Today, we shift our attention to Arkansas. The Hogs lost as many talented seniors as any team in the league, and did so on both offense and defense.
If they’re going to break through next season in the West, they have to get better on defense, and that means replacing the best big-play defender on their team from a year ago:
OUT: DE Jake Bequette. We easily could have gone offense here with the Hogs losing three receivers -- Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs. Adams was equally valuable in the return game. And on defense, the Hogs need to find linebackers to replace Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson. But in Bequette, they lose that dynamic pass-rusher off the edge, the guy who made big plays for them and one of their best leaders. When he was healthy last season, Bequette was the opposing quarterback’s worst nightmare. He missed three games with a hamstring injury, but returned to rack up 10 sacks in 10 games, and also forced five fumbles.
IN: Chris Smith or Austin Flynn. Smith, a junior, is a prototypical speed rusher who’s bulked up to 251 pounds. He was somewhere around 230 when he arrived on campus as a freshman. Smith had six tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks, last season and has the physical tools to be the kind of finisher the Hogs need him to be in 2012. Consistency will be the key for him along with standing in there and playing the run better. Flynn, who transferred in from Los Angeles Harbor Community College, has already turned heads in the strength and conditioning program. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, he’s closer to Bequette in size, and goes about his business much the same way on the field. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has called Flynn a Bequette clone. Flynn will be hard to keep off the field, but the reality is that both Smith and Flynn will play a lot of snaps this fall for the Hogs.