Arkansas Football 2023 Spring Preview: Defensive Tackle

With spring football practice in Arkansas beginning next Thursday, we continue our series of preview positions for the 2023 Razorbacks.

The Hogs are currently sitting with 76 grantees going to the Spring Ball, leaving nine vacancies to be filled when the transfer portal reopens in May.

Head coach Sam Pittman’s side lost heavily numerically, but few played significantly during their time in Fayetteville. Arkansas added Rivals to the nation’s No. 20 rookie class of 2023 with 20 newly arriving rookies, and it also added 10 talented transfers from the transfer portal.

We continue our Spring Preview with a positional group where the Hogs have recently received positive news – defensive tackle…

return: Taurean Carter (Redshirt Senior), Marcus Miller (Redshirt Senior), Eric Gregory (Redshirt Senior) Cameron Ball (Redshirt Sophomore), Nico Davillier (Sophomore)

newcomers: Ian Geffrard (freshman, post-spring enrollment)

Big news came on Wednesday when Redshirt senior defensive tackle Taurean Carter tweeted that he had been cleared to practice with the Razorbacks.

After shining for the Razorbacks last spring, Carter suffered a knee injury in the third game of the team’s Spring Showcase, which was played at the Walker Pavilion due to inclement weather.

While head coach Sam Pittman hoped Carter might return sometime last season, that never happened. The official injury was never announced, but Carter underwent surgery and stood on the sidelines in his jersey to cheer on his teammates at every game.

“He’s had a great spring, and it’s difficult not to have him out there,” Pittman said on Aug. 16, 2022. “But he’s bought into his role at this point of being a leader and with the younger ones.” speak and a motivator guy in the room. He’s probably the most outspoken guy in our room. He follows. If he sees them lagging behind and lugging around, he gets along with them pretty well.”

It could be surmised that Carter was in the best position to start on the defensive front for Arkansas last season. He’s eligible for a spring starter on Defensive Tackle this year.

Carter’s best season as a Razorbacks came in 2021 when he accumulated 24 total tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. His Pro Football Focus grade of 67.1 on 244 snaps was the second-best of any Arkansas centerback.

New defense coordinator Travis Williams is expected to implement a 4-2-5 grassroots defense that will be new to those on the Arkansas roster. Former defensive coordinator Barry Odom mostly ran three-man fronts during his time at Fayetteville, but that’s likely to change this season unless the team finds no more players on the transfer portal.

While Williams likes to run a four-man front, the Razorbacks may not have the depth to do so right away. Carter is back but the team lost two starters in Isaiah Nichols (transferred to Purdue) and Terry Hampton (ineligible).

That leaves redshirt seniors Marcus Miller and Eric Gregory, along with redshirt student Cam Ball and sophomore Nico Davillier. Of those three, Ball is the main contender, slipping in with the starting group alongside Carter.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound man was the top-rated PFF Hogs inside lineman last season. He logged 341 snaps and finished with a 70.5 overall and a 75.0 in Run Defense. Ball accumulated a total of 31 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, a sack and a forced fumble in 2022.

Gregory worked on the boundary at times last season, especially when the team was in a three-man front. As they move to four men, Gregory tends to shift inside and he will likely have to do so due to the lack of depth in the tackle position. He played 379 snaps last season and finished with a 63.4 defensive rating after a total of 19 tackles, four TFLs and two sacks.

Miller has been around for a while, but he’s only played 122 total snaps, and just eight of those came last season. While he did have a knee scope in fall camp that limited him early on, he was healthy for most of the season.

Pittman praised Davillier during fall camp last season after the four-star freshman was quickly thrown into the fire due to injuries.

“Nico Davillier made some great plays today as a young man,” Pittman said on Aug. 13, 2022. “He’s going to play for us now. There will be no red shirt. I mean he’ll be doing his field. He’s a good player.”

Davillier played a total of 13 defensive snaps as a freshman and had a quarterback in the rush in the win over Auburn. He saw action on special teams every game, totaling 63 snaps, mostly on the field goal block team.

While defensive line coach Deke Adams and the Hogs are happy with who they have on campus, it’s pretty clear that defensive tackle remains a position of necessity. Expect the Hogs to target that spot in the transfer portal after Spring Ball, which has been successful for the past few seasons. Arkansas added players like John Ridgeway, Markell Utsey, Tre Williams, Terry Hampton and Jordan Domineck after spring the last two seasons. Arkansas Football 2023 Spring Preview: Defensive Tackle

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