‘Edge’ key for OLBs in scheme

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TOM MUR­PHY

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.



Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Se­nior Karl Roesler, a pro­jected starter at one out­side line­backer spot, has been lim­ited in prac­tice by a tweaked ham­string.

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