Coach Odom in less than one year has completely transformed the defensive side of the ball at Arkansas despite losing three players to the NFL Draft from last year’s defense. Through eight SEC games this season compared to Arkansas’s eight SEC games last year, the Razorbacks have improved in almost every defensive category. Allowing less points (2020 – 30.9 ppg, 2019 – 39.9 ppg), fewer total yards per game (2020 – 427.6 ypg, 2019 – 471.5 ypg) and rushing yards per game (2020 – 179.0 ypg, 2019 – 249.6 ypg). Arkansas’ 13 interceptions are nearly double the team’s output from 2019 (7) and more than the combined total from the Razorbacks’ 2018 (5) and 2019 (7) seasons. Odom’s 2020 defense has also improved in the red zone (2020 – 74%, 2019 – 86%) and third down (2020 – 43%, 2019 – 53%). The defense’s improvement have helped lead Arkansas to three wins this season, the team’s most since 2017 and most SEC wins since 2016.
Coach Odom served four seasons as the head coach at Missouri (2016-19) after one season as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in 2015. H He jumped onto the national scene at Memphis as the team’s defensive coordinator 2012-14. In 2015, the Tigers ranked ninth nationally in total defense, allowing just 302.0 ypg. That defense became the first Mizzou defense to rank inside the nation’s Top 10 since the NCAA started keeping defensive stats in 1978. The same defense ranked seventh nationally in scoring defense (16.2 ppg) and pass defense (169.2 ypg) and second in tackles for loss (8.8 per game). At Memphis in 2014, his defense ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense (17.1 ppg) and 22nd nationally in total defense (343.3 ypg) to help Memphis go 10-3. That season marked an incredible turnaround for the Tigers’ defense that ranked 117th nationally prior to his arrival. Memphis improved defensively each year under Odom rising from 50th nationally in total defense in 2012 to 39th in 2013 to 22nd in his final year.
Through eight games, tied for the national lead with 13 interceptions. Tied for the third-most turnovers gained in the FBS with 17 after forcing 16 in 12 games in 2019.Lead the SEC in red zone defense (73.5%).
Arkansas has three of the top four tacklers in the SEC (through eight games) – Grant Morgan, Jalen Catalon and Bumper Bool.Grant Morgan leads the nation in total tackles with 104, four 15+ tackle games are the most by a Razorback in a single season since 2002 and the most in the SEC since Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers in 2015 when Coach Odom was the defensive coordinator for Missouri.Jalen Catalon is the only player in the nation with 80+ tackles and three interceptions. His 86 tackles (through eight games) lead all freshmen nationally and ranks fourth overall. He is the first SEC freshman since Eric Berry in 2007 to have at least 86 tackles and three interceptions.Bumper Pool’s 20-tackle game in the upset win over No. 16 Mississippi State are the most tackles in a single game in the FBS this season. Pool’s 11.7 tackles per game rank second in the SEC and 9th nationally.