FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Gabe Richardson is the lone senior left at defensive end until Jamario Bell is able to return from a knee injury.
Arkansas started the season with three seniors at end, but then Dorian Gerald was lost for the season in the opener. In two games, Richardson is third on the team in tackles with 10. He has two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He is now flanked by three true freshmen at defensive end. He talked about his message to them and sophomore David Porter.
“Just be positive,” Richardson said. “They aren’t looking for anybody to be in their face and telling them what to do and how to do it. You’ve just got to show them. You’ve got to be positive. You’ve got to continue to bring that energy and juice. Otherwise they aren’t going to do it as well. These guys are 19, 20. I came in with David (Porter) even as a juco transfer. David is experienced but these guys need positivity.”
True freshman Mataio Soli started the Ole Miss game and with Bell likely out again he probably gets the start against Colorado State. Richardson talked about what he has seen from Soli.
“Maturity,” Richardson said. “Maturity. I told him you have to grow quick. I told him that when he first got here. Soli is from Atlanta, like myself. I was always telling him about the dream we had about doing this and being great. I told him he was going to be a freshman All-American and his stature was going to build and we’d continue to hold him to our standard.”
Soli acknowledges that Richardson has helped him and the freshmen this year.
“All of us have really grasped the concept of what we had to do,” Soli said. “Gabe is like, since we got here in the summertime and back when I got here in the spring, he helped us understand the plays and get the playbook faster. Gabe, Dorian, Jamario, they all helped us. It was a team effort.”
How big a leader is Gabe for the freshmen?
“He’s a great leader for all of us,” Soli said. “He always picks us up. If we mess up, he’s always there. He tells us what we did wrong. He always tries to keep our head in the right position.”
Richardson talked about how Soli did in his first collegiate start this past Saturday.
“He was a little nervous come the jump,” Richardson said. “He was at Ole Miss with his Pop was actually coaching there when he was younger. So he was happy for him to be there. But once he got those jitters out he played fast. He continued to be better and just buy into the system. You are going to make plays regardless.”
How about Collin Clay and Zach Williams?
“Collin Clay,” Richardson said. “That boy’s a man. That boy’s big, 6-5, 290. He’s powerful. Zach Williams is super fast and one of the most athletic guys on the field. Those guys continue to bind with the playbook and know exactly what they’re doing and they are going to make plays. They are going to be just comfortable.”
Richardson also knows the need to get Porter and Eric Gregory, a fourth true freshman, ready to go as well.
“Eric has a mix of speed and power,” Richardson said. “For him to be about 270, he’s going to continue be there whenever we need him. He and David Porter.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields today at 4:30 as they prepare for Saturday’s game against Colorado State. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. and it will be televised on the SEC Network.