State of the Hogs: Fitting the pieces into the right spots

By: Clay Henry
Published: Monday, March 12, 2018
Randy Ramsey (10), Arkansas linebacker, congratulates defensive lineman McTelvin Agim (3) after a stop in the second quarter against Florida A&M Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, during the game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Photo by Ben Goff
Randy Ramsey (10), Arkansas linebacker, congratulates defensive lineman McTelvin Agim (3) after a stop in the second quarter against Florida A&M Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, during the game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

— First it was Chad Morris, then John Chavis that provided the skinny on the move of Randy Ramsey to down lineman in the 4-3 as a pass rush specialist.

Morris, the new Arkansas head coach, just said simply, “Randy Ramsey has found a home.”

Then, there was Chavis, the new defensive coordinator, gushing about Ramsey, the fifth-year senior from south Florida. Chavis openly wished for “two or three years” with Ramsey so there could be a resume worthy of a first-round draft pick, like some of the other Chavis ends.

So it was no surprise that Ramsey was beaming from ear to ear when he was first in the media room Monday night. Ramsey had read all the nice comments from his coaches.

“It's been great,” Ramsey said. “The coaches are doing a great job of putting players at the right positions.”

Well, how could he say anything else? It's plain as day that Ramsey -- and others like offensive tackle Brian Wallace -- could finally be ready to realize their vast potential.

Ramsey, an athletic 6-4 with the reach of an NBA forward, has played as a rush end before in his first four years at Arkansas. He's also been an outside linebacker with responsibility in the flats.

It's clear what's coming under Chavis, a zone blitz specialist. All of Ramsey's versatility will come in handy in the new scheme. But for now, Ramsey is in a three-point stance.

“I've got my hand in the dirt,” Ramsey said. “There are a few third down plays I might be up, but only a few snaps.”

Ramsey loved what he heard from Chavis after Saturday's practice.

“I was amazed,” he said. “Coach Chavis has had some great players at LSU and he had (the No. 1 overall pick) in Myles Garrett at Texas A&M.”

As for the comments about wishing there would be more time to build Ramsey's resume, the player wished for it, too.

“It seems like I've been on the hill for just a minute,” he said. “I do wish I could be with him two or three more years. I agree with him.”

There is a simple reason.

“The pressures,” Ramsey said. “We have been sending pressures from the first day of practice. This defense excites all of us.”

The light has come on for some of the defenders, especially the defensive ends. The likes of McTelvin “Sosa” Agim, Michael Taylor, Gabe Richardson and Jamario Bell love what they are learning each and every day.

“A lot of guys told me coach (Steve Caldwell) has coached some great players, elite players,” Ramsey said. “Sosa? Oh my god, he just keeps getting better. I think the ends are excited, but it's the same for everyone. Corners and safeties know they are getting some blitzes, too.”

That doesn't mean the Hogs are there yet, or are close to being what Chavis wants.

“We have a lot to prove,” Ramsey said. “We are hungry, but we are having fun. They call him The Chief, and he fits it. He's a character and everything we see tells us he's The Chief.”

There's improvement in lots of areas, but conditioning has been the real asset for the start of spring practice.

“I'm in better condition and although I'm just 225, it's better weight,” Ramsey said. “We see it in our offensive tackles, too. Guys like Brian Wallace and Colton Jackson are different players.”

To be honest, Wallace agreed when he followed Ramsey to the media interviews. He started last season at 340 and is at 315 now.

“I actually got below 315 toward the end of our winter program, but it was because I got food poisoning,” he said. “I lost a lot of fluids, but I got that back.”

Wallace said he's never run so much.

“The conditioning was tough,” he said. “I'm not going to say I handled it at the start. It didn't happen all at once. Week by week I got a little better. That was something I really needed.

“So when we practiced today, there were periods that I was exhausted when I went to the sideline. But I could get a cup of water and I was ready again for the next series.

“It's real fast paced compared to last season.”

The running led to part of the improvement for Wallace, but he said it wasn't just workouts.

“I changed nutrition,” he said. “I cut out fast foods. That is a big component to what is going on with me.”

So it's more than getting the players in the right positions. Wallace has played mostly right tackle, his spot now for offensive line coach Dustin Fry.

“It's about being in shape, but it's also about learning technique and what to do,” he said. “Coach Fry has taught me what's important.”

But don't minimize the jump Wallace has made in conditioning. In clear, concise terms Wallace said, “I know now how to play when I get tired.”

Wallace is a fifth-year senior. He might wish for two or three more years with the Morris staff.


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