FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Two years ago tomorrow, April 20, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema suspended Randy Ramsey from the Razorbacks football team. Now Ramsey is a starting linebacker, perhaps the most influential player on the defense.
Bielema said in July 2015 when asked about Ramsey’s status: “I don’t think he’ll be with us.” For most of the next several months no one thought about Ramsey. He was just another former Razorbacks football player who didn’t make it.
In late December 2015, Bielema casually dropped his name in a news conference. Ramsey could return, as a walk-on, after clearing up his academics.
Lo and behold, Ramsey was a regular on the Arkansas defense in the 2016 season. He was something of a specialist, and his 23 tackles were good for 16th on the team. But he was fourth on the team in sacks and his 5.5 tackles-for-loss were third best on the roster.
Most of that came as a defensive lineman in the 4-3. When linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves privately said over the summer of 2016 that Ramsey would be making the shift to the line, few observers could believe it.
“No way. He’s too small.”
“He’s going to stay a linebacker.”
Sure enough, Ramsey was a linebacker almost always when on the field. Sometimes they stood him up on the line of scrimmage, letting him take advantage of his speed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds.
Back to familiar territory
But now, in the 3-4, Ramsey is even better built to serve on the outside. He can get to the quarterback, stop the run and cover tight ends.
“I love the 3-4. A guy with my skill set, I’m able to help the team more because I’m playing in space now,” Ramsey said. “It’s kind of catering to the way I play.”
The old stuff, the issues, are mostly forgotten. Ramsey chalks them up to immaturity. Not wanting to go to class and all that. Losing football was a blow. It made him grow up in a hurry.
Now he’s among the most important players on the Razorbacks defense. One of the most experienced, too, even with just a year as a spot player as a freshman. And with linebacker teammate Dre Greenlaw nursing a foot injury, Ramsey is even a leader in the corps.
And even if his Razor outside linebacker is less of a pass-rushing position than the other side, the Hog, Ramsey isn’t afraid of the more complete tasks that come with it. Not even the pass coverage. He breathes confidence.
“I can cover. I played corner in high school, so I have a little coverage skills,” Ramsey said. “So the biggest thing for me is just working on my technique every day and practicing hard.”