FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Chad Morris is a week into his first spring practice as Arkansas’ coach, and presumably he has seen some of the problems with the roster he inherited. But he also presumably has seen players on both sides of the ball who fit nicely into the Hogs’ new offensive and defensive schemes.
The defense is moving back to a 4-3 set under coordinator John Chavis, and there have been (and likely will be more) position changes that sometimes can make or break a defense. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential breakout candidates for the Razorbacks’ defense this fall.
5. S Kamren Curl (sophomore)
As a true freshman last season, Curl was thrown into the fire at cornerback when starter Ryan Pulley was lost for the season in the opener. Curl, a three-star recruit, performed admirably – and even impressively at times. Now, Curl is back at his more natural safety spot. He has great instincts and isn’t afraid to get physical. He’s lucky in that he’ll be paired with veteran safety Santos Ramirez, which should make things a bit easier.
4. CB Chevin Calloway (sophomore)
The highest-ranked prospect in Arkansas’ 2017 recruiting class, Calloway saw limited action because of Curl’s emergence. But with Curl now at safety, there is ample opportunity at cornerback, and Calloway is expected to take advantage. He has quick quickness and is expected to be a playmaker. He was a national top-150 prospect overall, and he should begin living up to that hype this fall.
3. OLB/DE Randy Ramsey (senior)
He appears due for an impactful final season as a Razorback. Although he’s had his ups and downs on and off the field, Chavis should be able to make good use of him. Ramsey has speed off the edge, and in a scheme that thrives on pressuring the quarterback, he should be able to be a playmaker.
2. LB Grant Morgan (sophomore)
While Morgan (5 feet 11, 230 pounds) is listed as a linebacker, he could be useful in a variety of defensive roles. His measurables and speed make him more of a hybrid linebacker/safety than strictly a linebacker. The potential is there. In limited action last season, he showed a nose for the football and a knack for making plays.
1. DE Dorian Gerald (junior)
Gerald, a junior college transfer, isn’t even on campus yet, but there’s a reason landing him after National Signing Day was a big deal. Gerald had 22 sacks in two years of junior college, and no matter where he was on the field, he just always seemed to find the quarterback. Chavis’ scheme makes good use of aggressive defensive ends, and Gerald should be expected to make an immediate impact. Arkansas has had problems applying consistent pressure of late – 64 combined sacks in the past three seasons; under Chavis, Texas A&M had 116 in the same span – but McTelvin Agim and Gerald coming off the edge provides hope, does it not?
(You can follow Jacob Parker on Twitter @jaccubparker)
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