Call it like you see it. Nobody expects major damage done by the Arkansas Razorbacks‘ reshuffling defense in 2013. The team is three days removed from starting fall camp Monday, with no true starter etched in stone at either linebacker spot and a whole new defensive scheme from first year defensive coordinator, Chris Ash. Ash illustrated last night that this defense under his watch is nowhere close of competing in the SEC. Last season, the Hogs were punished defensively with major hiccups in the back seven. Good thing first year head coach Bret Bielema and the new defensive staff has built their defense around their veteran defensive line, which includes three seniors and flashy junior defensive end, Trey Flowers.
Usually in the SEC, great defensive players operate their game with a chip on their shoulders, and Arkansas already has Flowers, who has stepped up to the plate in that department.
Flowers, a usually quiet and soft spoken integral part of the team, displayed a fiery speech Tuesday night to his fellow teammates asking them to embrace a winning attitude in 2013, also mentioning that Arkansas still belonged in the SEC. This coming after Arkansas desperately needed extra punch to start the season after the SEC media and coaches voted them to finish dead last in the SEC West last month, and we won’t even mention that 2012 campaign. This has definitely sent a message to Hog Nation from an altogether unique source. Nevertheless, make no mistake about it; Flowers might be quiet verbally, but his game this upcoming season won’t be as Robert “Trey” Flowers is dressed to impress the SEC in 2013.
After a serviceable first year by being named to the ALL-SEC Freshman team, Flowers quickly saw major progression coming into his second season. His play instilled so much comfort with the Hogs’ brain trust that they moved All-SEC defensive end Tenarius Wright to middle linebacker to add much needed depth at that spot. Flowers took advantage from that move, starting all 12 games a year ago, racking up six sacks, which was second on the team behind fellow bookend Chris Smith. Flowers pocketed the second highest total of sacks in a SEC game, 3.5 at Auburn.
Both Smith and Flowers together were undoubtedly the best sack tandem in the SEC after generating a combined 15.5 sacks during the program’s turmoil last year. Flowers made tremendous strides as a sophomore but was very inconsistent at times in big games. He was virtually a no-show against Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama, but in his defense everybody seems like that against the Tide. Flowers was probably the biggest beneficiary of the Bielema hiring from athletic director, Jeff Long.
Bielema, along with partners, Ash and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge bring in a gap-controlled defense to Fayetteville, which is conducive to Flowers’ abilities as a run stopper at defensive end. We saw Flowers stick his nose into LSU’s run game with double digit tackles at the tail end of 2012.
Flowers should flourish under Partridge’s guidance by being more dynamic due to the attention Smith will gain at the other end position. Smith was voted preseason first-team All-SEC and to the Bronco Nagurski and Bednarik Award watch list as one of the country’s best defensive players. Flowers will get additional cushion from his defensive tackles Byran Jones and Robert Thomas clogging space. Jones and Thomas finished up with 70 tackles together, and some say there’s more room for improvement from them. Even with the dismissal of senior Austin Flynn, the Hogs provide a thick roster full of depth at both end positions. Redshirt freshmen Jamichael Winston, Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis and Taiwan Johnson should keep Flowers fresh for the duration of his junior year.
Partridge’s guidance was instrumental in helping Wisconsin‘s rush defense become one of the elite in the country the last half decade. Partridge has coached four defensive linemen on an NFL roster presently, and like Flowers they all had tremendous leverage, including the best defensive lineman in the NFL game, Houston Texans defensive end J.J Watt. One of the biggest problems, SEC tackles face with Flowers, is dealing with his excessive length. Flower possesses a seven-foot wingspan to go with his 6-foot-4 body.
Flowers should be better equipped to endure consistency in Bielema’s inaugural season after polishing his frame with new strength and conditioning coach, Ben Herbert this summer. Flowers went from somewhere around 240 last season to now flirting around 265 pounds by maintaining his speed and strength.