Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

OPINION >> Searcy’s Dacus coming on strong for Hogs

Leader sports columnist

FAYETTEVILLE — Sometimes last spring it seemed Reggie Herring shorted the Razorbacks a scholarship.

The Arkansas defensive coordinator/linebacker coach would expound after the early spring practices about the Razorbacks having all walkons behind linebackers Freddie Fairchild, Desmond Sims and Sam Olajubutu until the freshman cavalry officially rides in come August.

“Uh, coach, Weston Dacus is on scholarship, too.”

Nobody makes that omission now. None have since mid-spring. The junior two-year letterman from Searcy really came on with a rush, Herring and head coach Houston Nutt both remarked.

“He cut loose,” Nutt said last week. “It’s like suddenly he stopped thinking and just started playing and making plays. I was really proud of Weston Dacus.”

He was proud, and relieved, too. Relieved because if the Razorbacks opened the season against Southern California tomorrow instead of Sept. 2, the once-forgotten man would be a one-man second-team. He’d be the backup both for Sims in the middle and Olajubutu and Fairchild on either side.

The Razorbacks have promising freshman linebacking help on the way with scholarship signees Adrian Davis, Rosenberg, Texas; Wendel Davis, Sweeny, Texas; Chip Gregory, Allen, Texas; Ryan Powers, Athens, Ala. and Van Stumon, North Little Rock, in the fold. But counting early on freshmen is like betting your future on a roulette wheel’s spin.

The odds are not stacked in your favor.

Just go back to last year with Freddie Fairchild. Fairchild became a good player as last season went on, and Herring and Nutt firmly believe he will become a great one.

But when the former Little Rock Central star, with an extra year of prep school seasoning at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, debuted as a starter in Los Angeles three games into the season against Southern California, he looked more lost in L.A. than the Beverly Hillbillies first driving into town. Not that Fairchild was the Lone Ranger looking lost in the 70-17 debacle against Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Lendale White and Co., but the Trojans certainly exploited him as good teams do against a rookie.
By the season’s end, Fairchild was doing plenty of exploiting with 59 tackles, including two sacks, and a pass deflection and three quarterback hurries. He may perch on stardom now.

“Freddie Fairchild put on 18 pounds of muscle since last year.” Nutt said. “He got better each day.”

So did Dacus once he turned it around starting the second week of spring drills.”

That’s huge news for Arkansas needing a seasoned linebacking hand in reserve.

Dacus’ 2005 campaign tends to get overlooked because he opened the season as a starter but was quickly replaced in the middle by Pierre Brown and Clarke Moore and also stymied on the depth chart by Fairchild’s development.

However, Dacus’ 2005 was not in vain. Appearing in all 11 games, he had 26 tackles, including one and a half sacks, broke up a pass, was credited with two quarterback hurries and forced a fumble. Dacus was a mainstay in the kicking game.

“He was our leading tackler on special teams,” Nutt said.

So the forgotten man perhaps never was all that forgotten. Mark it down. The Razorback coaches know they return four scholarship linebackers from 2005 to 2006.