It’s not hard to predict what will happen when solid play by Arkansas’ sophomore defensive end Trey Flowers mixes with the mind of a sports copy editor.
Headlines of a certain variety start popping up: “Flowers Expects to Blossom,” “Hogs DE Flowers Blooms in the Second Half at Oxford,” “Flowers blossoming on defense” and “Flowers a Budding Force on Defense” have all appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or Arkansas Sports 360 in the last 13 months.
We get it. As a freshman last year, the 6-4, 240-pound Flowers was thrown into the potting soil early on. He got valuable minutes, racking up 28 tackles (5.5 for loss) as a starter while injuries sidelined veterans Jake Bequette and Tenarious Wright. Dude has shown enough improvement this off-season that if he was allowed to make money off his own name, the marketing departments of the biggest northwest Arkansas florists would be blowing up his phone.
What’s harder to figure out, and so tantalizing to forecast, is what a truly bloomed Flowers could actually do.
To knock off the likes of Alabama and LSU and secure an SEC championship, the Razorbacks need a superstar defensive lineman. Record-setting quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers come and go in Fayetteville, but the Razorbacks have yet to latch onto a defensive end of the same caliber as LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Indeed, the UA’s inability to find a defensive destroyer in the trenches has been one of its most important shortcomings in its 20-year SEC tenure.
Don’t get me wrong: the Hogs have had excellent, All-SEC caliber down linemen (the top four were Jamaal Anderson, Henry Ford, Melvin Bradley and Malcolm Sheppard, as I opine in an upcoming AS360 piece). But as an SEC member Arkansas hasn’t had a D-lineman performing at an All-American level for an entire season.
Many insiders believe Flowers could be the first.
“He looks great,” says former Hog DE Bruce James, a 1970 All-American. “I see his instincts. You can lift weights, you can be fast, but can you play football? This guy has football sense.”
James added: “He has the agility. He can think on the run, the way he he drops his steps, crosses his feet. He’s got the sixth sense.”
Last November, Jake Bequette echoed these sentiments, noting how Flowers’ seven-feet reach gives him a unique advantage: “He’s got this great long arm move that really keeps the offensive tackles away from his body. That’s something you don’t see a lot from young defensive linemen, the ability to use your hands and use your leverage. He really understands that,” Bequette told the Democrat-Gazette.
“Once he figures out the speed of the game a little bit more, he can really take over.”
If Flowers ends up meeting his vast potential, this 20-year-old will defy plenty expectations. The other SEC coaches who visited his Huntsville, Ala. high school apparently didn’t think highly enough of him to offer him a scholarship. Instead, he turned down offers from Georgia Tech, Air Force, Arkansas State, South Alabama and Alabama-Birmingham.
Morever, it seems every few years Arkansas appears ready to unleash a devastating defensive line that invariably fails to live up to expectations. Similar expectations are bubbling to the fore again this year, with other quality players like Chris Smith an Austin Flynn ready to make their own marks. Still, Flowers had the advantage coming into last season with little expectations and being a pleasant surprise. Recent UA history, however, suggests he’ll have trouble meeting this year’s far higher hopes.
Fall’s money games are still weeks and weeks away. For now, we’re left with mere talk – the guesswork and conjecture that grows in the minds of even the most serious, stats-obsessed college football fans.
That is, we’re left with a little late summer fun.
All-American Defenders at Arkansas in the Last 20 Years
1) 1999 3rd team Kenoy Kennedy (Associated Press)
2) 2001 1st team Jermaine Petty (All-American FB Foundation and American FB Coaches)
2) 2002 1st team Ken Hamlin (CollegeFootballNews.com)