Every Down Man

Can Jerico Nelson play every down? He thinks his body and mind are ready for more action in this Arkansas defense.

Jerico Nelson wants to be an every down man. Willy Robinson is tired of telling him he's anything but that.

Nelson got in plenty of snaps last year, but wasn't on the field too much in the Liberty Bowl because the East Carolina smashmouth style on offense required Arkansas match it with three bigger linebackers.

Nelson played safety as a true freshman, then what was termed the "jack" linebacker as a sophomore, kind of a hybrid safety/linebacker slot. He's getting a chance to play in the base this season.

"I think what I did last season was kinda my own position, not really base linebacker and not really safety," Nelson said after practice Friday. "It was a special package, probably more of a nickel or dime back.

"This year, I'm just going to be a regular old base linebacker. That's what I want and I hope it turns out that way. More plays, a bigger percentage of snaps from the overall game."

Willy Robinson, the defensive coordinator, doesn't think it will be a problem. He looks at his 5-10, 214-pound frame and thinks Nelson is big enough.

"We look at our base and think we have him covered up enough," Robinson said, noting the ends and tackles in front of the linebackers are going to require more attention from the blockers.

"I think when it comes to telling him to sit out, I don't think you can do that anymore. It would be like me telling you not to write something. You are going to write it anyway. You can't tell him he's not going to play in (base). You can't put him in there and say, 'We'll play it soft.' He's going to want to be physical on every play."

Nelson likes what he's hearing from coaches, but he isn't convinced there is total confidence just yet. He sees the way other bigger linebackers still are getting cross trained at his spot.

"I had to show Coach (Bobby) Petrino that I could be physical in the box last spring. I think the scrimmage Saturday will be about that, too. I have to make plays out of the base. I think this is a game-like situation where they are going to be looking at me to see if I can be that physical every-down linebacker on Saturday in this scrimmage. That's my goal, prove it to them."

It isn't about being able to make a play now and then, either.

"I'm a smaller guy so they want to see if I can hold up play after play, down after down -- not be winded after a few plays," he said. "It's going to be a big day for me. I'm excited about it and know what I need to do."

It won't be easy.

"No, we don't have it easy in scrimmages," he said. "We go against great players and a great offense. But I think we've proven that our defense has come a long way this fall. I think you see us staying with them in our practices so far. Now we have to do it in this scrimmage."

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