FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The penultimate positive thing the Arkansas defense achieved against TCU last season was because of McTelvin Agim.
Arkansas, of course, won that matchup with the Horned Frogs, 41-38 in overtime. It was a game few Hogs fans can forget, but clarity of memory generally only exists for those last few minutes of regulation and into the extra session.
As in: TCU’s comeback, Arkansas’ miracle, the blocked kick, and Austin Allen’s final spill into the end zone for the game-winning score.
On the last offensive play of the third quarter, with Arkansas ahead 20-7, Agim sacked TCU quarterback Kenny Hill. The Horned Frogs punted on the next play. Arkansas took over and subsequently missed a field goal. That’s when the lights turned on for the TCU offense. The Frogs ripped off three unanswered touchdowns to take the lead, and the Razorbacks needed an outright miracle to send the game to overtime.
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Agim’s memory of the game is unclouded. He was a freshman playing in his second collegiate game, and the sack was his first as a Razorback.
“We were tired. We were dead tired last year,” Agim said. “They would snap the ball; we weren’t ready. They kept getting big chunks of plays. Twenty yards, 30 yards, 40 yards. You would get them into a third down, and they’d get a 20-yard bust. Just things taken out of you.”
Agim was a role player in Arkansas’ 4-3 defense. A backup pass-rusher. Now, as a sophomore, he’s starting in the Hogs’ 3-4 scheme. Opposing offenses focus on Agim. Teams know he was a 5-star recruit. They know he is the most dangerous defensive end Arkansas has had in years. Florida A&M double-teamed him regularly in the season opener last week.
So how does a player who regularly has two offensive linemen in his face make a play?
He feels like he doesn’t necessarily have to.
The trick for the Arkansas defense against TCU — which dropped 572 yards of total offense against the Razorbacks last season — is not overplaying. Going too far plays right into quarterback Kenny Hill’s hands. The senior is adept, prefers really, throwing on the run or taking off, playing defensive fronts for fools.
If Agim has to soak up the blockers, he’ll do that. He figures that will free up the linebackers behind him, who can shut down running lanes faster and easier than the hulkers up front.
“I’ve just got to be stout on my gap,” Agim said about the double-teams. “One of them comes up, I show back up. One of them stays on, I don’t get pushed back 15, 20 yards down the field. [If] you play with high pads in this game, they’ll put you back there.”
It’s a curious game of cat and mouse that Arkansas’ defensive fronts will have to play against mobile quarterbacks such as Hill. Come at him too hard, and he will zip out of the pocket, maybe with a linebacker and the safeties to beat. That’s what Hill did last year on his way to 93 yards and 2 touchdowns on 15 carries.
Of course, if Arkansas doesn’t come at him with enough, he can stand around with all day to throw. Meantime, first-year defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said his group cannot get sidetracked by red herrings.
“[Against] TCU you’ve got to be locked in,” Scott said. “They’re the same TCU offensively that I remember that we played when I [served as defensive line coach at Texas Tech]. They do present some unique challenges. They give you a lot of flash that can distract your eyes from what’s really happening.”
Don’t get seduced by the glory of the sack or the big hit or the interception. Just make the play. Agim knows that’s the difference between this season and last.
“We had a system where we had to trade ends and trade nose and trade tackles last year, so we had to get calls from the sidelines,” Agim said. “And their tempo, it’s quick. It’s coming quick. If you weren’t prepared for that, they could burn you.
“That’s what they did to us. So this year we’re trying to simplify our defense, simplify our system and be able to be ready at the line when it’s coming.”
The post McTelvin Agim: Hogs must get back to basics against TCU appeared first on SEC Country.
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