FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — With several key starters and contributors returning in 2016 — not to mention the talented newcomers — Arkansas’ defensive line has a chance to be one of the team’s best units.
Many believe senior defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. is the most talented player on the team and he could become a first-round NFL draft pick in 2017, but the depth and experience on the Razorbacks’ defensive front goes beyond just him.
Continuing SEC Country’s nine-part series looking at Arkansas’ 2016 position groups, here is a peek at the Razorback defensive line.
Names you need to know
Taiwan Johnson (redshirt senior), Jeremiah Ledbetter (redshirt senior), JaMichael Winston (redshirt senior), Deatrich Wise Jr. (redshirt senior), Tevin Beanum (redshirt junior), Karl Roesler (redshirt junior), Bijhon Jackson (junior), Armon Watts (redshirt sophomore), T.J. Smith (redshirt freshman), *McTelvin Agim (true freshman), *Austin Capps (true freshman), *Briston Guidry (true freshman), *Jonathan Marshall (true freshman)
* — Indicates a 2016 newcomer
The proverbial light came on for Deatrich Wise Jr. in the final five 2015 games, a stretch in which he recorded seven sacks and 19 tackles.
Wise — the son of former NFL defensive tackle Deatrich Wise Sr. — and his continued development are widely viewed as a major keys to Arkansas’ defensive success in 2016, even though he enters his senior campaign with just one career start that came when he was a sophomore.
ESPN.com’s Todd McShay had Wise going 28th overall in next year’s NFL draft, according to the 2017 mock draft he released in early May, and McShay’s colleague Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Wise No. 24 in his “way-too-early” 2017 big board.
But the Razorbacks also return Taiwan Johnson, Jeremiah Ledbetter, JaMichael Winston and Tevin Beanum — all of whom have at least eight career starts under their belts — and added highly-recruited freshman defensive end McTelvin Agim, who enrolled for the spring semester, to the mix.
Agim, a consensus top-100 prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, should earn immediate playing time, even considering the Hogs’ returning experience up front. He is considered an elite pass rusher and outside of Wise’s final five games, that’s an area Arkansas struggled with in 2015.
The Razorbacks ranked 102nd in the nation in team sacks last season.
Other true freshman who could play their way into the rotation include tackles Austin Capps and Briston Guidry, both of whom were 4-star prospects and arrived on campus earlier this summer.
All told, third-year Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest has some great talent and depth to work with in 2016.