Hackett Makes His Move To The Top

Arkansas sophomore linebacker Khalia Hackett (6-2, 230) has used the off-season to rise to the top at the Sam linebacker spot and has no intention of letting that starting spot get away from his this spring.

Although he wasn’t the Arkansas freshman linebacker that came in with the most hype in 2014, Khalia Hackett appears poised to be the breakout star of the group in 2015.

Hackett (6-2, 230), who played in 11 of his team’s 13 games last season, has risen to the top at the Sam linebacker spots and is currently running first-team there in Razorbacks’ spring practices.

“The off-season has ben great for me,” Hackett said. “I set a high standard for myself to go harder every play, to study harder, to have attention to detail, to gain about 10 more pounds and it has all paid off.

“I am at 230 right now and I am able to move at that weight and the spring is going great for me. So I am just trying to keep it up and keep learning the new stuff we are putting in every day.”

Hackett, who starred as a prep for Douglasville, Ga, South Paulding, joined Dwayne Eugene and Randy Ramsey as incoming freshman linebackers last season.

All three played a few snaps and mostly special teams their rookie campaigns, but have a fresh start with new linebacker Vernon Hargreaves, who replaced Randy Shannon.

“I think what has been different for me is a new coach coming in, a fresh start and that along with setting a new standard for myself to get better, to set my expectations higher than the coaches.

“…I wanted to get bigger, stronger and faster and I’ve done that.”

Hackett – who has switched from number 44 to 27 and had 10 tackles and a forced fumble last season - is fond of Hargreaves.

“Coach Hargreaves is a real cool dude,” Hackett said. “I love him. He is very, very technical. He wants you to do this, right here this way, at this spot and he is going to tell you why it works.

“Last year I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t understand the whole concept of how and why and what it does for the people around you and how it affects people around me.”

“Right now I am the starter at the Sam spot in the base defense and then in the nickel and cash packages for more spread teams, I move into the Mike and defend the pass more.”

Hargreaves is working with a blank slate and likes what he has seen from Hackett, who had five of his tackles and the forced fumble in the season opener at Auburn.

“He has stepped in and has accepted the role,” Hargreaves said. “We put him out there and said ‘you are this guy.’ He has accepted the role and is running with it like he has been there 100 years.

“Now he still screws it up at times. Don’t get me wrong and there is still a lot we still a lot of work that we have to do, but I am excited about the progress that he has made and where he is.

“The good thing for him is that I have nothing to base it on. Everything he does right now is all I know.

“I just want to get that going and keep him progressing in the right direction and if that can happen, then we’ve got something.”

Hargreaves likes what he sees out of Hackett’s versatility.

“We took him and used him a little bit at the Mike (middle linebacker) in the nickel,” Hargreaves said. “We are just trying to find ways to get him on the field. Like I have told from those guys, we are going to play the best two or three guys – whoever they are.

“He probably gives us the best chance in that package. I think he is probably one of the better ones just from a fluidity standpoint. If he can accept that role, it will be really big for us.”

Eugene (6-1, 230) – who had six tackles last season and Ramsey (6-4, 220), who had eight stops, are progressing as well per Hargreaves.

Eugene is working behind starter Brooks Ellis at Sam while Ramsey is not currently listed on the two-deep depth chart.

“Dwayne is in my office constantly and is always trying to get better,” Hargreaves said. “From that standpoint, he has really done good.

“Randy is a great athlete and does some really good thing athletically. They are some young guys that really have a chance.

“I don’t know where it is going to go between now and we step on the field the first time, but there is a lot of stuff that is going to go on between now and then. We have got to take these next 11 practices and get better at each one and kind of see where it goes.”

Hargreaves also plans to stress to his group that it is about every play up until the game as far as getting playing time.”

“I have been in situations where coming out of spring a guy was third team and coming back in the fall he ends up starting,” Hargreaves said. “That happened at the place I just came from. It is never over until Saturday at the time we play – 3:30 or whatever it is.

“We are always progressing and guys get it at different times. They figure it out at different times and you just have to keep on scrapping.”

Khalia Hackett had five of his 10 tackles and a forced fumble in last season's opener at Auburn.

Vernon Hargraves looks over his group during Tuesday's practice.

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