"It's a great feeling because sometimes when you don't get that (freedom) you feel like, Aw man, this defensive line must not be good enough," Davis told reporters. "They (the coaches) don't trust us enough. But finally they go, 'Hey, we're going to put it in you guys' hands. Go make plays.' It's a great feeling as a defensive lineman."
Arkansas dialed up the pressure on Auburn's Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley to the tune of eight quarterback sacks. The game plan will be the same for Kentucky true freshman Jalen Whitlow who is more athletic than Frazier or Moseley.
"He's very agile," sophomore defensive end Trey Flowers noted. "He can run the ball, he can drop back and pass. You've got to stay in your good rushing lanes so you can contain him."
Whitlow will offer a better picture of just how much Arkansas' young defense grew up against the Tigers. Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers and Texas A&M each used mobile quarterbacks to baffle a Hog defense peppered rookies trying to learn on the run.
Nine true freshman have seen the playing field for the Hogs this season largely because of injuries to veteran starters. Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said the situation has forced those players to grow up quickly.
"Being a young guy and being a new guy is no excuse anymore," Haynes said following Wednesday's practice. "Those guys have played enough football for us so we just expect those guys to go in and produce."
One of the "young guys" needed no excuses against Auburn. True freshman cornerback Will Hines picked off a pass, broke up another pass and recovered a fumble while handing out several hard licks in the game. Redshirt freshman Davyon McKinney registered a huge kickoff return hit knocking Auburn's Onterio McCalebb out of bounds at the Tiger's eight yard line while having a solid afternoon at the other cornerback spot.
The return of sophomore Tevin Mitchell, who hasn't played since the Louisiana-Monroe game, will give Haynes the luxury of rotating four players at cornerback against Kentucky. "Tevin will play for us," Haynes affirmed. "Tevin will play a lot for us. We haven't decided as far as who is starting out there but you'll see all those guys, Hines, McKinney, Tevin and Darius (Winston)."
Haynes also announced that senior linebacker Terrell Williams will move to inside linebacker after stepping up big following Alonzo Highsmith's season-ending broken ankle against Auburn. Williams recorded a quarterback sack, broke up a pass and dropped McCalebb for a five yard loss on a quick pitch sweep. He also provided solid leadership for true freshmen A.J. Turner and Otha Peters who also played well against the Tigers.
"A big part (of what Williams did) was helping the young guys," sophomore defensive end Trey Flowers observed. "He made plays. Made sure the young guys were able to step in with the injuries we had there."
"There was no let up," Davis said of Williams stepping in to replace Highsmith. "You lose your starter you're worried about there being a drop off at that position. But he came in, he held his own. He's talking more. He's communicating and he's playing a great role right now on the defense."
Mindful of the fact that Arkansas still ranks at the bottom of the SEC in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense Haynes wants his players to build on their performance against Auburn but not dwell on in. "We've got to have momentum from that but we can't continue to focus on that," Haynes emphasized. "We've got to continue to play better because there were some plays in that game last week that if they are completed it's a different ball game."
Still it was hard for Davis to contain the enthusiasm he has returning to play three straight games at home after finally dishing out some hurt instead of being on the receiving end of it.
"The win at Auburn was great," Davis gushed, "but it was on the road. We had some fans there and that was good, mostly family. But to be back at home and to get to play those games at home in your own backyard it's going to be a great feeling and I hope our fans are very excited about it."