When true freshman Horace Arkadie arrived on the Arkansas campus in June, he was a 235-pound defensive end ticketed for a redshirt.
All of sudden, Arkadie is a 274-pounder that has forced Razorback defensive coordinator Willy Robinson to consider playing right away.
What in the world happened?
"It was just hitting the weights, eating and sleeping and making it a daily routine," said Arkadie, who stands 6-foot-4.
Robinson is high on the talented athlete who starred for Irving (Texas) High – mentioning Arakdie, fellow defensive end Trey Flowers (6-4, 243) and cornerback Tevin Mitchel as true freshmen with a chance to crack the rotation.
"He (Arkadie) is a big young man who has put on a lot of weight and hasn't lost any speed or snap," Robinson said. "He is a guy that is getting most of the (second-team) reps and seems to be developing well. He's got some real snap in him, some very natural talent as far as having the strength and having the movement.
"The Xs and Os - he is not real clean on, but it seems like that last two days that we have had, he has picked that up quite well," Robinson added.
Arkadie said the Arkansas conditioning coaches told him he was likely to gain some weight, but nobody saw this coming for a young man who turned 18 less than a month ago.
"They told me watch out for the freshman 15, but I got hit with it double," Arkadie said. "It was just repetition of eat, sleep and lift and doing it all over again. They feed you here. You are not hurting for a meal at all."
What may surprise fans is that Arkadie actually is faster at 274 than he was at 235.
"My speed has picked up a lot because they teach your techniques about how to run faster and with your arms and stuff," Arkadie said. "I think my body is growing with me…I think I am very well put together and it is all coming along. I think my best years of football are ahead of me."
He does admit that it was a whirlwind of weight gain that began about three weeks after he arrived in Fayetteville.
"After that first week, I was about 250 but I didn't think much of it because I still looked lean," Arkadie said. "Then I went from 250 to 268 and I said ‘hey, I got a little gut now, I need to slow down a little bit.' Then I hit the 274 weight. I've never really gone back under 269 even with all the practice.
"I'm not going to lie to you and say it is all muscle, but I am carrying it well and I feel comfortable with it," Arkadie continued. "The key things are I am still as fast – if not faster – and I have more explosiveness off the line."
Arkadie – who had 77 tackles, four sacks and five blocked field goals or punts his senior season – thinks he would have done even more damage if he had this strength and weight back then.
"Oh, man, if I was this size in high school, it would have been another story," Arkadie said. "But I am glad that I have it now that I am here and I am just looking forward to a great future at Arkansas."
Razorback senior defensive end Jake Bequette thinks that future is destined to be a bright one for Arkadie.
"He plays full speed every snap," Bequette said. "I think just like for any other freshman, it is tough to grasp the defense, but once he puts it together he is going to be a really special player."
Bequette was amazed at the new Arkadie.
"We were laughing at that before camp," Bequette said. "I saw the weight chart in the weight room and it said he gained 30 pounds in about four weeks. I don't know how healthy that is, but he is looking big and fast."
Junior defensive end Tenarius Wright – who starts opposite Bequette – is a fan of the youngster as well.
"He put on some weight, but he can still run with it," Wright said. "He is much more powerful than he was during the summer. I can see he is moving around a lot better now."
Arkadie was blown away by his first full Arkansas practice.
"That first practice with the varsity, I was appalled, just taken aback," Arkadie said. "I was like ‘so this is what real college football is like.' But I just kept my head in there and kept working, trying to be physical and getting off the ball."
He loves having Bequette, Wright and sophomore Chris Smith acting as mentors for him.
"It's not always just football," Arkadie said. "It's also about life. Those are some guys I can go to outside of football…They are real good mentors off the field and - of course - I can learn on the field from them because they are all great players.
"…I turned 18 three weeks ago," Arkadie said. "They just feel like the big brothers that I never had. They are really helpful."
Wright notes that you have to both calm down and lift up rookies.
"We just have to talk to him and keep him humble and also make sure he is not down after what Coach says to him," Wright said. "We are just helping him keep his head on straight."
Arkadie is hopeful for a chance to play from game one through the last contest of the season.
"I want to just be ready when my number is called and go out there and bust my butt," Arkadie said. "I am very excited and feel like I have worked hard enough."
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