HawgBeat - Game slowing down for Hog defensive end Julius Coates
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Game slowing down for Hog defensive end Julius Coates

Julius Coates and Gregory Brooks Jr. trap Aggie running back Isaiah Spiller.
Julius Coates and Gregory Brooks Jr. trap Aggie running back Isaiah Spiller. (Arkansas Athletics)

Looking for positives on tape after the loss to Texas A&M at Kyle Field, Sam Pittman noted Monday that one aspect of the defense wasn't as poor as he thought after a rewatch.

"I did think that our D-line played better than what I was thinking during the game," Pittman said on Monday.

The Razorback defense gave up 42 points and 442 yards of offense to the Aggies, but of the Hogs' 18 missed tackles, only one was credited to a defensive lineman, according to PFF.

On top of the entire line looking better on tape, the head hog noted Julius Coates, the lone junior college addition in the 2020 class, played perhaps his best game yet this season. Coates notched two tackles for two run stops and added two quarterback pressures.

"I feel like I’m starting to pick things up more," Coates told the media on Wednesday night. "I feel like things are starting to slow down a little bit for me. Just transferring one level to another, things can be a little fast at the beginning, game one to five now, but I mean, the more you do film study and just going through practice every day like it's game like, things start to slow down."

Being confident in making the right moves and recognizing the impending play has allowed the former tight end to focus on keeping his technique crisp.

"I think I was more technically sound (on Saturday)," Coates noted. "I think I was in my gas mode when I needed to be. I think I've been trying to work on shedding blocks more. think the more I focus more on just being technical the better I do out there...it's less work for you when you're being technical."

The 6-foot-6, 289-pound defensive end arrived at Arkansas from East Mississippi Community College just as the Hogs shifted to a 3-down base defensive line scheme. His size and length has fit the scheme well so far.

In four games, Coates has 156 snaps, eight tackles, a sack and eight quarterback pressures. He's missed just one tackle. Right now, Coates is the second-highest graded defensive lineman behind Jonathan Marshall.

"It was a bit new coming in and getting it done, but I've got all the tools to do it, you know what I'm saying? I have no problem doing it," Coates said. "I feel like, I mean, it's very effective, so I love doing it, really. I feel like it's a challenge. We've got three of us, and usually there's five or if they bring in some tight ends, we have to go against like seven guys. A running back would be eight. But we take it upon us to say, 'Hey, we're still going to get there. Three-on-seven, three-on-eight, three-on-five, either way we're getting there.

"We just want to help our guys in the back. I just take it as a challenge, man. I feel like I've got a lot of tools to use. Whatever they need me to do. Whatever position they put me in, I'm going to try to make a play out of that. So, three down, it doesn't really faze me much, honestly. Three down, two down, four down, we're down."

Things are looking good for Coates now but four weeks ago, he was sitting at home while his teammates took down Mississippi State. Coates missed the game due to an undisclosed issue, not injury-related.

Expectations for the JUCO addition have been high, but perhaps none were higher than those he set for himself. Coates has had to adjust his idea of what it means to be successful, even when the stat sheet isn't stuffed.

"Naturally, I just want to consider myself a play-maker. I try to make plays. Being at end, the play doesn’t always come to you," Coates said. "You’ve got to understand that. You’ve got to play your role. Sometimes getting in the gap you need to be in. Hold the backside down if you need to hold the back side down. Obviously, there’s a lot of patience that goes into that. I know I want to make some plays, but I’m playing my role, man."

Coates and his defensive teammates will be trying to contain the Vols, led by Jarrett Guarantano, on Saturday night. Top priority is stuffing the run game. Tennessee running backs Eric Gray and Ty Chandler are averaging 4.5 and 4.4 yards per rush, respectively.