FAYETTEVILLE - Undersized as he may be, the move down for linebacker-turned-defensive end Randy Ramsey has been a good call so far.
The 6-foot-4, 228-pound sophomore has had something of a long road back to the good graces of the Arkansas football program. A freakish athlete, Ramsey impressed during spring following his freshman year. He was in the mix to be a starter, even, going into what should have been his sophomore season of 2015. Instead, he had off-the-field issues too often. Coach Bret Bielema removed him from the team. And not one of those "removed from the team" things like he did to Dre Greenlaw and C.J. O'Grady for stints previously. Ramsey was gone.
He left Arkansas. He went to a junior-college for all of a day then quit that, too. Ramsey wanted to return to Arkansas. So much so, in fact, he paid his way back and practically begged Bielema for another chance. Always the type to grant such opportunities, Bielema let him back on, as a walk-on. Last week, Ramsey was rewarded for his hard work, especially back in the classroom, with another scholarship, just like the one taken from him when he was booted.
Impressive enough, too, considering Ramsey is playing somewhere he's never been before.
Arkansas will almost never run a base 4-3 (four defensive linemen, three linebacker) package this year. It is not their best personnel grouping for one, and second, most of the teams they play this season are spread teams. Five defensive backs is a better matchup. But Ramsey's athleticism is still as intriguing as it was two years ago. Accordingly, to give him a chance to see the field, he was shifted down to defensive end. He's at 'R' position with Karl Roesler, McTelvin Agim, and, when he returns, Tevin Beanum.
"He has been a pleasant surprise for us,” defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. "He was an unknown coming in, moving from linebacker, we really weren’t sure what he was going to bring to the table. But he has got some quick twitch. He has zero career sacks right now for us, but at the same time he has potential coming off that edge. I am excited to see what he does for us during the year."
His biggest asset will be his speed. It was his best trait even when he was a linebacker. He was the fastest one of the group then, or close to it. Same at defensive end. And he will have to be, given his lack of heaviness, especially going against the left tackles in the Southeastern Conference.
But still, Segrest doesn't figure Ramsey to simply be a stand-up, off-the-edge rusher. He'll have his hand on the ground like a traditional defensive end.
"Right now we're working him in both in our base cash and our nickel package," Segrest said. "I think he's got some versatility far as that goes. We see more of the heavier run teams, he may just be a nickel guy for us, but we'll see how he progresses between now and then."
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