FAYETTEVILLE -- The end of the line seems just the beginning for Jake Bequette.
Last year's surprisingly solid defensive end as a redshirt freshman could develop into a sophomore sensation, Arkansas defensive ends coach Kirk Botkin believes.
"Jake Bequette has got a great burst," Botkin said. "That kid doesn't know how good he can be. We are looking for a great year out of him."
Though Arkansas' young defense struggled overall last year, the Razorbacks netted a pretty strong 2008 from their then second-year freshman out of Little Rock Catholic. The 6-5, 271-pounder logged 41 tackles, 3.5 stops for lost yardage, deflected a pass and forced six hurried incompletions.
However, Botkin knows Bequette didn't quite assert himself in 2008 like last year's experience should allow him to do for second-year coordinator Willy Robinson's 2009 defense.
"Last year he was just a redshirt freshman," Botkin said, "and the youth showed up a lot. He got better as the year went on. Being a third-year player this year, this is the year I am expecting him to make big strides and play good game in and game out every play. He knows now what I want and Coach Robinson wants and we are expecting big things out of him."
Botkin knows what to expect from senior starting three-year letterman Adrian Davis, 6-4, 252, and 6-5, 270, two-year junior letterman top reserve Damario Ambrose.
"We are looking for big things from him Adrian Davis," Botkin said, "in his senior year. He has a lot of leadership skills and ability to help the young guys. Damario Ambrose had a real good spring. He has a lot of tools and may be the best run defender we have at the end spot."
Moved from linebacker to end last spring, Tenarius Wright, in the wake of backup linebacker Khiry Battle's disciplinary dismissal from the team, now joins Jermaine Love battling behind senior starting middle linebacker Wendel Davis.
So there could be a play right away reserve end opportunity for incoming freshman Colton Nash of Sulphur Springs, Texas.
"Colton Nash has been here all summer," Botkin said. "He moves a lot better than I thought he would. A big, long body, all 6-6 of him. He's around 265 right now and is going to get better."
Scout-team lifer Chris Berezansky surprised last year coming off the bench with a huge sack during the season-ending epic 31-30 upset of LSU. The fifth-year senior from Hillsborough, N.J. is short on defensive end height (6-1) but long on strength and savvy.
"Berezansky will be in the mix," Botkin said. "He's the strongest kid we've got and he may be the best technician we have doing exactly what you are trying to coach. He could probably play anywhere on the defensive front because he's so smart."
At tackle, veteran Arkansas assistant Bobby Allen seems nearly 100 percent more comfortable as practice begins than this time last year.
Malcolm Sheppard came into 2008 as a tackle who had been bandied from tackle to end throughout 2007.
Now he's a tackle so ensconced the SEC's head coaches and SEC media both voted him 2009 Preseason second-team All-SEC.
The other tackle was so thin that undersized 6-1 true freshman Zach Stadther of North Little Rock played every game and started the last eight.
Alfred Davis, the more highly-recruited true freshman deemed bigger and better by recruiting gurus, reported too big and heavy to help. He was redshirted.
Now Davis has slimmed, Stadther is experienced, and Allen is happy.
"What (strength coach) Jason Veltkamp has done with his (Davis') body is incredible," Allen said. "Alfred Davis has gone from the 350 he reported a year ago to where he's now about 317 and you can really see he looks good. He showed in the spring he can hold point. He's going to be tough to move off the line of scrimmage and that's what you need in this league."
What about Stadther?
"Zach Stadther had a good summer," Allen said. "His strength is up and he gets off a block and makes a good play. You hope with those two and the experienced Zach gained last year that we can be a lot better at that spot than we were."
If you look for a true freshman to play right away, DeQuinta "D.D." Jones of Bastrop, La., is a big (6-5, 307) prospect.
"D.D. Jones has the chance to come in and help us," Allen said. "He has been impressive with the weight coaches."