FAYETTEVILLE – The Razorbacks had All-SEC linebacker Scoota Harris starring the last two years and still went 2-10, 2-10 with consecutive SEC 0-8s.
So how can they lift from the defensive doldrums without him?
That’s for new Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman and his new defensive coordinator, Barry Odom, and new linebacker coach, Rion Rhoades, to achieve.
Rhoades starts with those linebackers who have played while Harris played.
“I’ve watched some of the guys that have played in the past,” Rhoades said. “Hayden Henry, Bumper Pool, Grant Morgan, Andrew Parker a little bit, Zach Zimos a little bit. Deon Edwards a little bit.”
He professes to like what he’s seen.
“I love my room,” Rhoades said. “I think they are a bunch of good guys. I think we’ve got a long way to go to be as good as we need to be playing the position, but I think the potential is there.”
Junior Pool started every game at weakside Will linebacker in 2019 after lettering as 2018 true freshman originally recruited by former Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and signed by former Arkansas Coach Chad Morris. Last season Pool’s 94 tackles were second on the team only to Harris’ 101.
Seniors Morgan of Greenwood and Henry of Little Rock and Pulaski Academy are 3-year lettermen who have played all three linebacker positions. Especially Mike middle linebacker and Will weakside the linebacker, the position constants the last couple of seasons with an extra defensive back employed at nickel usually supplanting the strongside linebacker against Spread offenses.
“We’re not starting from scratch,” Rhoades said. “Bumper has played a lot of football here. Grant has played a lot of football, probably more on special teams than on defense. Hayden same way. I do feel like we’ve got a little veteran element in that room. I’m excited to see how hard they work and how excited they are to do things take care of business.”
Parker lettered playing seven games in 2019 as a freshman redshirt.
Edwards, a fifth-year senior, has lettered the last three years on special teams.
As a 2019 true freshman, Zimos played the maximum four games, all on special teams, allowed to keep his 2019 freshman status in 2020.
Already graduated from the University of Oklahoma though with two football seasons eligibility remaining, Levi Draper arrives in Arkansas as a graduate transfer with 14 games experience last year on Sooners special teams.