Defensive Hogs Anxious to Put on Pads After First Two Days of Spring Drills

After two days without pads, the Arkansas defensive players look forward to a Saturday in pads. The defense came to the interview room Thursday after practice.

It's been two days of conditioning and pursuit drills for the Arkansas defense. Linebacker Brooks Ellis knows that changes Saturday when the Razorbacks put on the pads for the first time this spring.

It was defensive players to the interview room Thursday, the second day of spring drills. Ellis, senior captain, doesn't know how much action he'll get this spring, but knows he'll be out there Saturday.

"There are some drills that I'm not on, like punt cover," he said. "I'm off of that this spring and that may be the case if I do what I'm supposed to do this spring. That's in Coach (Bret) Bielema's plan. I am not sure if I'll be out there for every (contact day), but I will be this first scrimmage."

The Hogs plan to scrimmage briefly on Saturday. It's something defensive players relish.

"Our first two days, we didn't have pads," Ellis said. "That's not really what a defensive player likes. About all you can do is fly around and work on pursuit drills and try to get the play book down.

"I know everyone on the defense is excited about Saturday. We can't wait. This is what we live for and I do think everyone plays better with pads."

Ellis is excited for the newfound depth in the linebacker group with the addition of Randy Ramsey and Kendrick Jackson. Both have done well through the winter and the first two days. Ramsey is back after sitting out last season. Jackson moved back to defense after a year at fullback.

"We've got a real (linebacker) squad now," Ellis said.

Ramsey returned as a walk-on, but is quickly earning the respect of his teammates. Ellis said the trust is back.

"Randy Ramsey is a new person from the guy we remembered two years ago," Ellis said. "I was a little nervous when I heard he was coming back. But he's a whole different guy. He's a beast. He's got a great attitude. It's exciting because I know his talent.

"It's clear that he knows this is his chance to do something great. He can do it, too.

"He's flying around, pretty smooth. He's working hard on the playbook. He's always asking me questions. He didn't ask questions the first time. "

It's been a fun first week for the defense. The secondary has gotten the first true look at new coach Paul Rhoads, handling corners and safeties. Rhoads has brought a sense of urgency to the back end of the defense.

"It's very different," said Santos Ramirez, sophomore safety. "Coach Rhoads makes sure to get the most out of us. He's not our friend on the field. He's there to coach us. But off the field, he can be our friend. The sense of urgency is important to him.

"I think we picked up that sense of urgency pretty quickly. He wants us to be the hardest working group on the field and very aggressive.

"The technique is important to him. He said it's a game of inches and he wants it perfect. There are three keys and they are alignment, eyes and the finish."

Junior safety Josh Liddell said, "He's very loud. He knows what he's talking about. We recognized that immediately. There was buy-in from the jump. The urgency is there, like Santos said. It's about detail, detail, detail. We know what the call is and why it's called."

Ellis loves what he sees in front of him in the defensive line. There is depth across the front. He said newcomer McTelvin "Sosa" Agim has flashed in the first two days.

"He's a beast," Ellis said. "He's working hard to learn it."

Senior Taiwan Johnson said there are questions galore from Sosa.

"He's going to keep asking you question," Johnson said. "He is trying his best to learn everything."

Johnson said the focus for the defense is to "be more impactful and aggressive." Johnson had a year at defensive tackle, but has moved back to nose guard with Jeremiah Ledbetter and T.J. Smith manning the weakside tackle.

"I'm trying to keep my weight down," Johnson said. "I'm between 275 and 280 and I think that's going to help me be a little quicker and a little more impactful."

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