With no Tevin Beanum on the roster, a bevy of players have an opportunity to earn a surprise starting job as an SEC defensive end
FAYETTEVILLE - The loss of Tevin Beanum from the Arkansas football team was publicly unexpected. Last year's starting 'R' defensive end did not make coach Bret Bielema's 105-man roster to start fall camp of the 2016 season.
That doesn't mean Beanum can't come back, Bielema made clear during his season-opening press conference Thursday. Beanum missed most of the spring dealing with personal issues and they cropped up again recently, according to his coach. It leaves a big hole of inexperience, at least right now, on that side of the ball.
Options to take over for Beanum are aplenty. There is super-recruit freshman McTelvin Agim, who looked the part when he arrived early this spring. There is plugger Karl Roesler, an outside linebacker-defensive end hybrid. And there is Randy Ramsey, a once-cast off for off-the-field issues now back on the team at a new position as coaches try to take advantage of his athleticism.
Those three will get the lion's share of the looks in the immediate. But if none pan out - Agim's youth, Roesler's size and Ramsey's inexperience at the position all weigh heavily - there are other options. The two best players on the Arkansas defensive line have both played there despite currently being elsewhere right now. They spoke about it Friday.
"There’s many guys on the defensive line unit that can play multiple positions, like Coach B said, I can move back to that point. Maybe Deatrich and some other guys in that spot. This line has great depth to it," said defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter.
He was a regular in there last year, picking up a couple sacks but never really gaining a foothold on the gig. Accordingly, coaches moved him inside to the 3-technique spot, a place once owned by Darius Philon, still with the NFL's San Diego Chargers. Ledbetter took to it immediately, terrorizing all three interior spots on the Arkansas offensive line in the spring. He did so well there it had coaches and even some unaffiliated onlookers shaking their head in disbelief. So it would probably take a lot of struggle from others to move Ledbetter from that spot.
Another option is Deatrich Wise Jr. The team leader in sacks with eight and the second-best sack man in the SEC during league games last year, he currently rolls on the opposite side of where Beanum played. It's unlikely he would move back to his old spot because of the proven track record he has where he is now, but it is a possibility.
Wise downplayed it somewhat Friday, although more he talked up the personnel currently there. Like Agim.
"He looks like he’s been here for a whole year now," Wise said. "He has some little freshman attributes in the spring, but now into the summer his maturity has increased a lot. I believe that he’s going to be good for us."
The defensive line is still the best unit on the defense and maybe the whole roster, even with the loss of Beanum, who largely would have had a timeshare at 'R,' anyway. But he was the starter and a steady hand at the spot, even if unspectacular with his numbers.
Don't count him out for long, though, Ledbetter said.
"We still feel good about where we stand, but Tevin was a big part of this defense. With his situation, he has to deal with that and we’re gonna continue to do what we need to do from a defensive standpoint. That is a big loss, but he’ll be back. He’ll be back."
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