FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and his staff finally pulled the trigger on some defensive personnel changes that made a huge difference in the Razorbacks’ Saturday victory over Florida.
Bielema moved senior Jeremiah Ledbetter from defensive tackle to end, inserted sophomore Randy Ramsey into the lineup at the Sam linebacker spot and started true freshman and former five-star prospect McTelvin “Sosa” Agim at defensive tackle.
The moves also included taking senior Deatrich Wise Jr. out of the starting lineup and using him more as a third-down, pass rushing specialist. Wise is nursing some injuries.
Ledbetter played defensive end last year but had played inside through the Hogs’ first eight games of 2016. He was moved back to the outside after the Hogs had trouble “setting an edge” in run defense, and Ledbetter clearly made a difference against the Gators.
Ramsey moved from linebacker to defensive end during the summer, but Bielema moved him back into a linebacker role during the Razorbacks’ bye week.
Agim was the Hogs’ most high-profile 2016 signee. He was the 18th-best overall recruit in the country according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings.
“One of the things I really pride myself on as a head coach is, I never want to put a player in a position to fail,” Bielema said. “Sometimes that’s not on the timetable that fans want or some of you in this room may want, or the outside world, but if you put a player in a position on the field that he’s not ready to succeed, you can literally set him back months if not a year in his development.”
Speaking of Agim, Bielema said, “He really has a chance to be a very, very special player. Has a lot of the same tools and characteristics as Darius Philon had. Very powerful, lower body strength, very aggressive, very intelligent, big heart, huge motor.
“But because he was highly recruited, guys love to pick on him. He’s had to battle through some initiation, I think. I mean, we don’t do anything crazy, but guys definitely had some fun with him.”