Arkansas feels better about its linebackers this season not only because of the improvement of the ones already here, but the ones coming in.
Dee Walker (6-2, 210, 4.4), De’Jon Harris (6-3, 230), Giovanni LaFrance (6-3, 238) and Alexy-Jean Baptiste (6-1, 210) are the four linebackers in the Razorbacks’ 2016 signing class expected to get a chance to play right away.
Walker, who starred for unbeaten Moultrie, Ga., Colquitt County, is set to arrive in Fayetteville on May 29, knows the opportunity is there.
“The coaches have let me know that my job is to come in, work hard this summer and be ready when practice starts,” Walker said. “We are going to get the shot to play, but it is going to be about how ready we are to do so.”
Walker was on hand for Arkansas’ Red-White on April 23.
“I got a chance to see how they are doing things and it got me even more excited,” Walker said. “I am looking forward to getting up there and meeting all my new teammates and starting on this next step in my life. "
Walker is ready to make the leap from high school to college.
“It’s the first time I will be away, but it is the time to take that next step – go from being a young boy to a man who takes care of himself,” Walker said. “It is time and I am ready for that.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith and linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves, who had to overextend starters Brooks Ellis and true freshman Dre Greenlaw last season, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new guys.
“We have four freshmen coming in that we are excited about,” Smith said. “…Each one has something that bring to the table and we think that all are capable of helping us right away.”
In addition to the rookies, Hargreaves sees improvement with those who have been in the program – Khalia Hackett, Dwayne Eugene and Josh Williams, who is trying to come back from an injury.
He is also adding in sophomore Kendrick Jackson – who played fullback last season – and Randy Ramsey, who is back as a walk on after being dismissed after his freshman season.
“We are like a fine wine without a doubt,” Hargreaves said. “I think my guys have a much better feel of what’s going on and they understand the system that much better.
“You’ve got a guy like Brooksie that has been here for three years now. Dre has gotten to the the point that he really kind of understands what it is that we’re doing.
“That makes you play faster, you look better. You are in better position. So I think that has a lot to do with it.
“Kendrick Jackson has done well. Khalia Hackett has done way better than he’s ever done. I think Dwayne Eugene is still coming. So those three guys, and Randy Ramsey is still out there running around and gives you something.
“Those guys might be a little bit ahead of him in terms of knowing what to do but I feel good about where we are right now.”
Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest was the key force in landing Walker, Walker chose Arkansas over Louisville, Indiana, Kentucky and late interest from both Florida and Georgia.
“He's an incredible athlete,” Segrest said. “He played on the national championship high school team. They had a lot of great players and he's one of their best.
“This guy can fly. He looks like a track athlete on the field. He was one of their four captains. I do know he likes to tinker on cars. When I called him after he signed, he was still in shop class. On Saturdays, he's going to be working on a car.”
Walker does believe his speed gives him the chance to play early.
“That is my biggest strength and I use it in both the passing game and the running game,” Walker said. “I think it allows me to play against all kinds of offenses. I look forward to the challenge.”