‘Edge’ key for OLBs in scheme
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks’ switch to a 3-4 defense will affect one position probably more than any other: outside linebacker.
The spotlight will be on players such as Randy Ramsey, Karl Roesler and Dwayne Eugene who are the top veterans at the outside spots, labeled the “Hog” and the “Razor” by Coach Bret Bielema and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads.
While the “Hog” is considered more of the run-stopping position and will play more frequently toward the shorter side of the field, the positions essentially are interchangeable, said position coach Chad Walker.
“It’s very similar positions, so guys can just fill in,” Walker said.
“Just at the Hog you rush more and at Razor you’re more in the field playing in space more,” Ramsey said. “That’s the only difference.”
Walker said the key assignment for both outside linebackers is “setting an edge” in the run game.
“We’ve got to be stout on the outside, play with great leverage and be able to turn the ball back inside,” Walker said. “The next thing we’ve got to be able to do is affect the quarterback. Whether that’s getting the quarterback off the spot, getting
batted balls, that type of stuff. When our number’s called in the pass game, we’ve got to go after it, we’ve got to get him off the spot.”
Ramsey, a 6-4, 228-pound junior, seems like the prototype body for the position, a long-limbed athlete who can run with tight ends or running backs in pass coverage, take on edge blockers and display pass-rushing skills on blitz calls.
“He wants to be great,” said Walker, who touted Ramsey’s ability to play both the Razor and the Hog. “Randy has a unique skill set where he has the ability to do that. You look for flexible players, that way you can do more. It has been cool watching Randy and his approach. His mental approach, how he takes it so serious.
“Hey, he knows what he has to get better at. I really like how he’s come out with the intent to make calls come to life. He has done that and now he has to prove he can do it on a consistent basis.”
Roesler, a senior who has spent time as a defensive end and outside linebacker, is the projected starter at the Hog position, but a tweaked hamstring has limited his work in team drills during the first week of camp.
Roesler’s injury and the foot surgery required for redshirt sophomore Jamario Bell earlier this week have led to some juggling on the depth chart. Eugene, who made six starts last season at weak-side linebacker after Dre Greenlaw was injured, has worked first-team reps at Razor with Ramsey taking on Hog calls. Eugene has shown an ability to dislodge balls from runners.
“Eugene just really stands out in that category, just hunting for that ball consistently every single day,” Walker said.
“One of coach Walker’s big emphasis is ‘hunt that ball,’ ” Eugene said. “In our group as outside linebackers, we’ve got a big ball that says ‘Let’s hunt.’ … We hit it constantly. We punch it. We rip it.”
The top backups the past couple of days have been newcomers: sophomore junior college transfer Gabe Richardson (6-2, 239) at the Hog, and freshman Hayden Henry (6-1, 209) from Little Rock’s Pulaski Academy at Razor.
“[Richardson] came in with the right attitude,” Walker said. “He’s really taken it on. He’s learned the scheme. He’s learned to play with the specific fundamentals we want. He’s got the right effort and the right toughness.”
Henry, the brother of former Arkansas All-American tight end Hunter Henry, also has impressed.
“He hasn’t said much and is a quiet guy,” Walker said. “He’s intense. When he gets his opp[ortunity] he takes it. He goes full speed. He goes 100 miles an hour, and you can tell he’s really serious about his craft and his intent to get better.”
Freshman Derrick Munson, walk-on sophomore Tyler Phillips of North Little Rock and walk-on freshman Brandon DePrato are also taking reps outside. Redshirt freshman Alexy Jean-Baptiste is recovering from foot surgery and is expected back soon.
Freshman Josh Paul is not on the 105-man roster as he focuses on his academics, but he is expected to join the squad at the start of the fall semester Aug. 21.
Ramsey HAMMONDS sidelined by knee injury. Page 6C.
Senior Karl Roesler, a projected starter at one outside linebacker spot, has been limited in practice by a tweaked hamstring.