One of the surprises through the first half of spring practice has been the accelerated development of freshman safety Ross Rasner.
The Waco, Texas, native spent most of his true freshman season on special teams, recording 11 tackles in 11 games played. This spring, however, Rasner has jumped ahead of the pack at the free safety position, taking over first-team duties from Anthony Leon last week.
"Ross has an opportunity to contribute and be a player for us," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's very physical, runs downhill well and tackles well."
Rasner's ability to play the run has impressed coaches most, Petrino said, though both he and Leon have struggled some in the passing game.
"He's got to do a little better job of understanding run-pass reads so he defends the pass a little bit better," Petrino said. "Right now he's probably ahead against the run with his ability to come downhill and tackle. He just needs to make sure he's more disciplined in his keys."
Junior cornerback Rudell Crim, who came in with Rasner last summer at Arkansas, said he has been surprised how quick the 6-foot, 208-pounder has caught on.
"Ross has grown a lot more than I thought he would, to be honest," Crim said. "For him to come into the college level and have a playbook that's probably 10 times bigger than his high school playbook, but also to come in willing to learn from the older guys, that's what has caught us older guys' attention. We make sure that we've stuck with him so he can turn into what he's capable of being.
"He's made major progress. It was a matter of him getting a chance of playing with the twos and then rolling up to the ones to see how he reacts and plays with them. He messes up here and there but we don't have to teach him more than once. I think he's catching on pretty well and I'm pretty proud of him."
Aside from his gains in the weight room, Rasner said his progression watching film has been the biggest jump since the fall.
"Getting out there seeing it for the first time, you can just react a lot better seeing the plays that are coming by watching film," Rasner said.
Rasner said gains off the field have been important, too, and found out how much so when being moved to first team.
"I've gotten to know all the guys on the team better and it's helped us on the field," Rasner said. "It's a lot more intense and a lot more upbeat. Getting to communicate with those guys that have played together for so long is a good feeling."
Rasner Learning Quick
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