Now that he is back in the middle, Arkansas junior linebacker Brooks Ellis (6-2, 242) is feeling right at home.
It shows in his production with 25 tackles in the last two games, including a career-high 15 in last Saturday’s 27-14.
That has certainly impressed Razorback linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves, whose team has its only bye of the season this weekend before hosting Auburn (4-2, 1-2) next Saturdayat 11 a.m.
“They had him for 15, I had him for 20,” Arkansas linebacker Vernon Hargreaves said. “I’m working on that, but I thought that he played as good as anybody that I have been around, you know what I am saying.
“To play like that against that team is obviously impressive. For some of the guys that I have been around, I have not seen a whole better performance.”
Hargreaves said Ellis – who played his high school football at Fayetteville - has put in his work to get better.
“Doing what he is suppose to quite frankly,” Hargreaves said. “He has taken to the coaching, watching film, kind of knows what to expect and when we make corrections on the sideline, he kind of takes it to the field.
“There were a couple of opportunities that we had early that he didn’t make, but – much like the week before – he comes over and we fix it and he goes in and makes it and he just played hard the whole game.
“When you play hard and you run around a lot of that stuff just kind of happens. It is no secret why it happens for you, I mean when you are playing like that.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith can find only one thing wrong with Ellis.
“The only thing wrong with Brooks Ellis is we don’t have two of him,” Smith said. “He is a guy that goes out and plays the right way.”
Smith thinks the move of Ellis back from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker – where he played last season has been a plus.
"Brooks played a heck of a football game," Smith said of his performance at Alabama. "It starts with he had a great week of practice. I thought he was really in tune with a lot of things that Alabama did and it showed up on the field. He played very well not only in the interior of our defense, but he got out in space a couple of times and made some plays there as well.
"I think he's starting to come on as a middle linebacker, and I'm excited to see what he can do down the stretch for us."
He’s also impressed his teammates, including senior safety Rohan Gaines.
"That guy's a different animal, man," Gaines said. "He's a great leader for our defense and the team. He's more vocal now. He's not that shy kid he was coming in. He's a smart player on and off the field."
Ellis has a team-leading 49 tackles with 4 ½ tackles for lost yardage and two quarterback hurries so far this season and admits the Alabama game was probably the best performance of his career.
But he took no pleasure in it because his team lost.
“Yeah, I think so, but it is a team sport and the end result wasn’t what we wanted so it doesn’t really matter,” Ellis said. “We have just got to keep working.”
Ellis believes the bye week came at the right time for Arkansas (2-4, 1-2), whose bye splits the regular season right in half.
“It’s huge,” Ellis said. “It wasn’t what we wanted the first half of the season. We have just got to get through this bye week and regroup, take this time to rest and just get healthy and come back next week guns a blazing, full speed ahead and get ready for Auburn.”
Arkansas defense has held each of its foes to the least amount of points they have scored in a game this season.
But there have been enough miscues along the way that have kept the Razorbacks from winning.
“We just can all around be better,” Ellis said. “Get off the field when we need to. Third down can always improve. We didn’t hit our goal with that. Just be better all-around.”
The improvement of true freshman and fellow former Fayetteville High star Dre Greenlaw, who has started the last few games, allowed Ellis to move back to middle linebacker.
"It's been different, but it's nothing I can't handle," Ellis said. "I've just got to do what the team needs me to do."
Brooks Ellis makes a stop against Missouri last season.