FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas lost some key members of its secondary in 2021, but due to some good recruiting the Hogs seemingly have a chance for a strong back end of the defense this fall.
Barry Odom is stressing versatility in the secondary this spring. One example is redshirt junior Malik Chavis moved from safety to cornerback. Chavis made one of the highlight plays during Saturday’s practice when No. 4 Malik intercepted No. 4 Malik. Confused? Chavis wears No. 4 on defense while quarterback Malik Hornsby sports that number on offense. Chavis intercepted a Hornsby pass on Saturday.
“The way that we’ve taught it defensively is meeting together, and they understand not only the assignment in our corners coverage or man free, if you’re the boundary corner, if you’re the field safety, you better know, because I think it’s important that you understand where you have help, where you don’t when you play,” Odom said. “And no better way than right now during spring is to cross-train guys and really find out. I think Malik Chavis can play every spot we have on the back end. I really do. He’s that skilled athletically. I think we’re trying to find his best spot and it may be corner but also I know if we had an injury or something at one of the safety spots, Malik could step in today because he’s played it before, and he could go step in and hopefully not miss a beat.
“Same thing with (Myles) Slusher. I think he can play either of the corner spots, any of the safety spots and the nickel position. That’s hard to do. There’s not many guys that can do that, in my opinion, at the level that he’s doing it. So a lot of that goes into, you know, staff time talking about how do we get the best 11 on the field. And then you find, well, what’s the best backup in that spot? It’s always roster management. And getting your best pieces in the right spots. and Khari (Johnson) he struggled the first two days that he was at safety just because it was so new. He had been at corner and normally just one side of the field and we moved him to one of the middle safety spots. He’s looking, he’s like, oh my goodness, there’s so much space out here. But today he had his best day. So I’m excited about him being able to do that and also being able to maybe next week going to get some snaps again at corner. I think this makes us better a lot more versatile if we have the ability to move some guys around.”
Two transfers are also expected to make a strong impact in the second. Georgia transfer Latavious Brini will help at the safety and nickel spots while former LSU speedster Dwight McGlothern is making a big move at cornerback.
“Really excited that we have both of them,” Odom said. “They’ve both got real game experience in the arena of playing SEC ball. They’re talented. They’ve got a high football IQ. They’re gonna make our team better. They’re gonna make her defense better. And credit to our team on welcoming them with open arms. They feel like now since they’ve been here in January until today, I feel like it doesn’t feel like they’re the new guy anymore. And that that takes both sides. It takes a very unselfish person that was at two different places, that played at a high level, and then they come in, and you know, we didn’t just roll them out there and start them with the ones. They’ve got to go earn it, and they’ve done a great job of understanding the scheme but also being a great teammate.”
In the secondary, McGlothern and Chavis are working at cornerback along with Hudson Clark and LaDarrius Bishop among others. Slusher, Brini, Khari Johnson, Jalen Catalon, Jayden Johnson, Simeon Blair and others are working at safety and nickel spots.
Arkansas will hold an open scrimmage on Saturday at 11 a.m.