Arkansas’ Dwayne Eugene knows this is his last, best chance at linebacker
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Dwayne Eugene is getting old. Not Kody Walker old. But Eugene is the one of the elder statesmen among an Arkansas linebacking corps lacking advanced age.
Technically, Karl Roesler is older. Roesler also has spent most of his career at Arkansas as a defensive end. Eugene has been a linebacker since his arrival in 2014. And he’s the only one on the roster who has played at every spot in the unit. Eugene can play both inside spots and has worked at both outside spots in Arkansas’ 3-4 scheme so far this fall camp.
Maturity, experience and an ability to cycle through four spots make Eugene’s time for significant snaps now.
Right now, Eugene is getting first-team reps on the outside. Which side he plays is to be determined, but more than likely, the man opposite him — junior Randy Ramsey — will be the pass-rush specialist. No big deal to Eugene. At this point of his career, it’s all about wherever he can help.
“This is my last year, my last ride, man,” Eugene said. “I want it to be great. That urgency, I feel that each and every day.”
Ramsey’s job is on lock. Barring injury or some off-the-field incident, he will start. Eugene’s place is a bit more tenuous. Roesler is hurt (hamstring), as is inside linebacker Dre Greenlaw (right foot). While Eugene could hold off Roesler on the outside, he wouldn’t overtake a healthy Greenlaw inside. Either way, though, Eugene could be the top backup at both spots, if he doesn’t win the job on the exterior outright.
Eugene worked his way up from something of a disappointing start to his career to get here, too. A 3-star recruit in high school, he and Khalia Hackett were supposed to be the guys to start on Brooks Ellis’ outside in 2016. At least, that was the idea when they were recruited. Hackett never made it work and he left the team. Eugene stuck it out and did get a regular gig starting next to Ellis last year, even if it was after Greenlaw was lost for the second half of the season with his broken foot.
Experience is experience, Eugene figures. He’s trimmed up, allowing him to be a bit faster on the outside. He’s ready to get the job from the word “go” now, in this, his last, best chance.
“[I feel] that burning desire to want to be great,” Eugene said. “Lead those young guys as well, because we have a lot of young guys that can play. On this journey we’re going to need everybody to play. That urgency is there.”