HawgBeat's Preseason Burning Questions: How will Arkansas Razorbacks' secondary shape up?
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HawgBeat's Preseason Burning Questions: How will secondary shape up?

Montaric Brown, a former four-star recruit, is a returning starter at cornerback.
Montaric Brown, a former four-star recruit, is a returning starter at cornerback. (Nick Wenger)

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The status of the 2020 college football season remains perilous as we inch closer to - at least what is scheduled to be - Week 1.

As of this moment, Arkansas is still set to open the Sam Pittman era against Nevada on Sept. 5 in Fayetteville. That could change if the SEC follows the Big Ten’s lead and shifts to a conference-only schedule.

However, for the time being, HawgBeat is treating it as everything is moving forward as planned. That includes the start of NFL-style OTAs - which are essentially walk-through practices - for the Razorbacks on July 24.

Leading up to that date, we are revealing our 10 “burning questions” surrounding Arkansas as it prepares for what everyone hopes to be a fall football season. Next up…

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How will the secondary shape up?

Considering the unit is coming off the worst statistical season in school history, new defensive coordinator Barry Odom has quite the challenge ahead of him to try to turn around Arkansas’ defense.

Throw in the fact that the Razorbacks lost arguably their best player from all three levels - defensive lineman McTelvin Agim, linebacker De’Jon Harris and safety Kamren Curl - to graduation or the NFL this offseason and it seems like an impossible task.

However, those who follow recruiting and the evolution of the roster closely have a lot of optimism for the back end of the defense. The reasoning is simple: Arkansas’ secondary - at least on paper - is loaded with talent.

In fact, the Razorbacks could have five or six former four-star defensive backs on the field at the same time and it wouldn’t be too crazy of an alignment. No other position on the roster has as much depth in terms of how they were ranked coming out of high school.

That scenario would involve Jalen Catalon and Myles Slusher at safety, Montaric Brown and LaDarrius Bishop at cornerback, and Greg Brooks Jr. and Devin Bush at the nickel and/or dime spots.

While fans could see that lineup at some point, it probably isn’t likely at the beginning of the season because it leaves out returning starters Jarques McClellion at corner and Joe Foucha at safety.

Jerry Jacobs - a graduate transfer from Arkansas State - figures to factor in at corner or nickel, while Myles Mason has quite a bit of playing experience at safety and could also compete for a starting job.

HawgBeat’s best guess is that McClellion and Foucha will at least enter fall camp as starters and could even start the season there, but there will be plenty of players chomping at the bit. That should give Odom options to make changes if someone isn’t performing up to standard, a luxury Arkansas hasn’t had the last few years.

Something else to consider in this conversation is Arkansas’ base defense. As we discussed in our second question - linked below - it is still unclear just how many defensive backs the Razorbacks plan to use at one time.

If its depth on paper turns out to be true depth on the field, the secondary could be a strength of the defense and give Odom enough flexibility to be multiple with traditional, nickel and dime packages.

HawgBeat's Preseason Burning Questions

1. Has Feleipe Franks developed chemistry with the wide receivers/tight ends?

2. What will Arkansas use as its base defense?

3. Which second-team wide receiver will step up?

4. How will the secondary shape up?