As Bret Bielema takes over the reigns of the Arkansas Razorbacks, he will work tirelessly this offseason to put his personal stamp on the offensive philosophy of the program. As he works through the bumps and bruises of that transition, it will be important for his defense to stand up and keep Arkansas in games until the offense gets rolling. Luckily for him, he may just have the best pass rushing defensive end duos in the country for 2013 with senior Chris Smith and Trey Flowers.
The pair combined for 26 tackles for loss in 2012 and recorded 15.5 sacks. They were the only duo to rank in the top five of the SEC in tackles for loss and the top eight in sacks last season. They were able to provide consistent pressure off the edge from both sides, preventing offenses from loading up on one or the other in pass blocking schemes. As the Razorbacks move into the Bielema-era in 2013, they’ll be even more important as the defense gets leaned on heavily.
Smith returns after leading the team with 9.5 sacks last season, and looks poised to break out as a major pass-rushing force in college football. Flowers threw in six sacks and will have the benefit of playing opposite Smith and his ability to draw the attention of offensive coordinators. They’ll be flanked with solid players in the middle at defensive tackle who will collapse the pocket and hold up against the run, allowing the ends to focus on getting into the backfield and disrupting the gameplan.
How dominant this duo can be in 2013 could be the key to just how good Arkansas will be next season. Can they carry them through and make noise in the SEC next fall?