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Arkansas Razorbacks: Defensive line a strength for new look Hogs

Hoover, Ala. (  -- The Arkansas defensive line has one goal going into the 2012 season.

“We rank ourselves as No. 1 (in the SEC) but that is just one vote,” senior defensive end Chris Smith said. “You don’t get up at 5 AM every morning when it is dark outside just to be No. 2 or No. 3. You do it to be the best.”

His goal is an attainable one after the Razorbacks return their key pieces on the line with Smith and fellow defensive end Trey Flowers. Smith recorded 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss last season. Flowers also had 13 tackles for a loss to go with his 6.5 sacks last season.

The defensive line goes deeper than just the talented ends.

“Byran Jones and Robert Thomas are guys that are underrated in the SEC as D(efensive) tackles,” Smith said. “They help us out in the run. We all feed off of each other. The whole defensive line is like brothers.”

Jones finished with 52 tackles last season with five of those going for a loss. Thomas had 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

The Arkansas offense has seen just how good the defensive line really is.

“I think it (the defensive line) is one of the best if not the best (in the SEC) to be completely honest,” senior center Travis Swanson said. “The best thing about it is the entire offense gets to go against it every single day. The only thing that does is get you better.”

Senior fullback Kiero Small echoed Swanson’s sentiment.

“I think that (practicing against the defensive line) makes our offensive line better in turn,” Small said. “I think when you have a great defensive line it can help your team in so many ways because every day we have to practice against them.”

Even though the defensive line is experienced, they have learned from new line coach Charlie Partridge.

“Coach Partridge is just really good. He turned the whole defensive line in to film junkies,” Smith said.

The defensive line has one overarching goal this year.

“We are focused up front to stop the run and make teams one dimensional,” Smith said.

To meet that goal they have been working as a unit to improve to be the best in the SEC or even the nation.

“We go hard every day and we are trying to be the best,” Smith said. “I feel like if we play hard and do what we are supposed to do (then) we can be the best in the SEC, even the best in the nation.”

The Razorbacks open up at 3 p.m. on Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

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