Razorbacks Feature Sosa Agim and Scoota Harris
FAYETTEVILLE – With its consensus Preseason All-SEC players on the same unit.Arkansas shines its star power defensively.Senior defensive tackle McTelvin “Sosa” Agim, originally from Texarkana, Texas before graduating high school on the Arkansas side at Hope, and senior middle linebacker and 2018 SEC leading tackler De’Jon “Scoota” Harris of Harvey, La. starred last year even as the Razorbacks went 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the SEC.Whether for SEC champion Alabama or SEC East champion Georgia each would have started and starred last year.This August going into Saturday’s 3 p.m. SEC Network televised season opener against the Portland State Vikings at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, they have started and starred in every preseason practice starting with its Aug. 3 start.In fact, the entire first-team defense has started and finished every practice. That gives veteran defensive coordinator John “Chief” Chavis immense confidence that last year’s defense didn’t have even with Agim and Harris.Chavis coached Tennessee’s 1998 national champion defense and also coordinated powerful defenses at LSU and Texas A&M.“Some of the best teams I’ve been around are the ones who started almost every single week the same 11,” Chavis said. “Obviously, we got it right when we started the season and kept them healthy. Those have been some of the better teams I’ve been on.”Harris noticed huge difference in this year’s defensive continuity.“I guess you could say it’s our first time actually finishing camp with at least all 11 of our starters hitting the field,” Harris said. “That’s kind of been our downfall as a team these last couple of years. As you can see in the offense, we’re still struggling with most of the starters getting hurt. But it kind of builds more confidence within the (defense’s) first unit that all of us are still there.”The first team defense not only has improved staying intact but the overall depth has improved.Last year Agim, a good defensive end but a great defensive tackle, had to swing between tackle and end. Agim has been all tackle since last spring as seniors Dorian Gerald, Gabe Richardson and Jamario Bell and freshman flashes Mataio Soli and Collin Clay develop on the ends. “He found a home at the 3-technique,”Harris said of Agim. “And he’s become a better leader. We’ve been trying to go hard and give a little extra more than we ever did at practice just so it can translate to the field, and those other guys feed off of that.”Agim talks of his NFL aspirations but also of the “legacy” he wants to leave at Arkansas in Year Two of Chad Morris’ head coaching rein in the wake of last year’s 2-10.This senior class is all in on reviving the Razorbacks, Agim said, citing fellow starting senior defensive tackle T.J. Smith as a strong but slimmer example.“He dropped from 315 to 285,” Agim said. “This summer he just put a lot of work into his body to make sure he was getting the right amount of sleep, recovery and I think he’s gonna have a big season in the SEC.”Agim and Harris both say they are excited to start the season Saturday but do so minus pregame jitters.“ I don’t get game-day jitters no more,” Agim said. “It passed for me after my freshman year. I feel like I’m more prepared.”Harris stayed pregame jittery longer than Agim but says he’s now equally calm.“No, I don’t get jitters anymore,” Harris said. “I got jitters last year, but I don’t have jitters right now. I don’t know what’s different. I’m just ready.’They are calmer but not blasé though that might seem understandable.After all they are 28-point favorites over lower division Portland State (the Vikings are Football Championship Subdivision while the Razorbacks of the SEC are in a Power Five conference of the elite Football Bowl Subdivision. And the Razorbacks await a much bigger game on Sept. 7 opening the SEC season at Ole Miss.No Razorback looks ahead Oxford, Miss, Harris said, recalling Group of Five member North Texas embarrassing Arkansas, 44-17 last season in Fayetteville.“You don’t worry about anybody else especially after losing to North Texas last year,” Harris said. “So, I really don’t overlook anybody now. I know we always say that, but I guess you just take it more serious when something like North Texas actually happens to you. So no, we’re not overlooking anybody.”The Razorbacks held an entirely closed light practice Thursday.