The newest SEC football Freshman of the Week was getting it done for Fayetteville High during this month last season.
Now in October of 2015, Razorback linebacker Dre Greenlaw (6-0, 230) is enjoying his spot on the big stage as evidenced by his game-high 16 tackles Saturday in Arkansas’ four-overtime win over visiting Auburn.
Greenlaw, the Razorbacks’ second-leading tackler this season, had four solo tackles and 12 assists in the 54-46 victory over the Tigers.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema noted that Greenlaw graded out at just 70 percent during the game.
“The good news is that he got a lot of tackles, but he can play a lot better,” Bielema said. “If I had one more linebacker, one or two more linebackers, I think we actually would be playing better because he is getting worn so thin.
“He is back there as a kickoff returner as well because he does such a great job back there. He is on kickoff coverage. We need to just continue to build depth to help our program overall.
…I think he is playing way, way too much as a freshman. He did have enough energy to throw his helmet 30 feet in the air after the last play of the game.
“I got him on Wednesday. He was reported to be spending more time with the girls’ track team than on his books. He tried to claim ‘that wasn’t me.’
“I said you are the only Dre Greenlaw I know and I see that right here.”
Bielema noted that Greenlaw is a joy to be around.
“He’s a great kid, a great smile and I think he has been able to get away with a lot because he has just got a great personality and good looks and a little charm, but life is getting a little bit real because you don’t get tackles for that in the SEC,” Bielema said.
“I think he is going to be a phenomenal player.”
Bielema noted that he liked Greenlaw, the adopted son of then Arkansas quality control coach and current Arkansas State assistant coach Brian Early, as a player, but that opinion wasn’t shared by former Razorback linebacker coach Randy Shannon.
When new defensive coordinator Robb Smith got a chance to see Greenlaw last fall, it was full speed ahead as the Arkansas State was offered by both Arkansas and Georgia on Oct. 9 and he committed to the Razorbacks on Oct. 16.
“I really liked the kid, he showed up for game days with his dad and I projected him as a linebacker right away,” Bielema said. “Our linebacker coach at the time didn’t enjoy that same opinion so I was kind of dancing the dance a little bit trying to respect what was being said.
“Going into his senior year, I told Robb about him. He was supposed to come to our camp - and I think this whole thing would have been able to be sewn up a lot earlier - but he broke his foot going into his senior spring so he could not go to summer camp.
“When we were in our first bye week of his senior year, I sent Robb to go watch him and I think they were playing in Fort Smith and Robb called me midway through the second quarter and said ‘what are we doing? This kid is everything that we want.
“Really at that point, it was a matter of just convincing Dre.”
Smith loves what he is seeing out of Greenlaw, whose 53 tackles are second only to fellow former Fayetteville star and current Razorback linebacker Brooks Ellis’ 58.
“When we recruited Dre, we had high expectations for him and he has high expectation for himself,” Smith said. “He’s working hard and it is not always the easiest thing to be a true freshman out there playing, but I think he would be the first to tell you that it wasn’t his best game he played against Auburn.
“He was in here yesterday working hard and I think there are big things to come down the road for Dre Greenlaw.
“To play that position at a high level, there is a lot of precision involved and some of that comes from experience. Each week that Dre plays, there is a nuance or two that he is kind of waken to.
“The more we can stack those up, the better player he is going to be.”