FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas is 5-3 overall and 1-3 in SEC play entering its bye weekend.
Here at SEC Country, we’re breaking down the performance of each position group through eight games during the bye week. Here’s our look at how the Razorback defensive backfield has performed to this point:
By the numbers
165: Total tackles recorded by Arkansas starting defensive backs and top reserve De’Andre Coley.
24: Pass breakups recorded by Arkansas defensive backs. Pulley leads the team with 10.
4: Interceptions recorded this season by Arkansas defensive backs. Nickelback Henre’ Toliver leads the team with two picks.
2: Interceptions returned for touchdowns by Hog DBs. Toliver and sophomore cornerback Ryan Pulley each have one (and Pulley should have probably had a second last week against Auburn).
2: Coley targeting ejections this season.
Senior cornerback Jared Collins hasn’t intercepted a pass and only has 14 tackles and four pass breakups this season, but that’s because opponents largely avoid throwing it his way.
As a result of that — and, sadly, nickelback Kevin Richardson II’s Week 1 injury that forced Toliver to move from corner to nickel — Pulley has had a breakout season. He leads the team with 10 pass breakups.
Senior cornerback DJ Dean, who started eight games last year and 16 over his first three years on campus, hasn’t played much at all in 2016. He missed a chunk of the spring and dealt with an injury during fall camp.
Toliver has picked off two passes and broken up five. He’s also fifth on the team with 32 tackles. But in the two safety positions, things aren’t nearly as rosy.
Strong safety Santos Ramirez and free safety Josh Liddell have been inconsistent and out of position many times this season. They’ve also demonstrated, at times, a troubling inability to complete tackles.
Ramirez seemed to turn a corner against Ole Miss on Oct. 15, when he made several key plays late in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. But against Auburn last weekend, he struggled.
Junior De’Andre Coley has had his moments — he started three games while Ramirez dealt with an injury — but has also been ejected twice this season for targeting.
Collins, Pulley and Toliver have all played very well this season, but the overall grade of this group is dragged down by the inconsistent performance of the safeties. Bret Bielema believes strongly in Ramirez and Liddell, but there is clear improvement to be made there.