FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ bye week has arrived with the Hogs 5-3 overall and 1-3 in SEC play.
At SEC Country, we’re spending the week off assessing the performance of each position group through eight games.
Here’s our breakdown of how the Hogs have performed at linebacker so far this season:
By the numbers
17: Consecutive starts for sophomore outside linebacker Dre Greenlaw before a broken foot against Alabama (Oct. 8) has caused him to likely miss the rest of the season.
36: Career starts for senior middle linebacker Brooks Ellis.
37: Tackles for Greenlaw before his injury, a team high.
44: Total combined tackles by linebackers (five players) other than Ellis and Greenlaw.
57: Tackles for Ellis this season, ranking fifth in the SEC.
The Hogs have mightily struggled to develop depth at linebacker in 2016, a trend that has continued from last season. Ellis has been his usual self — a solid, smart defender who often plays above his talent level. Greenlaw was, for the most part, having a good sophomore season before the foot injury. There’s still a chance he could return for one of the final two games of the regular season or a potential bowl game.
But beyond those two, it’s been a case of underperformance and youth causing headaches for the Razorbacks. Junior outside linebacker Dwayne Eugene played well enough filling in for Greenlaw in a win over Ole Miss, but followed that up with a poor performance in a loss to Auburn a week later. He and true freshman De’Jon Harris are competing to start alongside Ellis next week against Florida. Though he has a bright future, Harris is still a young player being asked to do a lot for this point in his career.
Junior outside linebacker Khalia Hackett had been listed as the starter at strong-side linebacker, a position the Hogs rarely deploy, earlier this season. However, he’s struggled to stay out of the coaching staff’s doghouse, and only recently returned to the depth chart and travel squad after a hiatus from both.
Overall grade: C-
The linebackers, like most of the defense this season, haven’t played well against the run when facing premier opponents. Even before Greenlaw’s injury, the Hogs struggled in that department.
Ellis is also getting to a point where he looks tired and weary from trying to carry a sub-par defense. Because he’s a fan favorite and a good leader, it’s not often pointed out that he’s at least a step slow for what’s ideal from an SEC linebacker. But that’s the truth.