Entering the 2020 Razorback Football season, the linebacker position had a big question mark next to it. Two new linebackers have answered with dominant performances through two games.
Over the past two seasons, the Razorbacks have had two future NFL linebackers racking up tackles in Dre Greenlaw and De’Jon “Scoota” Harris. Now that they have departed, the Hogs were in need of someone to step up at the position.
“When someone like Scoota Harris leaves your room or Dre Greenlaw leaves your room you've got to have people step up and you've got to come with a group," said redshirt senior linebacker Grant Morgan in fall camp.
Through the first two weeks of the Razorbacks’ 10-game SEC schedule, linebackers Morgan and junior Bumper Pool have not only led the Hogs in tackles, but rank one (Pool) and two (Morgan) in the SEC in tackles. Pool, who was named Week 2 Co-Defensive Player of the Week, ranks first in the conference with 31 tackles and Morgan ranks second with 28 tackles.
A lot of the credit for the impressive defensive performance in the Hogs’ 21-14 victory over No. 16 Mississippi State goes to these two players. The two combined for 35 total tackles, both recording career highs in the game.
“Bumper, he's tough, physical, around the ball,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said after the game. “Grant did, too. He's beat up a little bit, and then he came back. I mean, 35 tackles between the two of them, that's a pretty good night.”
Despite the doubt prior to the season, Morgan, who was named a captain for the Razorbacks, voiced confidence in the linebackers on multiple occasions.
"To see the different kind of competition that we have on both sides of the ball we're gonna be ready for stuff to happen,” Morgan said in fall camp. “I think we've been adaptable because of the times we're in right now. We've got to be able to know what's going on. We've got to be able to have people step up."
After the Razorbacks victory over Mississippi State on Oct. 3, Pool asserted that the team has been prepared. The Texas native was high on the game plan that Razorback defensive coordinator Barry Odom had for the team.
“We had such a great plan,” Pool said. “Coach Odom did an unbelievable job... It’s so big for us to get this win. We were here two years ago and we got beat really bad. And Mr. [Hunter] Yurachek said it would never happen again.”
Early in the game against Mississippi State, Morgan suffered an injury to his UCL, but finished the game. Pittman talked about his toughness in Monday afternoon’s press conference.
“Well we may have to get the other elbow hurt. If he made 15 tackles he might get to 20,” Pittman said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s a Morgan. His brother [Drew] was tough too, I imagine everybody in the family is. But he loves to play and he toughed it out and he got treatment. He’ll be fine.”
The Arkansas defense has seemingly improved in the two games with Odom and Pittman at the helm. Players have truly bought into the work ethic that Pittman preaches.
“I’m so happy with the staff that we have because they’re good teachers and our players believe in them,” Pittman said. “We’re kind of a blue-collared university and state and football team. We’re just going to go get our lunch pail, go to work, and see what happens on Saturday.”
The Hogs will travel to Auburn, Alabama, to take on the No. 13 Tigers at 3 p.m. this Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.