Arkansas will need standout LBs at best vs top-ranked Tide
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — When Texas A&M started a drive with 3:16 remaining and a chance to put the game away, Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock began going over late-game scenarios with quarterback Ty Storey.
The defense, particularly linebackers De’Jon Harris and Dre Greenlaw, had given the Aggies fits all day, and Craddock said he was sure the Razorbacks would get the ball back with chance to tie or win the game.
“There was no doubt that we were going to get the ball back, it was just a matter of how much time we were going to have,” Craddock said.
Craddock’s confidence paid off as the defense forced a punt. Although an interception ended Arkansas’ hopes of winning, the late-game stop capped off another encouraging performance by the defense.
The toughest test of the season comes Saturday when top-ranked Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) pays a visit. For the Razorbacks (1-4, 0-2) to have a chance, the linebackers will need to be even better — and they’ve been good.
“I don’t think there’s any question that it’s the best productivity I’ve been around,” said John Chavis, Arkansas’ defensive coordinator who also coached at Tennessee at LSU. “I’ve been around some really good players, some great players. I really appreciate their effort and appreciate their leadership.”
The effort from Harris and Greenlaw resulted in 25 tackles between them against Texas A&M. The former led the team with 16 total tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack, while the latter added 13 tackles and two interceptions.
“Me and Dre, we’re the team captains,” Harris said. “We have to have these types of games, just people looking up to us and getting the defense going.”
Greenlaw’s return from injury for a 34-3 loss to Auburn actually marked a positive turning point for the defense. The week before, North Texas gashed the Hogs for 376 yards. Against the Tigers, the Razorbacks held a run-oriented team to 91 yards on the ground. They held Texas A&M to 135 yards in the second half, including 25 yards in the third quarter.
Much of that lack of production can be attributed to Arkansas’ linebackers, who came up big with key tackles in the final two quarters of play.
“I’ve got to go out there and give it all for my teammates,” said Greenlaw, a senior. “We know our best is good enough.”
As a sophomore, Greenlaw played only seven games a year after piling up 95 tackles as a true freshman. Harris had 37 tackles as a freshman in 2016, and his breakout sophomore season was a perfect launching pad for this year.
“We build off each other with the energy,” Harris said. “We get sacks and interceptions, and that gets us going.”
Harris leads the SEC with 53 tackles, while Greenlaw is ninth despite missing two full games and three quarters against Eastern Illinois.
“There’s experience there,” coach Chad Morris said. “There’s a great tandem. There’s something to be said (for how close they are). The guy right beside you — you’ve played together for so long, you know what he’s thinking.”