This post continues our series on the Arkansas game. Yesterday, we talked about USC's potential offensive strategies. Today, we're talking defense.
The big story right now for Carolina's defense is the uncertain status of spur Antonio Allen. Allen suffered a neck injury in practice on Tuesday, and he's been sitting out since then. Ellis Johnson is reporting that the injury is a neck strain and is causing pain and spasms, but he says that Allen will play. Whether or not that's the case, and whether or not Allen will be his usual self, is of obvious importance. Along with Melvin Ingram, Allen has been one of Carolina's two biggest defensive stars this year, leading the team in tackles and getting in on numerous big interceptions and fumbles. He's the kind of player who could make the play that turns a tough game in our favor.
Though he seems to get involved in more or less every play, Allen is particularly important because of his role in pass coverage. Carolina's secondary has put up impressive pass defense numbers since the Georgia game, ranking as one of the country's best units. However, the suspicion remains that those numbers have come against weak passing offenses. Needless to say, after this weekend we'll know whether our pass defense is legit or not. Arkansas is by far the most effective passing team in the conference. Tyler Wilson appears to be a shoe-in for first-team All-SEC QB, and receivers Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, and Joe Adams form the conference's most productive receiving corps. The only weakness is the Hogs' running game, which, in the absence of pre-season All-SEC candidate Knile Davis, has been somewhat pedestrian this year, although it's capable of hurting a defense, certainly.
I have no doubt that Arkansas will put up many more yards on us than Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi St. That said, I do feel that we can stop these guys. Our secondary has been playing very tough lately, and with our defensive line providing enough pressure with a four-man rush to eliminate the need for blitzing, the linebackers can help the secondary out in pass coverage. It shouldn't be too difficult to continue to scheme the LBs in pass protection, as the Hogs may lack the running game to make us pay for that approach. The blend of talent in all areas of the defense is something that Arkansas won't have seen since they played Alabama, and it could be very disruptive to the Hogs' attack. One thing to watch out for, though, is that our corner backs have let receivers get open deep in the last two games. Luckily, neither MSU nor UT made us pay. Arkansas probably won't be so kind, so our CBs need to step it up one more notch and / or our DL needs to get to the QB before the deep routes develop.
What would really top off a good defensive performance, though, may be forcing a couple of key turnovers. If the offense doesn't pick up its game and score close to or over 30 points, the defense may need to (1) figure out ways to send Arkansas home empty handed when it gets to the red zone and (2) figure out way to put points on the board itself. This would also be a great game to see us take a kick to the house. At any rate, the point is that with the offense struggling, we may need to create some points in unconventional ways.