Defense “Smarter,” Johnson to Work at Punt Returner

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas football team was back on the practice field on Friday for day two of preseason camp.

For the second year in a row, one of the biggest question marks for the team before the season is the defense. A unit that struggled to get big stops last year lost key players like Jerry Franklin, Jerico Nelson and Jake Bequette.

However, they bring back senior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, who, after injuring his pectoral muscle during the team’s spring bench press test, spent his time studying some of the greats at his position.

“I stayed conditioned,” he said. “I ran every day in rehab and knew what I had to do to get back on the field.”

Highsmith also likes where the defense, as a unit, is headed.

“We’re getting to where we can see things and know what’s coming,” he said. “I think, as a whole, we’re getting smarter as a defense.”

Also, the Hogs will have to find a punt returner with Joe Adams graduated and Marquel Wade no longer on the team. Senior running back Dennis Johnson fielded some punts on Friday.

“Dennis came back and caught punts yesterday,” said special teams coordinator Steve Caldwell. “[Receivers coach Kris Cinkovich] was really happy with him.”

Arkansas opens the season Sept. 1 at home against Jacksonville State.