FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Monday he’s been “tinkering” with the idea of implementing a 3-4 defense (three defensive linemen and four linebackers) next season. The Hogs currently operate in a 4-3 as their base defense, and also regularly deploy a 4-2-5.
“I think the biggest thing is in this league there’s a lot of teams … it’s a 3-4, but it’s a 4-3 alignment,” Bielema said. “They have guys that are doing a little bit of both. I think we have those kind of guys. A guy like Michael Taylor, a guy like Randy Ramsey. A guy like a couple of the guys we’re recruiting that have the ability to run like a linebacker, but also able to get a rush at D-end.”
Arkansas struggled mightily at times on defense during the regular season, particularly against the run. The Razorbacks surrendered an average of 258 rushing yards per game against SEC opponents — 12th in the conference.
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Monday a shift to the 3-4 can help get more players on the field, particularly outside linebackers, capable of providing run support and pass coverage.
“I think it gives you flexibility and gives you a different athlete on the field,” Smith said. “And I think those are things that we are excited about to explore here in the offseason.”
Like Bielema, Smith also suggested the staff already has started recruiting toward the idea of regularly using a 3-4 defense.
“I think we have to look in recruiting as we build the roster,” Smith said. “We are trying to stop and fill the needs that we need to be successful in the SEC.”
Bielema had mentioned potential scheme changes several times during the regular season. He often said something along the lines of: “We have to look at what we’re asking our guys to do and decide if they’re capable of doing it. If not, changes need to be made.” However, Monday was the first time such specific changes have been mentioned publicly.
“It’s kind of been talked about a little bit within these walls for a while,” Smith said. “I think it’s something we’re going to put time and energy and effort into and see where it takes us.”
Arkansas is currently preparing to face Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl. The game is set for Dec. 29 in Charlotte, N.C.