FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The 2016 Arkansas Razorbacks are no strangers to stout defense.
The Hogs (5-3, 1-3 SEC) have faced three of the SEC’s top-5 scoring defenses — Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M — through four league games. This Saturday, they’ll face Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS), which boasts the top scoring defense in the conference and allows 11.7 points per game.
The Gators (6-1, 4-1) have five inside defensive linemen and five outside defensive linemen who are capable SEC contributors, according to Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. And that’s apparently the weakest, if it can be called that, part of Florida’s defense.
“At linebacker, I really like watching those guys play,” Bielema said. “Some guys with different skill sets, but very, very talented, and you throw on the back end a secondary that has several first-round draft-choice-type guys that are very smart, very intelligent, very aggressive.
“You definitely have got to take advantage of the opportunities you get because you don’t get a lot of them.”
The Florida defense is headlined by starting cornerbacks Jalen “Teez” Tabor (Jr.) and Quincy Wilson (Jr.). While Tabor widely is projected as a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, at least one NFL executive believes Wilson is the best cornerback in the country.
Senior outside linebacker Jarrad Davis, redshirt-senior safety Marcus Maye, redshirt-senior defensive end Bryan Cox and redshirt-junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley also are projected to be selected in the first four rounds of the 2017 draft.
“They’re a solid defense,” Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen said. “They’ve got playmakers all over the field. Their corners are arguably two of the best corners in the SEC or the country, really. So we’ve got to be crisp on all our routes, timing, ball placement . . . their linebackers are solid, safeties. I mean, you could on and on.”
The Gators are second nationally and first in the SEC in yards allowed per game at 239. They’ve been particularly outstanding against the pass, allowing 134 yards per game. Those are impressive numbers for a team that often plays man-to-man coverage and regularly stacks the box against the run.
“Obviously, they’re gonna make it very hard on you with numbers,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. “They put a lot of guys in the box, and they try to force you to take the ball outside where they feel the strength of their defense is, and, obviously, they’ve been very, very good at it. It’s gonna be a big challenge.
“There’s really not a weakness on the entire 11.”