FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Following a loss to Alabama last Saturday, Arkansas senior defensive lineman Taiwan Johnson pleaded with his teammates to keep their heads up despite what was a disappointing defeat at home.
The message was intended to keep the No. 22 Hogs focused on improving going forward rather than dwelling on being 0-2 to begin SEC play.
Johnson has 13 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a sack in six games this season. He recently spoke to the media about his message to the team, hosting No. 12 Mississippi this Saturday and more.
Q: Coach (Bret) Bielema said you had some strong words for the team after the Alabama loss. What did you say?
A: “The message was not to hold our heads down. Keep our heads up. We lost to the No. 1 team in the nation and we will remember that. Everybody was excited for the game and we have high expectations for ourselves. Just because we failed doesn’t mean you have to take a step back. We lost the game, but if we just continue to take steps forward we can correct the mistakes we made and we can really improve as a team.”
Q: What do you think about Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly?
A: “Chad Kelly is way different. He is a great passer. That’s known. He is so elusive and that’s one thing people might not focus on. Chad Kelly gets out of sacks and makes big plays. He knows how to throw the ball down the field and that’s one thing he brought against us last year, his elusiveness.”
Q: Is he just elusive against the rush or can he run out of designed plays?
A: “He’s a little bit of both. He’s not a slow guy. If he breaks into the open field he can pick up 20 or 25 yards here or there. He reminds me a lot of (TCU quarterback) Kenny Hill. Kenny Hill would get out of the pocket and throw the ball down the field but if he had a lot of room, he would make plays with his feet. Our focus is making sure that we keep him in a trap.”
Q: How does the team continue the success they’ve had against Ole Miss?
A: “Be relentless. Relentless in our rush, but smart in our rush because of the elusiveness of Kelly. We can’t go in there running crazy.”