FAYETTEVILLE — Much of the talk surrounding Arkansas this preseason is the increased depth and Barry Odom agrees with that.
At linebacker thought Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry are super seniors while Bumper Pool is a senior. Those three have gotten the bulk of the action in recent seasons. But now Odom feels the depth is improved beyond that trio.
“Absolutely,” Odom said. “You look at DeDe Edwards and Andrew Parker and then the three that you mentioned. Chris Paul is really making a push. There’s a number of guys that… I don’t know if all of those guys I mentioned are game ready yet, but also they’re really close. My challenge for our staff, defensively and our team, is we’ve got another push here to make before we’re really ready to go kick it off. Our guys understand the urgency of what we need to do to get there, but there’s real competition and again, I think you look Hayden, you look at Grant, you look at Bumper, DeDe, Andrew Parker, there’s (Jackson) Woodard, there’s guys that are going to roll in and play.
“You look at the number of snaps that you play throughout a game with kicking involved and all those things, well is Grant Morgan – at play No. 47 – is that level, is it something we need to get him a break and get somebody else in the game. Your quote-unquote twos, they better be game ready because you’re a play away from being the full-time starter. Mike’s done a nice job with those guys and again, I think another year in the system and understanding the terminology and how they need to play, but also the way that the fits are now with the defensive line and the job that Coach (Jermial) Ashley’s done up front with those guys, they understand it. They’re able to play a little faster.”
It appears that at times Henry is running first team with Morgan and then Pool with the second unit. Has Henry moved ahead of Pool?
“We’ve done a rotation with really all three of those guys,” Odom said. “If we had to name a starter today, I’d list three of them because I don’t know how we’d… Depending on what personnel package we’d start on what two guys run out there.”
Michael Scherer is set to coach his first season with the linebackers at Arkansas. He played for Odom at Missouri and the defensive coordinator feels the linebackers are in very good hands.
“Yeah, he’s been, we’ve been together now for uh quite a while.” Odom said. “We’ve been through battles together and the way that he has coached and he understands the system and the scheme. And don’t tell him too much. He was a great player but he can’t handle that. So don’t brag on him too much. That wasn’t because he was such a great athlete. He had some athletic skills but he was a great player in this conference because he prepared, he understood the scheme and played with tremendous grit.
“Those things, I believe in playing the linebacker position —yes, you’ve got to have qualities physically on how to play that spot. But if you will be really, really invested in how to play that position you can have success. And he’s been able to, in a short time, get those guys in the right spots playing fast and he’s got a really good group to work with as well.”