Hogs looking for consistency at linebacker

A crossroads type of season awaits the Arkansas’ defense, and in a lot of ways, it has that now or never feel to it.

The Hogs open spring practice Tuesday afternoon, the third spring under Bobby Petrino, and the only thing keeping the Hogs from being an SEC championship-caliber team is an SEC-caliber defense.

Petrino is confident the Hogs will be better on defense in 2010. The question is: How much better?

Some new faces are going to have to emerge, and some older faces are going to have to come through like never before.

Finding a middle linebacker and building depth at linebacker across the board remains one of the Hogs’ most pressing priorities this spring.

Senior Jermaine Love will get the first crack, and Petrino has made it clear that he expects Love to be a leader.

After playing in only three games last season, the 5-11, 230-pound Love is one of the best all-around athletes on the team. He has excellent speed and was the only non-lineman on the team to bench press more than 400 pounds this offseason.

Now he’s got to show that he can get it done on the field.

Sophomores Austin Moss and Terrell Williams will be pushing Love at middle linebacker, and junior Brett Harris is one of those hybrid guys at outside linebacker that could also push for a starting spot this spring. Harris, a former safety, is a candidate for most improved honors after coming off a very productive offseason.

Junior Jerry Franklin returns at weak side linebacker and has started since he was a freshman. Senior Freddy Burton and junior Jerico Nelson both have starting experience. Burton played on the strong side last season, but can also play on the weak side. He’s listed No. 2 on the weak side behind Franklin entering the spring.