Arkansas freshman D.J. Dean doesn’t miss playing quarterback.
He simply considered himself the “guy for the job” at Newton (Texas) High.
“I had a little bit of an arm,” Dean said. “I got to throw the ball a little bit.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Dean loves his new role on with the Razorbacks’ defense, though. Dean has worked his way onto the Arkansas depth chart in his first few weeks of preseason camp enough to be labeled by coach Bret Bielema as one of the 10 true freshmen he expects to play right away in 2013.
Dean is in the mix at cornerback, although one of his primary duties now appears to be as an extra defensive back in Arkansas’ nickel defense. It’s a role he’s looking forward to as the Razorbacks inch closer to the season.
“You get to blitz a lot and get in there and get on the quarterback,” Collins said.
Arkansas cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said the freshman is still learning. Doing his job on a consistent basis remains an obvious work in progress. But Johnson said the former quarterback is making the most of his home on defense this preseason.
“One thing, he is a smart kid,” Johnson said. “He will hit you and he’s not afraid and that’s always a prerequisite.”
Arkansas freshman Brooks Ellis revealed another shuffle to the linebacker rotation after Thursday’s practice.
He has moved from middle linebacker to the weak side, working with the second-team defense. Sophomore Otha Peters has gone from the weak side back to the middle, where he started the final three games of the 2012 season.
“Just kind of moved me around, seeing what I play best,” Ellis said.
Junior college transfer Martrell Spaight now is working with the second-team defense at strong side linebacker. The three are behind the starting unit of Austin Jones (MLB), Braylon Mitchell (SLB) and Jarrett Lake (WLB).
“It’s coming along pretty well,” Spaight said about his transition. “I’m just taking my time and learning from the first team Sam, which is Braylon Mitchell, and picking up pointers from him and it’s going pretty well.”
Freshmen quarterbacks Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell didn’t get many snaps during the only practice open to the media last Saturday. But Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said both are “hanging together” in their second week.
“Their heads are spinning like all freshman quarterbacks are,” Chaney said. “Each one of them learns a couple of things and the other one learns a couple and they kind of blend it together. But I’m pleased with both of them.
“They bring a different skill set, both those kids do, but I like them. They’re good young men, they’re competing hard, they love the position and they have a passion for the game. So I don’t know why they won’t be successful.”
Gaines still missing?
It sounds as if starting safety Rohan Gaines is still sidelined by a knee injury.
Johnson was asked if Gaines practiced during the closed workout and responded by saying “ask the trainers.” He did say Gaines — who injured his knee during Arkansas’ first practice last Saturday — remains in “unbelievable spirits.”
“When you are injured, as long as your spirits are up you are apt to get back out there quicker,” Johnson said.