When new University of Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring arrived on the scene in Fayetteville, he soon made the decision to turn linebackers Desmond Sims and Zac Snider into defensive ends.
According to Razorback defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, the two players weren't exactly thrilled when told they would be moving up to fill the spots left by graduating Jeb Huckeba and now defensive tackle Marcus Harrison.
"Everybody was wavering there for a little bit because for a long time they have been standing up there at linebacker and we were asking them to move up and put their hands down," Rocker said. "But I told them you are getting a chance to be closer to the ball and get to react quicker."
Both did just that during Saturday's scrimmage with junior Sims getting in the backfield once for a sack and another time to bat down a pass while redshirt freshman Snider had two tackles for losses.
"They were very active today," Rocker said. "They've been learning the position and learning that the guys on the other side are very heavy. We are learning how to get off blocks and not stay blocked long. Most of all they play hard and we have just got to get them going the right way."
Sims had 37 tackles last season, many of them of the hard-hitting variety.
"I have got a long ways to go, but I am starting to feel real comfortable at defensive end and real good about my chances of helping the team there," Sims said. "I like it and I am enjoying it right now, learning everything from Coach Rocker and hanging out with the D-lineman."
Rocker has enjoyed helping them make the switch with Sims (6-3, 232) ahead of redshirt freshman Michael Tate (6-4, 253) and senior Darren Rogers (6-4, 213) at left end and Snider working behind sophomore Jamaal Anderson (6-6, 272) and in front of sophomore Antoine Dinka (6-0, 230) at right end.
"It's a real big difference coming from playing linebacker, but I really like it," notes Snider, the former Tulsa Union standout. "Coach Rock is getting me right and I like how all the defensive lineman work real hard every day."
While UA signees Marcus Shavers (6-4, 265) and Michael Hall (6-3, 245) will be thrown into the mix this fall, Sims was painted a picture of opportunity by Rocker.
"Desmond Sims' situation is a little different from Zac's," Rocker said. "Zac has only played linebacker while Desmond has probably played a little bit of every position out here.
"He was a bit upset and he had every right to be," Rocker continued. "If fact, I told him that is your right, but I think this is the position for you that is actually going to make things right for you around here. After working through the fourth quarter and talking about it, he came in on the second day after practice and said 'this is me, I like this. I feel good about it.
"I ask Zac the same type thing - do you like the position or do you not?'" Rocker related. "He said I love it and I am going to be fine."
The biggest difference according to both is having to wrestle with guys far bigger than they are right now.
"You have got to fight somebody every play and right now everybody is bigger than me so I have to take it to them," Sims said. "I want to come back at 240. I think it will help me a lot because right now I am a little banged up and sore, got some nicks and nacks and I think the extra weight will help with that."
Snider is of the same mindset.
"I am still trying to put on some weight but it is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," Snider said. "But going up against these guys every day is just going to make me better for the season. I weigh between 235 and 240 right now, but I want to get up to about 250."
Both love the new scheme that Herring has brought to the Razorbacks.
"It is a great scheme," Sims said. "We are just putting it in and we have got to keep coming and keep getting better. We have got to continue to get in the playbook."
As big a highlight as any on Saturday was Herring hopping around and exhorting his defense or chastising them for a miscue.
"He really gives you a lot of enthusiasm and energy," Snider said. "He is a real big asset to the program."
It was a good day for the defense and left both Sims and Snider smiling.
"Whenever your defense works together and everything works like it is suppose to, it makes you look good and it makes the whole defense look good," Snider said. "Our whole defense played good today."
Robert Johnson (18) had this pass knocked down just as it left his hands by Desmond Sims.
Desmond Sims (23) hits Alex Mortensen just as he releases a pass. The ball fell well short of the intended receiver.
Desmond Sims makes a tackle against Alabama two years ago as a freshman.
Desmond Sims knows he still needs to add some beef.
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