FAYETTEVILLE - Regardless how much time Kevin Richardson spends on the corner, he’ll get his nickel’s worth.
After the Razorbacks’ first practice in pads last Saturday marking their third spring football practice, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was asked about his most versatile defensive back.
Whether safety, corner or nickel which the Razorbacks use employing an extra defensive back against Spread offenses, Richardson can play them all.
For now the 6-0, 178 senior from Jacksonville, cleared full go for spring drills after missing the final 12 games for last season’s 7-6 Razorbacks upon tearing pectoral muscles during the season-opening victory over Louisiana Tech after making seven tackles, is at cornerback rotating behind and with first-teamers Ryan Pulley and Henre Toliver.
“What I want to do is give him a chance to be a starter.” Bielema said after Saturday’s session. “I think physically he’s probably built more to the corner. He can play safety just because he’s very intelligent, understands leverage and understands where he’s supposed to be, but physically, I think as a corner, and then when we get into our sub packages obviously an idea nickel back.”
Switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 as the base defense which the Hogs have played exclusively during their first two mandated workouts in just helmets and shorts and Saturday’s full pads going into their next practice Tuesday, junior Randy Ramsey and Michael Taylor, the junior college transfer redshirted last season, have been the outside linebackers while inside senior Dwayne Eugene has worked as the weakside Will linebacker and sophomore D’Jon “Scoota” Harris has worked the Mike middle.
Junior Dre Greenlaw of Fayetteville, a first-teamer whether at Mike or Will, participates more like an assistant coach as he mends a broken foot he plans to be full speed healed come August.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned foursome held the fort Saturday.
“I thought Randy today really came alive,” Bielema said Saturday. “He tends to do that with pads on. He’s a kid that likes contact and thrives off it. He got his hands on an outside ball there that was a pretty impressive break.”
What about Taylor?
“Mike Taylor is a very gifted athlete,” Bielema said. “I think the offensive linemen would tell you he probably has one of the more just natural pass rush techniques of our entire group.
It’s fun to see those guys on the field. Then, of course, when we get into sub-packages you may see those guys play a little bit different positions to maximize their pass rush.”
Inside Bielema sees ups and downs in Eugene and Harris and gives thumbs up on both.
“Two guys that have changed a little bit. Dwayne Eugene was over 240 pounds the other day and Scoota dropped down below 240,” Bielema said. “So I like the physical changes they made. Also, Giovanni LaFrance (the redshirt freshman from New Orleans) did a nice job in the out of season. I’m excited to watch that film.”
Off their past achievements and experience, seniors Josh Liddell of Pine Bluff Dollarway and De’Andre Coley reign as Arkansas’ free and strong safeties.
But if starting was based strictly by appearance, it seems redshirted freshman safety Deon Edwards of Clermont, Fla. would rate ahead of them.
“Coley is 210 and Liddell is 210 but Edwards looks it,” defensive coordinator/secondary coach Paul Rhoads said. “He looks like a SEC safety when it comes to his stature and that excites the heck out of me. He brings physical presence.”
While it seems no football player can be too physical, one can be too big.
Unless he plans to be a fullback instead of a running back, January enrolled, 6-0 freshman Maleek Williams was fitting the too big description reporting weighing over 230 pounds. Apparently Williams now does more with less.
“ Maleek Williams is very impressive through three practices,” Bielema said Saturday. “There were a couple times today with our tempo plays that he just kind of put his foot in the ground and burst up the field. He’s got good size. He’s down to 219. He came in at, I believe 236 or somewhere around there. So he’s dropped 17 pounds and looks really, really good. I like the demeanor.”