FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas Razorbacks defense has two linebackers coaches — one inside and one outside. Head coach Bret Bielema brought in Chad Walker to coach the outside group and after a few months with his new guys, he likes what he has to work with.
The junior has been “a voice in our outside linebackers room; guys look up to him,” Walker said in a recent interview with SEC Country.
That is a significant change from two years ago when Bielema kicked Ramsey off the team because he couldn’t get his academics in order. He spent the 2015 season in exile, getting his grades up, and asked Bielema if he could come back as a walk-on the following spring. Ramsey was so impressive he earned his scholarship back before the 2016 season opener.
As Arkansas tries to fix a defense that was historically bad in 2016, Ramsey will be a key piece of the puzzle. He was seemingly born to play in a 3-4 system like the Hogs are installing.
Ramsey is slated to start at the Razor outside linebacker position, meaning he will line up on the field side. The corresponding Hog position will line up to the boundary.
“Ideally, they kinda do the same things,” Walker said of the two positions. “In the run game, they set the edges, turn the ball back. They have the ability to rush the passer and they have an ability to drop in coverage. Really the difference between the guys is the initial alignment.”
Today, we continue SEC Country’s look at every position — and every player — on the 2017 Arkansas football roster. We will examine a different position group each day until the start of fall camp.
Here is our look at Arkansas’ outside linebackers:
1. Randy Ramsey, junior
Glance: Ramsey has the potential to be an elite pass rusher in this new system. He started three games last season and enters 2017 as one of the most important players on defense.
What outside linebackers coach Chad Walker says: “Randy is a crossover guy. He starts at Razor, but if we get into some different packages or things, he can go to Hog. He has the ability to do both.
“He’s got really good length. He’s got a great attitude to where he really goes for it every day. He challenges himself. There are things that come easy for him. He knows what he has to work on. I love the way he approaches each day.”
2. Dwayne Eugene, senior
Glance: Eugene has struggled to remain a consistent presence in the Arkansas defense during his time with the team, but did start the final six regular-season games of last season after Dre Greenlaw’s injury. He played well at times. During spring practices, he moved from inside to outside linebacker and ended up behind Ramsey in the Razor spot.
What Walker says: “Dwayne came over about midway through, and what an addition he’s been to our room. He brings toughness to that room. That’s one of his biggest attributes. He’s a real competitor. He can play with his hands. He does a nice job. The guys love him. He’s a Razor, but he’s another guy who is getting cross-trained as a Hog, too.”
3. Ben Brasuell, redshirt freshman
Glance: A walk-on from Benton, Ark., Brasuell ended the spring as the No. 3 Razor but will probably have to fight off one or two of the incoming scholarship freshmen to stay in that spot. But considering Arkansas’ struggles the last few years in maintaining quality linebacker depth, don’t be surprised if Brasuell ends up playing some.
4. Derrick Munson, freshman
Glance: The latest Razorbacks player from the Archbishop Rummel (Metairie, La.) pipeline, Munson was the first player to commit to the Hogs for 2017 and stayed firmly committed. He was a great high school player and is very mature for his age — as evidenced by the way he has cared for his mother — but will he see the field as a true freshman? That probably depends on his summer and fall camp. It should also be noted that like Josh Paul below, Munson is slotted here as a Razor for now, but could easily be moved to Hog once practices start.
5. Josh Paul, freshman
Glance: Like Munson, Paul committed to the Hogs early and stayed firmly pledged through signing day. He was never one of Arkansas’ more well-known 2017 recruits but his performances — and a weight-room attitude adjustment — in high school helped build up the De La Salle (New Orleans) football program. He is likely to redshirt as a true freshman, but keep an eye on him in the future.
1. Karl Roesler, senior
Glance: A former walk-on from Louisville, Ky., Bielema awarded Roesler a scholarship in December 2015. He has appeared in 38 games with one start. He was a defensive end last season and moved to outside linebacker during the spring. By the spring game, he had reached the top of the depth chart at the Hog position.
What Walker says: “Karl has experience. He has really good football instincts. He understands where to fit in the run game. He understands how to rush the passer.”
2. Jamario Bell, sophomore
Glance: Bell arrived on campus as a 4-star defensive end prospect and redshirted during his freshman season in 2015. Then the following spring, he changed positions to tight end but never saw game action in 2016. After another spring position change, Bell is an outside linebacker. In the spring game, Bell worked as the second-team Hog behind Roesler, so maybe the talented native Arkansan has finally found a positional home.
What Walker says: “Mario Bell was a new addition to the room toward the very end of the spring. He’s been great. He’s a lot of fun to be around, brings a great smile every day and works hard. He’s got really good length. He puts in great effort every day.”
3. Tyler Phillips, sophomore
Glance: A walk-on from North Little Rock, Phillips appeared in seven games last season on special teams. Walker praised Phillips’ work ethic and said he is capable of playing both outside linebacker positions.
4. Brandon DePrato, redshirt freshman
Glance: DePrato — a walk-on from Cypress, Texas — was getting work at the Hog position during the spring game. Like the other walk-on linebackers, DePrato could work his way into playing time considering how much the Razorbacks have struggled to build depth at those positions the last few years.
5. Gabe Richardson, sophomore
Glance: Richardson — a transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College — was originally expected to blueshirt, meaning he would be part of the team this fall but wouldn’t receive a scholarship until next spring. That changed, though, before he got to campus and he began his Arkansas career on scholarship. Walker’s initial projection is for Richardson to be a Hog, but said that could change. Last season at Hutchinson, Richardson recorded 60 tackles — 18.5 for loss — and 6 sacks.
6.Elias Hale, redshirt freshman
Glance: A Fayetteville High School product, Hale walked on and redshirted last season as a true freshman.
7. Alexy Jean-Baptiste, redshirt freshman
Glance: Jean-Baptiste broke his foot, requiring surgery, during spring practices and its unlikely he’ll be competing for much playing time during fall camp while recovering. Missing those valuable spring practices and summer workouts could mean he goes another year without playing much. It’s unfortunate for the Razorbacks considering how desperately they need linebackers.