FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ defense lost some key players from last season, but they also have several ready to step into those spots.
Among them are redshirt junior Taurean Carter and Alabama transfer junior linebacker Drew Sanders. Carter has drawn praise all spring from Sam Pittman while Sanders is one of the hopefuls to replace Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry. Carter talked about how he feels his fall camp is going following Thursday’s practice.
“Me personally, I feel like it’s going pretty good,” Carter said. “I mean, it’s just a big old competition in the room. We’re pushing each other left and right. You can’t take a day off. If you take a day off, you get beat. So we hold each other around the room to a high standard, and we know whenever we watch film we know you’ve got to put good quality on film or we’re going to get on you in the film room.”
Carter played in all 13 games last fall. He finished with 24 tackles, including six solo, three for loss, a sack and one pass breakup. Carter is playing for yet another defensive line coach in Deke Adams, but that has him pleased and credits that for part of his improvement.
“Man, it’s been a huge blessing. I really, really like him,” Carter said. “I think he’s one of my favorite d-line coaches besides (Derrick) LeBlanc. I really do like him. I like how he’s teaching me technique wise ‘cause that’s where I slack at. I’m more of a natural guy playing. And he’s teaching me to be disciplined and the little things and the technique part of the game that I’ve never had before. And him implementing it into my game I feel like it’s very much giving me improvement on the field.”
Carter did name a positive of having a different defensive line coach each season.
“Oh yes sir, most definitely,” Carter said. “Each coach that has been on the coach has their own craft. It’s kind of like a puzzle piece. You take a little bit here, take a little bit there. You piece it together. That’s the positive side of it.”
For Sanders the former five-star recruit from Denton (Texas) Ryan he talked about why he chose Arkansas over Texas and Oklahoma when he opted to leave Alabama.
“I mean I just kind of knew what I was looking for,” Sanders said. “I knew I wanted to be a little closer to home. A big deal was staying in the SEC too. Arkansas was first on my list. That’s place I wanted to visit. I kind of wanted to make that transition from playing with my hand on the ground to standing up a little bit. I thought I could fit in the scheme they’re running so they were first on my list.”
Gone are Morgan (101 tackles) and Henry (100) which was a lot of production though Bumper Pool is back after collecting 125 tackles in 2021. Did Morgan and Henry’s leaving also play a part in your decision?
“Just really like I said before, just kind of like knowing the scheme from playing against it and seeing how they play,” Sanders said. “Obviously making as many plays as they did was an attractive thing. But it was just like I see myself fitting in a scheme like this and I felt like this was the place for me to be.”
Pool is someone Sanders said he has leaned on for information at times.
“He’s helped me a tremendous amount,” Sanders said. “Every day we kind of make it an emphasis to watch film and him kind of telling me what to do. I was really excited to get with a player like him with as much experience as he has and learn from him.”
At Alabama Sanders battled some injuries at various times, but in 2021 finished with 24 tackles, 12 solo, 2.5 for loss, one sack, two pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. He talked about what he feels are the things that requires him to work on the most.
“I mean, switching to a whole different position you’ve got a bunch of things you’ve got to change,” Sanders said. “It’s a whole different playing style. You go from like reading one part of the ball to like you’re reading the whole field now. And it’s just like really kind of all aspects you’ve got to improve on. You’re not coming in here playing something you’ve played before. It’s all brand new. You’ve kind of got to work on everything a little bit as much as you can.”
Sanders is also impressed with redshirt freshman Chris “Pooh” Paul who is sidelined right now with a concussion he suffered at Saturday’s scrimmage.
“Pooh is a great player,” Sanders said. “He’s been doing his thing. He’s been a great person to watch, too, and learn from, too. He has tremendous ability and I think we’re really deep at that position. We’ve got a lot of great players there. With all the young kids that came in, it provides a lot of depth for us. I think if God forbid somebody goes down, we’re going to be just fine.”
One of the younger linebackers who has caught Sanders eye is Jordan Crook. He’s a true freshman from Duncanville (Texas) who enrolled at midterm.
“He’s been playing real well,” Sanders said. “He’s real fast downhill. He’s real aggressive. His mind’s a lot more mature than a normal freshman would be. He’s fun to watch. He’s making a lot of plays and doing good thing.”
Carter also chimed in on Crook.
“A dog,” Carter said.
Arkansas will practice again on Saturday morning. The open scrimmage to the public is Saturday, Sept 16, at 11 a.m.