Four Downs: Carr Showing Presence at Middle Linebacker


1. Carr Showing ‘Presence’ At MLB

Chris Ash’s explanation on how Daunte Carr ended up at middle linebacker this spring isn’t exactly an inspiring tale.

Simply put, the Razorbacks didn’t have many options as they tried to put players in various positions before practices began.

“We had to put somebody there, you know?” Ash said. “He happened to be the biggest (linebacker), so we put him in the middle and we let him go.”

Ash isn’t concerned with how Carr got there, though. He’s happy Carr is still there.

Arkansas wrapped up its 14th practice of the spring and will move into Saturday’s Red-White Game with Carr working with the first-team defense at one of its most critical position. It’s one of the spring’s biggest surprises considering Carr, who came to Arkansas as a safety, hasn’t produced much at any position in his career.

But when Arkansas was analyzing players during offseason conditioning drills, Ash said Carr’s abilities fit what they were looking for in a middle linebacker. So they lined him up there when practice began and Ash said he has “risen to the top.”

“He has shown a presence out there at the mike linebacker position,” Ash said after Thursday’s practice. “He is communicating better. He’s trying to become a student of the game. He’s becoming a more physical linebacker. All those things are making him better and they’re making us better. If you don’t have a mike linebacker right down the middle of the defense you’re going to be in trouble.”

Carr has held on to the first-team spot this spring while Robert Atiga is working with the second team. Austin Jones also has earned some work in the middle.

The three are part of an inexperienced group across the board. In addition to Carr, Braylon Mitchell and Jarrett Lake will scrimmage with the starters Saturday. None of the three have seen significant action in their time as Razorbacks.

So Ash said it’s a big day for Carr and the rest of the group, which remains one of the Razorbacks’ biggest question marks because of its inexperience.

“We've got three guys right now with the ones that haven't played really in a game,” Ash said of the first-team group. “I don't know how they're going to respond in a game. Hopefully, Saturday will give us a little better indication.”

2. SEC Ready? Not Yet

Ash believes his group has shown steady improvement through 14 practices.

But he didn’t want to be too complimentary of the group Thursday.

“We’ve made a ton of improvement,” Ash said. “Now, I don’t want you to mistake that as, ‘Hey we’re ready to play an SEC game,’ or we’re any good. But we’ve made a lot of improvement from where we were. Am I pleased with that? Yeah.”

Ash said one key to the defense’s improvement has been its ability to stay healthy this spring. The first-team group hasn’t changed much throughout 14 practices, which has given all 11 players a chance to improve their chemistry.

“They're creating some chemistry with each other,” Ash said. “There's some confidence this guy is trusting the guy next to me, with the D-line, the linebackers and the secondary. And that's very important. I think if you're shuffling guys in and out all the time, you're not going to create that continuity you need to be good.”

Defensive end Chris Smith agreed with Ash, saying Arkansas isn’t close to being a finished product as the spring ends. But the Razorbacks are eager to display what improvement they have made during the Red-White Game on Saturday.

“People want to see how much better we’ve gotten and I feel like we’ve gotten better on both sides of the ball,” Smith said. “So it’s going to be a show.”

3. Counting on Kickers

Arkansas hasn’t divulged much of its plan for the Red-White game other than the fact the first-team offense and defense will scrimmage against each other during the first half. But Ash did unveil on intriguing wrinkle after Thursday’s practice.

The defense will be at a disadvantage on the scoreboard since the Razorbacks won’t divide into two separate teams. But Arkansas’ kickers can help them.

“Coach (Bret Bielema) will have some things set up between quarters where we’ll have a field goal challenge,” Ash said. “Every field goal that a kicker makes, it goes on as a defensive point. So there’s a chance for us to score based on how the kickers do.

“So they better do good.”

4. Dyer Seeking Third Chance

Former Little Rock Christian and Auburn running back Michael Dyer is looking for a third chance at playing college football. And Dyer said in an interview with a Little Rock television station he’s hoping it will come at Arkansas.

Dyer, in an interview with KTHV-TV, said it would be a dream to come back to play with the Razorbacks. He has not played football in more than a year after leaving Auburn following the 2011 season. Dyer transferred to Arkansas State to play for former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, but was dismissed after a state trooper reportedly found evidence of marijuana in his car during a traffic stop.

Dyer has spent the past year at Arkansas Baptist College and is reportedly on schedule to graduate this spring. Dyer’s uncle told AL.com the running back — who ran for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman and sophomore at Auburn — was supposed to visit with TCU in early April. He is expected to announce his plans soon, but there is no indication Arkansas plans to add Dyer to its roster for 2013.

“If I was given the chance, I would definitely do the best that I can for (Arkansas) and for the coaches and for the fans,” Dyer said in an interview with KTHV-TV. “To be able to play at home, I think any kid would love that dream to come back home and start over and play at home. But I’m just, you know, sitting here, I’m going to play it out and I’m going to let God do the rest for me.”

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau