Arkansas freshman Dre Greenlaw ready to return kicks

Freshman Dre Greenlaw has a bet that he's going to return a kickoff for a touchdown. It sounds like veteran Brooks Ellis might have the smarter side of the wager, but Greenlaw thinks he's ready to make some cash.

Dre Greenlaw made one thing clear after practice Wednesday. He's not just on the kickoff team to block. He's there to score touchdowns.

Greenlaw is the reigning SEC freshman of the week after recording 16 tackles in Arkansas' 54-46 four overtime victory over Auburn. It made quite a sight to also see the Fayetteville product as one of the twin deep return specialists on kickoffs. He did not get a touch.

There isn't any doubt that he wants a touch after his interview Wednesday night. He desparatly wants a touch and he doesn't just want a return.

"I've got a bet with Brooks Ellis," Greenlaw said. "It's for $20. I told him if I get the ball, I'm taking it back. All the way. He wins $20 if I don't. He pays $20 if I do."

OK, maybe there's a reason Ellis is a pre-med major and Greenlaw is not.

Linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves admits that his job is to keep Greenlaw grounded. Hargreaves also is clear that he's trying to get Greenlaw some rest and perhaps putting his new star linebacker at return specialist is helping in that task.

"I've never had (a linebacker) do that before," Hargreaves said. "Really, there were probably some who wanted to do it. But I have never been around something like this before."

It's clear that it wasn't Greenlaw's idea, either. It came from head coach Bret Bielema.

"I did it in high school, punts and kickoffs," he said. "I like it, but I didn't ask for it.

"I came in and saw one day that I was listed as the backup on kickoff returns. So I got some work. The next day, I went from backup to one of the two spots."

It escalated quickly.

"But I do like it," he said. "I want to be back there and I want a chance at returning some. This week's team, they kick it all over the place. It's different on almost every kick, so I think I'm going to get my chance. I want to win that bet from Brooks. That ball comes towards me, I'm going to get it.

"To you guys it may sound like a bad bet for me. But it's going to turn out to be a bad bet for Brooks. It sounds good to me."

Hargreaves would be happy to have Greenlaw just concentrating on weakside linebacker. Yes, he made 16 tackles on the way to SEC honors, but it was hardly a thing of beauty.

"He graded at 70 percent," Hargreaves said. "We think a winning grade is 80 percent. I showed him where he made a lot of those tackles and they were down the field. If he'd graded better, he'd been at 20. Heck, he should have been at 20 and he knows it.

"I put the tape on and showed him and he knows. I'd like to see those tackles made in a different spot on the field. At 70 percent, he's a ways away from where we want him to be."

Still, there are good things happening with Greenlaw.

"I'm encouraged by his play," Hargreaves said. "To be honest, I didn't think he'd do this well this quickly. Yes, he can improve, but he's got the tools and he's using them. He just needs to understand his keys and reads a little better. He is working.

"I just bring him each week and try to keep him grounded. I want him to stay humble. The thing you worry about, he gets these honors or reads some of the things that are being said or written about him, it can mess up a lot of young players. So I get him in the room and bring him back down. The tape generally does that. What you know, he's never played the position before, so he's done quite well, had some successl. Just more he can do."

Greenlaw said, "It sure does. I am learning something every week. I just know so little about it and I'm listening. I can make a ton of improvement. I'm just doing some small basics so far."

Hargreaves said some of the issues that Greenlaw is still learning concern pass defense. In fact, Hargreaves thinks the entire linebacker group can improve.

"It's about drops, it's about re-routing the receivers and about filling lanes," he said. "We've got to get back in coverage and help the secondary. The line can do their job and the secondary can do their job and we can let them down with our coverage and it leaves a big gap. We've got to do a lot better. It's all three spots at linebacker."

Hargreaves does see some positives. Dwayne Eugene is emerging as a versatile member of the group, able to fill in at both strongside and weakside. De'Andre Coley is listed as Greenlaw's backup at weakside, with Eugene listed as the starter at strongside.

"In reality, Dwayne would be next man in at will," Hargreaves said. "De'Andre is working there when we have the twos on the field at practice. But Dwayne is doing well as far as learning both spots. We played him quite a few snaps in the base last week, but he's able to play the will in our other packages, too.

"We've played Dre a lot, but I think Dwayne could be ready to play some there, too. I tell them that when they show me in practice that they know a position, that's when they play. Dwayne is showing me that."

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