the edge is a term for a defense establishing and maintaining leverage on a running play. Based on the defensive call, one defender, usually a defensive end or an outside linebacker, is responsible for setting the edge of containment on a running play.
That means establishing and holding position at or near the line of scrimmage in order to force the run play inside of that position. The idea is that the defensive flow will quickly track down and tackle the ball carrier. If the runner does not cut back in, the edge setter then strings him out with defensive support from a safety and backside flow.
Too often, the Razorbacks edge setter either was beaten at the point of attack or lacked discipline, went too deep up field, and got caught up in the wash of the offensive blocking scheme. This led to an embarrassing number of long outside runs throughout the season.
You would have to break down film to determine exactly what happened on each play, but as much as it happened, I’m guessing much of the fault rested with a combination of a lack of effort and a lack of discipline.
You could throw talent into the mix, but considering two of the Razorbacks’ defensive ends Jeremiah Ledbetter and Deatrich Wise Jr. garnered invitations to the NFL Combine and could be drafted later this month, I don’t think talent was the primary issue.
In the Hogs’ new 3-4 defensive scheme, an outside linebacker will have edge-setting responsibility more often. Arkansas’ Hog position is a hybrid end/outside linebacker type player. Michael Taylor, who redshirted last season, after transferring to Arkansas from Riverside (Calif.) Community College, is reportedly having a solid spring at the spot after doing standout work with the scout team last fall.
Taylor’s play while ghosting the 3-4 alignments of SEC opponents last fall is one of the reasons Bielema and defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes had confidence in the switch in schemes.
Obviously, it remains to be seen how well Arkansas’ 3-4 defense will defend the run this fall and whether or not Taylor (6-3, 260) will be a key fixture at outside linebacker or not, but a least Bielema is attempting to shake things up on defense.
The Hogs gave up an average of 205.5 yards rushing per game last season and an average of 5.9 yards per carry. That’s not winning numbers in the SEC. Hopefully the Razorbacks will improve on setting the edge and those numbers will be lower this fall.
Arkansas junior guards could enter NBA Draft
The new normal for junior college basketball players with NBA aspirations is to enter their names in the NBA Draft, but not sign with an agent.
Under a rule that went into effect last year, the players could then receive feedback concerning their prospects of being drafted, but more importantly what aspects of their game they need to improve to be to have a better shot of being drafted following their senior season.
Moses Kingsley took advantage of the rule last year, and Hog fans shouldn’t be surprised if junior guard Daryl Macon and Jalen Barford do the same this year.
If they do enter the draft, they would have until May 24, which is 10 days after the NBA Combine, to remove their name and retain their college eligibility as long as they do not sign with an agent.
If they do enter the draft, it will keep Hog fans on their edge of their seats until May 24, but it would be smart to do it, if they can get an accurate evaluation of where they stand with the NBA and what they need to improve in their play.
While the rule does make recruiting even more chaotic for college basketball staffs, it was a good change by the NCAA that puts the student-athlete first in the equation. That’s not always the case; some might even say it’s rarely the case, when dealing with the NCAA.