Wade Has Size, Potential

FAYETTEVILLE -- Chris Wade has the size. That's apparent in the way he towers over most of his teammates and all of the reporters, who've lately taken an interest in him.

Wade also has the potential. Arkansas' coaches noticed that even before the 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive end arrived on campus last year.

But what no one seems to know just yet is whether Wade can put those two traits together by Saturday and be the dominant pass rusher that the Razorbacks could so desperately use.

At least for now, Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring wants to wait before he passes any judgment on his new starting left defensive end.

"He's a guy right now that has been put in a starting position, and we'll see if he can keep up the position," Herring said. "Let's see if he can own it."

Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is also hesitant to offer any praise on Wade, who's about as inexperienced as a senior starter can be.

"The word is potential," Rocker said. "I'm waiting till Saturday."

That's when Wade will make his first career start against Troy University in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Until then, the verdict is still out on the former junior college transfer who recently returned from a concussion suffered in practice.

"I was just out here working hard just like everybody else on the (defensive) line. Everybody is trying to get a starting role during (preseason) camp," Wade said. "Now it's game time, so now I've got to help my team out anyway I can."

Initially, Wade was listed as a backup for the season opener. But those plans changed when senior Marcus Harrison was arrested last Friday on a felony drug charge and several misdemeanors.

Harrison was suspended indefinitely, opening the door for Wade to take over as the starter. It was not an ideal situation by any means.

"My concern is, what is he going to do this weekend and the rest of this fall," Rocker said of Wade. "I feel good with him; he's a solid player. But we need plays and production.

"We lost a great one (in Jamaal Anderson) last year. Now he's here to replace him."

Wade has a similar body type as Anderson, who led the Southeastern Conference with 13 1/2 sacks while lining up as the left defensive end last season.

Wade is an inch shorter and three pounds heavier than what Anderson was listed at before he left Arkansas to be the eight overall pick in April's NFL Draft. But that's about the only comparison between the two defensive ends.

Wade, whose 22nd birthday is today, didn't do much in his first season with the Razorbacks to prove he deserved a starting job. He recorded only 15 tackles and just one sack in 2006.

He didn't play more than 26 snaps in any game last year, and even then his primary role was to take the field long enough to give Anderson or Antwain Robinson a breather.

"I was playing behind one of the top defensive ends in the nation and that's Jamaal. I had fun looking up to him," Wade said. "I came from a (junior college), and everybody pretty much when they come from a JUCO is looking to get some playing time.

"Me, I was just happy to be out here, to be at a (Division) I school."

Wade said he put on around 20-30 pounds in the offseason, and Rocker said he has noticed that the senior is stronger and has better balance than when he arrived at Arkansas as a tall but lanky defensive end.

This summer, Wade was considered to be in the mix for one of the two starting defensive end spots. He was explosive in practice. He got to the football quickly. And naturally, he was big.

But Wade missed several practices after suffering a concussion midway through preseason camp. That set him behind -- Arkansas' coaches are hoping not too much.

"We had moved him up, and he was already going to be that starter. And then the concussion comes and -- bang -- hey, he was asleep for awhile," Rocker said. "And now we're trying to wake him back up and be that player that we want him to be."

Chris Wade

Age: 22

Size: 6-foot-5, 270 pounds

Position: Defensive end

School: Norteastern Oklahoma A&M College

Notable: Wade played sparingly as a backup in his first season at Arkansas in 2006. He recorded 15 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack as a junior. But he didn't see the field much. He didn't play more than 26 snaps in any game, and he didn't get any action in a win at South Carolina.

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