The University of Arkansas coaching staff didn't recruit its trio of junior college defenders to watch from the sidelines this season.
So cornerback Rudell Crim (6-0, 190), safety Anthony Leon (6-4, 230) and defensive end Caleb Evans (6-4, 243) are all getting their shot to play early and often.
Razorback defensive coordinator Willy Robinson gave his evaluation on the progress on the trio after his team completed two Thursday practices.
"All three of these kids are going to be football players for us," Robinson said. "Where they are in the rotation and where they are in the depth chart is going to continue over these next three weeks when we play our first game. These scrimmages are very, very important to them as are the practices obviously."
Startng free safety Matt Harris sees a lot to like in the secondary guys - including early enrollee Andru Stewart.
"Crim has impressed me a lot," Harris said. "He's come in and learned the playbook pretty rapidly relative to the other JUCO guys. Leon and Stewart came from the same school so they know each other and work well with each other. I like the way they work together. They'll play and improve the football team."
Crim is clearly in the best position of the three so far according to Robinson.
"Rudell is making a push," Robinson said. "He is playing our second boundary corner. I love Rudell because the fact is that every time he learns something in practice, he improves on one thing. Every time that happens he doesn't forget about it. It takes him a few reps, but once he gets it, it is like riding a bike and he'll never compound it. He will never sit down there and repeat that mistake."
Crim is behind Ramon Broadway at the boundary corner, but it may not stay that way.
"He is still feeling his way, but he is going to be reliable and once that time comes when he understands that whole package, we expect him to work in that position as a starter right in front of Broadway if Broadway doesn't continue to press and understand he is being pushed," Crim said. "Whoever the best guy standing is at that position will be our starter."
Leon, who started his career at Florida State before matriculating to College of the Sequoias in California, is playing catch up as the second-team free safety.
"Leon is not in good condition," Robinson said. "We knew coming into camp that there was probably going to be a slow play in regards to that because he had so much academic stuff that he had to overcome. That was where his focus needed to be.
"He is starting to pick up the defense a little bit, still relying on the other guy to give him his responsibilities, but it is starting to come to him where I see him saying "I got this, I know what I am doing now,'" Robinson said. "That is growth in regards to that."
Leon agrees that he is working to catch up.
"I really wasn't able to do too much like I would have liked because I had to take five summer school classes and about 13 hours a day," Leon said. "I didn't really have a chance to train like the other guys and be in top shape like them. I am just going through the pain in two-a-days and trying to get better every day."
Leon was out one practice earlier this week, but knew he had to get back out in the field quickly.
"Every day is going to be a challenge," Leon said. "I am just going to overcome it and keep fighting."
He notes that he is certainly going through a learning process.
"At first it was kind of over my head a little bit, but I am catching on and the guys have been helping me," Leon said. "The coach has been teaching me well so I am catching on.
"Elton Ford and everybody really is a big help for me," Leon added. "When we are out there on the field we are communicating so that is a big key. When I make a mistakes, they don't talk down to me, they just pick me up and tell me what I did wrong. That's a good thing, too."
Evans - getting second team work and a little time with the first unit, is at least going full tilt according to Robinson.
"Caleb is really flying by the seat of his pants right now," Robinson said. "He is trying to learn all this and is a little overwhelmed in fact. But he gives us great effort all the time. If he is going to make a mistake, granted it is going to be at full speed. When he makes those mistakes it's like wow, but you have got to take a step back and remember where he is in this package and just stay calm and keep teaching him."
Getting The JUCOs Ready
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