Photographs by Ben Goff
Randy Ramsey, Arkansas linebacker, chases down Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State quarterback, in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE -- It is inevitable when a coaching staff turns over that some players who had previously been under the radar benefit from the change and shoot up the depth chart.
Or perhaps the new staff finds another position for a player that allows him to shine more than before.
The Arkansas Razorbacks, who are coming off the worst statistical defensive season in school history after allowing 438.3 yards and 36.2 points per game, are looking for players to fit those categories with coordinator John Chavis pushing the buttons for Coach Chad Morris.
A candidate for rising to the next level would be Randy Ramsey, who put up decent stats in 2016 and 2017 while bouncing from end to outside linebacker in the switch to a 3-4 defense.
Chavis has re-installed the 4-3, Ramsey is back at end, and the staff likes what they've seen from the senior, who has 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss among his 73 career tackles.
"I like what we're getting out of Ramsey at defensive end," Chavis said after Saturday's scrimmage. "He fits the position and the position fits him really well. I really like that."
Morris called Ramsey "a freaky athlete" on Saturday.
"I was amazed, because coach Chavis has coached some of the top elite guys at LSU and even Myles Garrett," Ramsey said. "For him to compare me to those type of guys, I was like 'Wow.' "
Ramsey, a 6-4, 227-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is in a group of players that includes McTelvin Agim, Gabe Richardson, Jamario Bell and Michael Taylor who have a chance to earn key pass-rushing jobs around which Chavis likes to build his attacking unit.
"He's a natural," Chavis said. "No question about it. I've been blessed to be around and coach some of the best defensive ends in the country in college football. And I made the statement I'd love to have him for two or three years.
"If we had him two or three years he might have an opportunity -- and he does have a chance to be special -- but he would have a resume put together because he does have elite talent at that position."
T.J. Smith, who weighed 253 pounds two seasons ago, has moved from a starting end in the 3-4 to an inside player to pair with Austin Capps, Jonathan Marshall, Briston Guidry and others. Smith liked the way the front graded out in Saturday's scrimmage.
"The defensive line did really well," Smith said. "Not too many mess-ups. Everybody was doing their job. Pretty good production. We had a good day."
Bell, a junior who worked at tight end, defensive end and linebacker under Bret Bielema, has his 6-5, 255-pound frame back at end where he notched three "sacks" Saturday working against backups.
"Coach Chavis and the rest of the defensive staff, they're getting us in the right position and just letting us play football," Bell said.
"The new scheme, I really love it. Coach Chavis, he's all about pressure. Like I said, he cuts it loose and lets us play."
Kamren Curl, a 6-2 sophomore, is now at safety after starting the final 11 games at cornerback as a true freshman last year.
"I think it fits him better," Chavis said. "He's a guy that plays aggressive and sometimes that can be good or bad at corner, but at the safety spot it really seems to fit him well."
Curl's 46 tackles ranked sixth on the team and fourth among SEC freshmen.
"I feel like I bring range and ball-hawking ability and that's what you need at safety," said Curl, who added that working alongside senior Santos Ramirez is a huge plus.
"It helps having Santos," he said. "I feel like Santos is one of the best safeties in the nation."
Chavis said the first third of spring drills has gone about according to plan.
"We're happy with what's going on, but if you ask me right now who our 11 starters are going to be, I don't have any idea," Chavis said.
The Razorbacks conducted spring practice No. 6 on Monday on the outdoor practice fields on a sunny, but cool and breezy late afternoon and it featured solid passing and a long run by tailback T.J. Hammonds.
"The quarterbacks were on fire," tight end Jeremy Patton said. "I think we really tore the defense up the first half of practice, so yeah, we're feeling good after."
Hammonds broke off an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of a team period at the halfway point of the workout.
"First play of the day, it was awesome," senior guard Hjalte Froholdt said. "It was a great touchdown. T.J. hit the hole right behind me. It was on a counter play and it was awesome, honestly. And we were off the field. Scored a touchdown on the first play of the day, it's a good feeling."
Morris livened things up with a "W" drill right after flex. The live-tackling drill features one offensive lineman blocking a defensive lineman, a tight end squaring off against a linebacker a few yards beyond and a receiver blocking a defensive back at the end, with a running back taking a handoff and weaving his way through the blocks.
"I've done that in high school, so it was kind of fun to do,"said redshirt freshman tailback Maleek Williams, who has dropped 15 pounds to reach 215 this spring.
Williams rushed unofficially for 72 yards and a touchdown on eight carries in Saturday's scrimmage.
"It was new because I've never run this type of offense," Williams said. "It was really fun though. I enjoyed it."
In roster news, sophomore Briston Guidry upgraded to a full-contact red jersey from his no-practice yellow jersey of the first five workouts. Offensive lineman Dalton Wagner, who has missed time with an undisclosed injury was back at practice in a yellow uniform, as was running back Maleek Barkley.
Cornerback Nate Dalton, who got up slowly after a collision Saturday, returned to practice. Tight end Will Gragg was slowed by what appeared to be a leg injury and came out of drills after an early live-tackling period.
Sports on 03/13/2018
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