Inexperienced veterans Deon Edwards, Andrew Parker add depth at linebacker for Arkansas Razorbacks
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Inexperienced veterans add depth at LB

Deon Edwards (22) and Andrew Parker (28) received praise from Sam Pittman after Thursday's practice.
Deon Edwards (22) and Andrew Parker (28) received praise from Sam Pittman after Thursday's practice. (Arkansas Athletics)

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FAYETTEVILLE — One of Sam Pittman’s biggest concerns coming out of Arkansas’ first scrimmage of camp was linebacker play.

In the two weeks since, the first-year coach has been encouraged by how the position has looked in practice and it resulted in a much better second scrimmage last week.

A big reason for the improvement is the play of fifth-year senior Deon Edwards and redshirt sophomore Andrew Parker. The tandem has kept it going into this week and were among the standouts in Thursday night’s practice.

“Parker and Edwards have really made a ton of strides in the last 12, 13 practices,” Pittman said. “I’m really proud of them. They’re physical kids. So those guys kind of stood out a little bit tonight.”

Despite having already been with the Razorbacks for a combined six years, fans haven’t seen much of Edwards and Parker on the field during their careers.

After redshirting in 2016, Edwards - a three-star prospect from Florida who originally came to Fayetteville as a safety - has played just 41 total snaps over the last three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.

Parker, a two-star recruit from New Orleans, didn’t get any action on defense during his redshirt year and then played just 73 total defensive snaps last season.

That lack of experience is likely why it’s taken some time for both players to develop and come along in practice, Pittman said.

“What they're doing now, they haven't played much ball, so they're seeing the pulling guard, they're seeing the tight end go backside,” Pittman said. “They're seeing that so much better now. They're not playing such a lateral game. I mean, they're coming downhill.”

Although Pittman acknowledged that senior Hayden Henry (317 career snaps) had a solid practice Thursday and that the “other fellas” like junior Bumper Pool (909 snaps) and fifth-year senior Grant Morgan (490 snaps) are doing well, the emergence of Edwards and Pool could be critical for depth at the position.

“Both of them have good size - of course, (Edwards) has got more speed than Parker, but Parker's got more size and is a little bit more of a big, physical guy,” Pittman said. “They're just seeing the game better. Coach (Rion) Rhoades is doing a nice job coaching them.”

Oklahoma graduate transfer Levi Draper, a former four-star recruit, also figures to factor into the discussion at linebacker, especially after receiving some praise from Pittman following Friday’s scrimmage. He was even spotted playing beside Parker on the first-team defense during a brief viewing period for the media Thursday night.

However, most of the first-year coach’s attention Thursday was on Parker and Edwards for what he felt was a really good practice and dramatic improvement from earlier in camp.

“They want to be really good and that's a big part of anybody becoming a good player,” Pittman said. “I really like their attitude, and they're seeing the game so much faster than they were even a week ago.”