Now Harrison, who was Arkansas’ first true freshman starter since Greg Lasker in 1982, is planning to make an impression at another position.
New defensive coordinator Reggie Herring shifted Harrison to defensive tackle, where he’ll make his debut when the Hogs kick off spring practice March 28. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder will help juniors Jeremy Harrell and Keith Jackson fill the void left in the interior after three-year starter Arrion Dixon’s departure.
“I played it before (at Little Rock Mills High and Hargrave Military Academy), but it’s still going to be new,” Harrison said. “It’s going to be a learning experience and hopefully I can just fit in. Some plays we called last year I would get down in there in the defensive tackle spot and played there in the inside a little bit.
“It’s going to be all right. I don’t think it will be too hard for me, really.”
Harrison is one of several players that switched positions this winter. Linebackers Desmond Sims, Darren Rogers and Zach Snider moved to defensive end, while safeties D’Nerian Wrighter and Desmond Williams went to linebacker.
Harrison was tied with Harrell for ninth on the team in tackles last season. He also recovered a fumble against Georgia and returned it for a touchdown. He’ll be counted on as an interior force in a defense that relies on speed at defensive end.
“To play the defensive line you’ve got to be tough,” Harrison said. “But as far as playing defensive tackle, I think you’ve got to be tougher and more aggressive because you’re taking on double teams and triple teams all the time. You’ve got to be able to use your hands and have good technique.”
Harrison, who is in his first winter as a Razorback, admitted Arkansas’ offseason conditioning program -- known as “fourth quarter” -- was more than he expected. Harrison broke down during one of the early morning workouts, but learned from the experience and coach Houston Nutt said he has improved since the struggle.
“He had one bad day, but he made it through, he came back,” Nutt said. “That’s what this fourth quarter does. It breaks you down. It’s not for the timid and weak.
“I have a lot of confidence in Marcus. He’s not there yet, but his attitude and want to is there.”
Former Pulaski Academy and LSU linebacker Matt Stoltz is one step closer to being eligible after being granted permission to play in 2005 by the NCAA last week.
Stoltz originally signed a letter of intent with the Tigers and spent the 2004 season as a redshirt freshman. He transferred to Arkansas after the season to be closer to his father, who has had health problems.
Under NCAA rules, athletes that transfer from a Division I program to another must sit out one season. But Arkansas senior associate athletic director Derrick Gragg said Stoltz received special consideration because of his family situation.
Gragg said Stoltz still must be cleared to play by the Southeastern Conference, which has a similar one-year rule for athletes that transfer from another program. It should be nothing more than a formality because of the NCAA’s decision.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Stoltz should provide Arkansas with depth at linebacker next season. He compiled 355 career tackles at Pulaski Academy.
New South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has had to do a little house cleaning after being hired to replace former coach Lou Holtz this winter.
Spurrier dismissed leading rusher Demetris Summers earlier this month after the tailback violated athletic department policy. He also suspended defensive linemen Moe Thompson and Kevin Mainord, who were arrested after allegedly breaking into at least one dorm room and taking several items. Spurrier has said both players will be dismissed if the charges prove true.
Last Wednesday, receiver David Smith was arrested on several charges, including criminal domestic violence and first-degree burglary. Smith became the ninth South Carolina player from the 2004 team arrested since the season ended.
Nutt said the off-the-field problems at South Carolina aren’t necessarily uncommon for a program under a new regime.
“It’s a new coach, a new program, a new system,” Nutt said earlier this month. “(Spurrier’s) going to put a stamp on it and there’s going to be some people fall to the wayside. There’s going to be some people that test that system. They’re not used to doing things his way, they’re used to doing things the other way.
“I have enough of my own so I don’t worry about (South Carolina) much, but that’s what you’re seeing.”
Nutt recently was tabbed as the SEC’s most underrated coach by Collegefootballnews.com as part of its 2005 spring preview. The Web site said Nutt “consistently gets more out of his kids” than any other coach in the SEC and added “his talent is never up to par with the conference elite, but that hasn’t kept him from appearing in six bowl games in seven seasons in Fayetteville.”
Collegefootballnews.com also named Spurrier the SEC’s best coach, Georgia’s Mark Richt the most overrated and Kentucky’s Rich Brooks as the coach on the hot seat. Also, former Arkansas and current Alabama coach Joe Kines was recognized by the Web site as the SEC’s best defensive coordinator.