Juco transfer ready to 'step up and play my role'

Published: Monday, August 31, 2009
Arkansas junior defensive back Rudell Crim moves through a drill during practice Aug. 7 at the UA practice field.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas junior defensive back Rudell Crim moves through a drill during practice Aug. 7 at the UA practice field.

— Secondary coaches primarily yearn for safeties who can cover like a corner and corners who tackle like safeties.

That's why junior college transfer Rudell Crim has practiced all over Arkansas' secondary since preseason practice began Aug. 6. And it's why the 6-0, 190-pounder from Tallahassee, Fla. is listed starting field cornerback when the Razorbacks open their season next Saturday against Missouri State in Little Rock.

Last week, Crim last week replaced Greg Gatson as the understudy for 2008 incumbent field cornerback Isaac Madison.

Madison was lost for the 2009 season, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a preseason scrimmage.

An offensive-dominated Aug. 22 scrimmage indicated to defensive coordinator/secondary coach Willy Robinson that better tackling is a must. It inspired several depth chart changes including the promotion of Crim, the former junior college honorable mention All-American at Butler County (Kan.) Community College.

"We moved Rudell Crim to field corner," Robinson said. "We're looking for guys who will be physical."

Crim knows what Robinson wants.

"He's all about tackling," Crim said. "If you can tackle, he wants you on the field. And he loves for guys to be able to cover, but also be able to come down and fit with the run and make the tackle."

Those are the qualities that juco All-Americans Crim and Anthony Leon - the reserve safety from College of Sequoias (Calif.) - wererecruited for, and they were projected to be starters right off the bat, Robinson said.

Except neither forged to first team right off the bat. Injuries and adjustments to the defensive scheme slowed both during the August preseason. So did adjusting to the pace of practice. Both Crim and Leon were elsewhere completing their academics for transfer while most of the team summered with "voluntary" conditioning workouts in Fayetteville.

"When camp started," Crim recalled of Aug. 6, "I was like, 'Oooh, baby!' I worked out in the summer, but it was a different workout compared to being with the team during the summer. But right now, I can honestly say I've got my body and my legs fully back up under me. I feel like I can do a lot more."

Though part of last year's struggling secondary, incumbents like free safety Matt Harris finally edged for a first unit spot last week. But returning veteran ex-cornerback Jerell Norton, and Madison weren't about just to hand over their starting spots to touted transfers.

Those burned last year came back competing. Even more impressively, they came back helping newcomers like Crim, Leon and flashy freshman cornerbacks Darius Winston of Helena-West Helena Central and David Gordon of Tulsa.

"The elders do a great job of helping us," Crim said. "Some schools, the veterans see newcomers coming in and don't help them. So we really do thank our guys for staying late with us and helping us to pick up the system as quickly as possible."

Apparently all the secondary elders have helped Crim since he's worked the corners, safety and nickel.

Now Crim thinks he can help the Hogs anywhere anyplace.

"I feel comfortable playing anywhere," Crim said. "Anywhere they put me, I can produce. I feel like I can cover very well, but I also feel like I can fill the run. Now that I'm at corner, I need to bring my safety skills when it comes to tackling. I'm ready to step up and play my role."

A role he knows must continue earning to keep given the defensive depth chart's preseason volatility.

"In the blink of an eye you can lose your job," Crim said. "So you have to be on your toes any given second."

Sports, Pages 8, 10 on 08/31/2009

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