FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas finished the season with a 24-10 victory over Penn State in the Outback Bowl.
For many of the athletes in that game it will be the last game as a Razorback. Sam Pittman and the staff had the benefit of a large group of Super Seniors.
So some players, old and young, who didn’t see that much action this season because of players ahead of them on the depth chart will have a chance to make a big impact in 2022. Here’s a look at five such players on defense.
Andrew Parker, LB, 6-2, 245, Redshirt Junior
Parker has a lot of talent, but has been stuck behind Grant Morgan, Bumper Pool and Hayden Henry much of his time at Arkansas. Even if Pool comes back Parker will have a chance to show what he can do. In 12 games this season Parker had seven tackles, four solo, 1.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries. Parker had made 17 tackles including five solo entering the 2021 season. The Hogs beat some impressive schools to land Parker out of New Orleans (La.) Sophie B. Wright High School. As a senior, Parker was credited with 107 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and one recovered fumble while rushing for 275 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Chose Arkansas over Texas A&M, Texas, Auburn, TCU and others.
Cameron Ball, DL, 6-5, 303, Atlanta (Ga.) Tri-Cities, Freshman
Played in two games in 2021 so he retained his redshirt season. He had one tackle and a quarterback hurry in his limited action. This is someone who could step in and fill some of the void left by John Ridgeway and Markell Utsey. Very highly recruited out of high school and was a great get for Pittman and the staff. Played in six games as a senior making 42 tackles with six tackles for loss and four sacks. Also broke up three passes, recovered two fumbles and forced one fumble.
Chris Paul, LB, 6-1, 240, Cordele (Ga.) Crisp County, Freshman
Much like Parker would have seen more action, but had three talented seniors ahead of him. In four games he had one tackle and 0.5 tackle for loss. Since he only played in four games he will be a redshirt freshman in 2022. Every time Pittman or a player is asked about young defenders who has impressed in practice Paul’s name comes up. As a senior, made 91 total tackles in 11 games and added 20 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Also forced one fumble and blocked one punt. Offensively, rushed eight times for 67 yards (8.4 ypc) and a touchdown and made four grabs for 57 yards (14.3 ypc) and a touchdown. As a junior, made 157 tackles with 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, leading Crisp County to an 11-4 record. He also rushed 13 times for 113 yards (8.7 ypc) and three touchdowns and also made 10 catches for 112 yards (11.2 ypc) and two touchdowns. As a sophomore, recorded 92 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, while reaching the state championship game. Chose Arkansas over Nebraska, Cincinnati, Louisville, Tennessee and others.
Jayden Johnson, DB, 6-2, 215, Cedartown (Ga.), Freshman
Played in 11 games as a true freshman. Finished with 24 tackles, including 9 solo, and two for loss. He will be a sophomore next season and the back end of the secondary should be in really good shape. He can play safety or the nickel back. Was very versatile in high school. Played on both sides of the ball, seeing time at quarterback, wide receiver, running back, cornerback and safety for head coach Jamie Abrams. As a senior, rushed 48 times for 347 yards (7.2 ypc) and five touchdowns, made 17 receptions for 336 yards (19.8 ypc) and three touchdowns, while also adding 17 tackles, three interceptions, a pass deflection, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Chose the Hogs over South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Virginia and others.
Jashaud Stewart, DE, 6-2, 240, Jonesboro, Sophomore
Played in all 13 games in 2021. Had seven tackles, including four solo, and a quarterback hurry. Played in eight games as a true freshman in 2020 with a lot of reps on special teams. With the departure of Tre Williams and Markell Utsey will get a chance to show what he can do in the spring. Racked up 114 total tackles, including 85 solo, in 12 games for the Hurricane in 2019. Totaled 23 tackles for loss, with 17 sacks, as well as 14 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as a senior.