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Smart money is on Nico Davillier as Arkansas’ breakout defender in 2024

Nico Davillier saw his fair share of snaps for the Arkansas defense last year, playing in 12 games and logging 3 1/2 tackles for-loss as a reserve.

That was just the beginning.

Davillier, a Maumelle native whose 6-foot-4, 271-pound frame provides plenty of intimidation, has been Arkansas first-team left defensive end all spring. And when the Hogs shift out of their usual 4-2-5 defense and into a new Mint package – that’s what coach Sam Pittman is calling it – he moves to a stand-up linebacker/defensive end hybrid.

“I like it because I get to be more versatile. I just get to help my team out a lot more than I would be probably in the 4i,” Davillier said. “It’s just a Buck. It’s basically like a little outside linebacker but a defensive lineman. We drop in coverage, we play the run, pass rush. It’s just a stand-up end basically.”

Davillier has impressed the coaches to the point that he’s beating out senior transfer Anton Juncaj for the starting job. Juncaj was an FCS All-American last year, leading the subdivision with 15 sacks while registering 21 1/2 for-loss with 12 hurries and five forced fumbles.

In other words, Davillier is doing something awfully well to hold him off, though, in fairness to Juncaj, the Albany transfer is a more traditional defensive end. When the Razorbacks switch to the Mint and Davillier isn’t in the game, the spot will likely be manned by linebacker Josh Spence or redshirt freshman defensive end Quincy Rhodes.

Regardless, with Davillier’s development, one of the strongest positional units on the Arkansas roster, the defensive line, looks to be even stronger than anticipated.

Story originally appeared on Razorbacks Wire