Arkansas linebacker Gabe Richardson brings spark to Hogs

Arkansas-football-Gabe Richardson

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas outside linebacker Gabe Richardson isn’t a refined player. He’s a raw talent with tons of room for improvement.

What he does bring is something the entire Arkansas defense needs to emulate in order to improve from last season: relentless effort.

Richardson has it in abundance. When he’s on the field, he never stops. He proved as much last Thursday in Arkansas’ season-opening 49-7 win over Florida A&M.

Early in the second half, the Rattlers called for a swing screen pass to the running back. The back made the catch in the flat on the opposite side of the field from where Richardson was lined up. The play was well read by defensive end T.J. Smith, who met the ball carrier near the line of scrimmage and was poised to stop him for a minimal game. As Smith wrapped him up, Richardson came flying in to deliver a hit that knocked the ball loose. Cornerback Henre’ Toliver scooped it up and ran 18 yards for a touchdown.

Considering the opponent, it wasn’t a game-changing play. Even without the forced fumble, Smith would’ve made the tackle for almost no gain and Arkansas would’ve still cruised to a lopsided victory over the Rattlers.

But the play signifies much more than that. It’s what the Hogs need if they’re to avoid surrendering an FBS-worst 39 rushing touchdowns as they did a season ago.

Against Florida A&M, it’s a forced fumble and touchdown. Against Alabama, Auburn or LSU, that sort of effort might keep a 15-yard gain from becoming a 50-yard touchdown run. Those are the plays that can quietly decide games.

“Great effort,” defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said of Richardson’s play. “And certainly it wasn’t that singular play. Gabe Richardson gave us tremendous effort on both special teams and defensively.”

Richardson was, and in many ways still is, a wild card for the Razorbacks this season. A junior college transfer in the 2017 signing class from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, he’s not likely to earn a starting role. Randy Ramsey is entrenched at the “Razor” outside linebacker spot. Dwayne Eugene Jr. isn’t close to being supplanted at the “Hog” — the other outside linebacker position.

Still, Richardson is a welcome presence. Backup linebackers have hardly been playing for Arkansas the past two season, much less forcing turnovers. He can give Ramsey and Eugene a needed breather. He can also be a key contributor on special teams, another area where the Hogs could use some improvement.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Rhoads said of Richardson. “He’s not to the point that he’s a clean player yet. By that, I mean that he’s not mistake free, but he plays hard. That kind of effort showed up and created a touchdown for us.”

Richardson might not master the Hogs’ defensive scheme this season, and it’s unlikely his name will make any All-SEC teams. But he’s exactly the type of player Arkansas needs in order to succeed.

The post Arkansas linebacker Gabe Richardson brings spark to Hogs appeared first on SEC Country.

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