FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas lost a pair of talented linebackers in Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool, but they have added transfer Antonio Grier and some freshmen to mix in with returning players.
Grier, 6-1, 228, is a redshirt senior who transferred to Arkansas from the University of South Florida. Grier was heavily recruited when he entered the transfer portal, but Travis Williams’ move to Arkansas helped attract him to Fayetteville. Grier has absolutely no regrets about heading to Arkansas.
“Man, it has been nothing but a blessing,” Grier said. “My faith brought me here. I’m just grateful to be here. I’m having fun. I’m not even gonna lie to you. I’ve been having so much fun just being around the team. The team brought me in as a transfer and not treating me as an outsider. Treating me like family to be honest. I’m so close to some of these guys around here. Talk to them every day and they help me out. Trying to figure out my way throughout campus or school or whatever it may be. I’m having fun and grateful to be here.”
As it turns out though it was much more than Williams that led to Grier choosing the Hogs. Among the reasons was KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders.
“I looked at the offense,” Grier said. “I looked at the offense and they’re gonna score some points this year. I saw the guys they had, quarterback and running back, and I was like, ‘man they’re gonna score some points.’ I think we’ve got the best running back, quarterback combo in college football this year. I wholeheartedly believe that. This team believes that.
“I ain’t gonna lie to you. Just that and my faith brought me here. I didn’t want to block any blessings. I’m so grateful for T-Will giving me the opportunity and Coach (Sam) Pittman and this team bringing me along and treating me like family. That’s probably one of the greatest things I could have asked for coming here.”
Grier has seen some first-team work with Chris “Pooh” Paul, Jordan Crook and others.
“Just fun,” Grier said. “I’ve been running with the 1s, 2s. Coach has done a tremendous job just rotating us not letting us play just not with everybody in the same group. We play with everybody. We rotate the 1s, 2s and 3s. They rotate us a lot. One thing they want to know how much we can communicate no matter who is on the field with us. They want to know if we know our stuff. I think that’s the main reason they’re showing and putting us in with different people. Running with the 1s is fun, but just running with God in general and just being here. I’m just grateful to be here.”
Grier showed his maturity and leadership ability when asked what he brings to the linebacker room different than the others.
“I’ve played a lot of ball,” Grier said. “There’s no on-the-field or off-the-field stuff. I’ve played a lot of ball. I’ve seen a lot of things, a lot of schemes, been in a lot of schemes, so I’ve been around college football for a while. It’s my leadership skills. I told the guys like Jordan and I told Pooh, ‘This is y’all’s room. I know how it is for a transfer to come in and try to take over your room. I’m not coming here to do that. I’m coming here to be a part of this team, be a part of this linebacker room, and I’ll help where I need to.’ I didn’t want to step on toes.
“I didn’t want to do too much. I just wanted to become a part of this team. With that, me telling them that, they accepted me wholeheartedly. We’ve been building the best bond that I could ask for — not just the linebacker room; the defense as a whole. There’s no linebackers, there’s no D-line, there’s no DBs. We’re all just kicking it all together and have fun altogether. And that’s really it.”
Grier likes the depth the Hogs have at linebacker. Even after losing two such as Pool and Sanders the position could be one of the strengths of the team.
“It’s going to be something serious,” Grier said. “I’m going to tell you now, it’s going to be something serious. Our whole room is just dogs from the freshmen to the top to the bottom. They’re just straight dogs, especially the freshman that came in, Carson Dean and those guys. They came in rocking out. A lot of us, the coaches rotate us a lot — run with the 1s, run with the 2s, run with the 3s, run with whoever. I appreciate that, because that lets me know that, ‘Hey, you don’t got no room to slack. You ain’t got no time to come to practice and take a day off.’ There’s none of that. We’re coming in every day and we’re working and grinding. We’re competing with each other. It ain’t no, ‘Oh, I’m better than you.’ You better go prove it every day. That’s just a mindset that we come up with.
“But man, Mani, Pooh, Crook, all of us. I just appreciate so much how they just accepted me to the room. Not only that, just the defense, the guys that’s here that have been here for a while just accepted me as who I am for who I am. That’s all I can be grateful for. I’m just grateful to be here. I’m more than grateful for those guys accepting me the way they did.”
It wasn’t that long ago Arkansas would play two linebackers and they were usually very tired by the game. The coach at that time didn’t substitute much for whatever reason. That all changed when Pittman came in and hired coaches such as Williams and Michael Scherer to coach the linebackers.
“I really don’t know what that feels like to be honest with you,” Grier said of being somewhat fresh late in the game. “I don’t know. I ain’t really never felt that before, so that’d be new to me. For sure, it’d be new. Even just going through our practices, rotating, doing the whole deal. Just teach me that I got to know my stuff. May have got coming to me, may or may not know, but I know I’ve got to know my stuff. So that’s the main reason why we’ve got to rotate. We’ve got to communicate. From the D-line, to the linebackers to the DBs. Just the whole defense. Just got to communicate, just big time. Mainly, our coaches tell us to have fun. I don’t care if you’re wrong, if you’re right, better be flying to that ball, better have fun. So, that’s that’s really it.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Saturday morning.