Harrell Learning on the Run

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas junior Jeremy Harrell already has discovered one advantage in moving from defensive tackle to offensive guard.

He doesn't have to worry about keeping close tabs on his weight in order to play for defensive coordinator Reggie Herring anymore.

"I went to McDonald's a couple weeks ago for the first time in six months," the 6-foot-2, 282-pound Harrell said. "Right now I can eat what I want within reason."

Harrell, of course, was one of several defensive linemen that spent the summer avoiding fast food joints, counting calories and shedding weight to perform for a defense predicated on speed. But Harrell recorded only seven tackles in five games at his new weight, was moved by coach Houston Nutt to help Arkansas' offensive line three weeks ago and has been learning bits and pieces of his new position.

Harrell got his first test quicker than expected during Arkansas' 28-17 win at Ole Miss last Saturday, working with the first-team when starting center Kyle Roper left because of a lingering knee injury in the second quarter. Right guard Jonathan Luigs slid to center, Harrell filled in and the Razorbacks told him to do his best against Ole Miss senior defensive tackle McKinley Boykin.

It might not have been a work of art, but Harrell survived.

"It's a little bit different than defense, but I think I did pretty good," Harrell said about his experience. "There's a lot of things I can correct, get better on. I've got to get my techniques down, get some more of the pass blocking schemes down.

"But, I'm playing as hard as I can and for my first game, I think I did all right."

That's good news for Arkansas because Harrell worked with the first-team Tuesday and is expected to get the bulk of the work this week in Roper's absence. Arkansas hopes Roper will be available for Saturday's game against Mississippi State in Little Rock, but Harrell is preparing for his first start as an offensive lineman.

"(Harrell's) doing really good," Nutt said. "The one thing he has is his heart, spirit, he brings us a little bit more energy. He doesn't know everything, but he's learning on the run and he's doing a really good job."

Harrell doesn't mind the work, figuring he wouldn't get much playing time after making the mid-season move to offense.

He played in 21 games, earned 10 starts and recorded 56 tackles and 1 sack on defense in 2003 and 2004. He underwent shoulder surgery last winter and missed valuable work during spring practice, but still managed to start the season opener against Missouri State. But Harrell -- who said he was hindered by his shoulder -- fell behind Keith Jackson, Marcus Harrison and Marcus Shavers, prompting the move.

"It's definitely gone through my head a few times," Harrell said. "Starting on that side of the ball the last two years, starting every game last year, and then, here I am, the middle of the season an offensive guard.

"Whatever it takes to win. I know this is a business. It's a business decision. If one guy's not producing, you've got to get somebody that can. I understand that."

Harrell thought the transition would take some time, but Nutt assured him he'd figure into the offense's plans as a reserve. Now, Harrell is first in line at right guard, where three different players have started games this season.

Senior Zac Tubbs was originally slated to start, but has been sidelined by ankle injuries. Luigs started seven games, but missed one with a sprained ankle and started another at center. Tyler Morgan earned one start. So did Chase Pressley, who has been bothered by shoulder problems the past few weeks.

"(Harrell) was thrown right into the fire and I think he's handled it well," Luigs said. "He was a little timid (in the second quarter), but he had never been out there before. But the more he got into the game, the better he was. He just adapted well."

Harrell said the transition from defense to offense is more complex than "big guys just hitting somebody" and is trying to understand assignments, keep track of blitzes and develop cohesiveness with other linemen. But Harrell, who also played tackle and guard in high school, said he understands the speed of the game and his three years in the trenches with the Razorbacks have helped him adjust.

"It's not like I've never played," Harrell said. "It's just on another side of the ball. I know the speed of the game and how to do some of the little things. But it was definitely different on offense. But I definitely had a lot of fun this past week.

"The first series, I was a little shaky, just getting a feel for things. As the game progressed, I felt more comfortable with my blocking schemes and pass blocking."

Harrell said it wasn't easy gaining his first experience against Ole Miss because they sport one of the better defensive lines in the Southeastern Conference. But it won't get much easier against Mississippi State, which holds the nation's 36th-best scoring defense (22.3 points) and 38th-ranked total defense (346.9 yards).

Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson said Harrell's experience in the "heat of battle" helped him against Ole Miss and believes he'll improve against Mississippi State. Markuson, who was coaching his new guard on the run in between series last Saturday, said Harrell made a few mistakes and "should know what to do next time."

Harrell said it's a learning process, but believes he's catching on quick.

"I've been an O-lineman (three) weeks," Harrell said. "Some people have been here for two years. Not too many people can make that transition because O-line is a tough position. To be able to do both (at Arkansas), I think that's pretty good."

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