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Alonzo Highsmith provides spark for Hogs

Back when preseason practice was in full bloom, we kept hearing more and more about Arkansas linebacker Alonzo Highsmith. The junior college transfer who's the son of former University of Miami star running back Alonzo Highsmith, was brought in to replace the departed Anthony Leon on the outside and from all indications, he was doing that and more.

Three weeks into the season and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino says the younger Highsmith has been a key addition to a Razorbacks defense allowing 230 yards per game. Petrino said Wednesday that Highsmith has "made significant improvement to our defense."

After two games, the 6-foot-1, 229-pound junior is tied for second on the team with nine tackles and has two for loss.

Petrino said Highsmith is very similar to Leon in his athleticism and speed, but he believes that Highsmith might be more physical than Leon was.

"First and foremost he comes from a great football background," Petrino said of Highsmith. "He knows the game, he’s been a very, very good student and a quick learner of what we’re trying to do defensively. He understands offenses, so he picks things up very quick. He's fast and likes to hit. So it's a great combination for a linebacker."

Last year, Highsmith was named a JUCO All-American at Phoenix (Ariz.) College after recording 94 tackles, including 12 for loss, and four sacks. He also forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles.

This defense has been heralded as the best Petrino has had since he arrived at Arkansas, and through two games, Highsmith has proved to be a valuable get for Petrino and his staff.