Holding Off The King Of Leon

Arkansas appears to be pretty solid at free safety when redshirt senior Matt Harris (6-2, 198) - who had a team-high 13 tackles in Saturday's scrimmage - and junior college transfer newcomer Anthony Leon (6-4, 230), who appears to be making a move the past few days.

Matt Harris can hear the King of Leon of coming, but he isn't ready to stop the music and turn over his starting spot at free safety yet.

Harris (6-2, 198) led the defense with 13 tackles in the scrimmage while back-up and junior college transfer Anthony Leon (6-4, 230) looked as comfortable as he has been in any practice so far with six stops – including a pair for lost yardage.

All in all, that spot looks to be in much better shape this season as opposed to last.

"The guy (Leon) is a tremendous athlete and he has got a big body," Harris said. "I knew he was going to come in here and make some plays. Athletically I didn't doubt him at all so once he starts moving forward in that playbook, he is just going to grow and grow and grow. He showed a little bit today. It was exciting."

But so is the improvement shown by Harris, who started four games last season, played in all 12 contests and led the secondary players with 56 tackles.

He knows he has to keep working hard every play to keep Leon from taking his spot.

"We know that it is a competitive camp and we know that you are just one play away from getting pulled out," Harris said. "You always want to push yourself and have your own kind of motivation."

Leon, who started his career at Florida State before matriculating to the College of the Sequoias in California, was not on campus this summer.

He fell behind in conditioning and has been battling that while also trying to get a grasp on the playbook.

"It's getting better," Leon said. "I've been getting down to treatment about 6:30 and getting in the cold tub and hot tub and running through the pain…I am just trying to come out here and make a name for myself.

"…It's tough at first, but after you learn all the terminology and get a lot of reps, it really becomes easy," Leon added. "You just have to stay focused out there for the whole practice."

After a clearly sub-par effort during Wednesday's scrimmage, Harris thought his unit came out and "won" on Saturday.

The defense would have had a fumble return for a touchdown on Saturday when linebacker Jerry Franklin scooped up a loose ball and took off running to the end zone before the coaches blew the whistle to move on to the next play.

"Being a defensive player, I would like to think that we won today, but the offense definitely did come up and keep playing hard," Harris said. "Defensively, all we can worry about is defense right now. Even if the offense doesn't score a point (in a game), we just want to take it upon ourselves to get a pick six or a fumble recovery for a touchdown. We want to win regardless of what the offense does."

The defense was very impressive in its run stoppage, limiting the offense from getting that facet of its game going throughout most of the scrimmage.

"We definitely fit our gaps today," Harris said, "and we were very run sound, which forced them to put the ball in the air a little more than they wanted to. We start making plays on ground and then start making plays in the air and we can start frustrating offenses. That's when it will get fun defensively."

Leon agreed the defense played much better on Saturday.

"We did much, much better than we did Wednesday," Leon said. "We kind of lazed up on Wednesday, but we came out there showing we could be a good defense today."

Leon was also intrigued by how the locker room was before the scrimmage as opposed to before a practice.

"It was like game day, like we were about to go play Georgia," Leon said. "Everybody was quiet, everybody was focused and when we got out here, we just got hyped up. Everybody was ready to execute."

Harris said the young guys learn how different it is up here on the college level in terms of preparing.

"Those young guys they come in from high school and they were the all-stars and they kind of get to go out and relax in high school," Harris said. "But up here, it's game day even when we scrimmage against each other because they is a high powered offense we go against out there and we can't mess around with it. The same thing for the offense goes against our defense. We both try to get our minds right before the game like we were just going to play Georgia."

Both Harris and Leon were looking to being off their feet on Sunday as Arkansas hits the weight and film room instead of the practice field for the first time in 10 days.

"A lot of people think physically we are beat down and we are, but I would like to just get away and not put the cleats on for a day and the pads on and just get in and study film and act like a normal human being for a day and not have to worry about my checks and coverages," Harris said. "It's going to be a huge, huge difference in how we take care of our bodies tonight and get off our feet."

Matt Harris

Anthony Leon

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