The sophomore also is shouldering the load as one of the pace setters of new coordinator Reggie Herring’s high-energy defense. This summer, he’s tackling the challenge of trimming 20 pounds off his 295-pound frame. At the same time, he has been one of the program’s best ambassadors, becoming a self-proclaimed “big brother” to incoming freshman defensive lineman Marcus Shavers.
Harrison has loads of responsibilities even though he hasn’t been on Arkansas’ campus for an entire year. But that didn’t stop him from asking coach Houston Nutt this spring if he could add one more responsibility next season: Team captain.
“I asked, ‘Have you ever had a captain that wasn’t a senior,’” Harrison said. “That’s just the role I want to have on my shoulders.”
The chances of Harrison being named a team captain as a sophomore aren’t likely. Since Nutt’s arrival in 1998, Arkansas’ captains have always been battle-tested seniors like Clint Stoerner, Tony Bua, George Wilson and Quinton Caver.
This season, the Razorbacks’ 20-member senior class includes linebacker Pierre Brown, center Kyle Roper, running back De’Arrius Howard, safety Vickiel Vaughn, fullback Brandon Kennedy and linebacker Sam Olajubutu.
But Nutt won’t rule it out. He said Harrison’s determination is impressive.
“I respected that,” Nutt said. “I never had (a sophomore) ask me that before. It has always been the seniors. But we’ll go through two-a-days and see what happens.
“It shows his hunger. He does feel like he can lead this team and lead by example.”
Harrison started earning respect last season, holding a starting spot at defensive end opposite Jeb Huckeba in 2004. The true freshman was ninth on the team in tackles (31), recorded 2 1/2 tackles for losses and scooped up a fumble and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown in Arkansas’ 20-14 loss to Georgia.
If nothing else, he’ll be counted on to help lead a group of defensive linemen that includes juniors Jeremy Harrell, Keith Jackson and Desmond Sims, sophomore Jamaal Anderson and redshirt freshman Zach Snider next season.
“That’s the one thing that coach Herring has stressed,” Harrison said. “He needs a leader. He needs more than one leader, but they want me to be the bell cow of the defense. That’s something this summer that I’m going to work hard to achieve.”
It might not help Harrison become one of Arkansas’ captains next season.
But Nutt is confident Harrison will earn that role before his Arkansas career ends.
“I think they’ll look to Marcus next year even though he’s young,” Nutt said. “We put a lot on him. He gives back and he doesn’t mind and that’s what you love.
“He will eventually (be a captain). If not next year, he will be soon.”
Butch On Campus
Nutt welcomed another high-profile guest to campus last week: Former Miami Hurricanes and Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis.
Davis wasn’t in town to deliver a pep talk like former South Carolina and Arkansas coach Lou Holtz and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who spoke with coaches and players in March. Instead, Nutt led Davis on a facilities tour that included the expanded stadium, new weight room and practice fields.
“He hadn’t seen our facilities and he hadn’t been back in so long,” Nutt said of the Arkansas alum. “He hadn’t seen the stadium or the weight room and just wanted to come say, ‘Hello.’”
The coaches have known each other since 1979, when Davis was an assistant at Oklahoma State under coach Jimmy Johnson and Nutt played quarterback. Nutt was hired as an Oklahoma State graduate assistant in 1981 and Davis left two years later to join Johnson as an assistant with the Miami Hurricanes.
Herring also worked as an Oklahoma State graduate assistant in 1981.
The Razorbacks got a chance to show off some speed for pro scouts during their timing day last week.
Scouts come to Fayetteville each spring to evaluate Arkansas’ senior class and, while on campus, test the rest of the Hogs. In all, Nutt said 22 players ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds or better on the Walker Indoor Pavilion’s track surface.
Defensive backs Darius Vinnett, Rick Culbert, John Johnson and receiver Shedrick Johnson ran the 40 in a team-best 4.3 seconds. Other notables include receiver Cedric Washington (4.37), tailback De’Arrius Howard (4.4) and receiver Marcus Monk (4.5).
“We had some good times,” Nutt said. “They were burning it.”
Nutt said there could’ve been more, but a few Razorbacks weren’t timed because of minor injuries or other obligations. Running back Peyton Hillis, quarterback Robert Johnson and defensive backs Michael Grant, Chris Houston, Vickiel Vaughn, Dallas Washington and Desmond Williams didn’t participate.