Cam Ball Ready to Roll with Trickle-Down Effect of New Position

Cameron Ball, Cam Ball, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — Just before taking a week off for spring break, Sam Pittman hinted that Arkansas would implement a new defensive package when the team reconvened.

Sure enough, that was immediately evident when the Razorbacks opened practice inside Walker Pavilion on a frigid Tuesday morning.

Rather than having his hand in the ground, Nico Davillier was aligned as a stand-up defensive end on the first-team defense during the “fastball starts” team period at the beginning of practice. When the second unit took the field, there were only three defensive ends with linebacker Brad Spence filling in that role.

Those alignments continued throughout the practice, with Arkansas rotating between that and its base four-man front.

Speaking to reporters after practice, Davillier said the new position is called the “Buck.”

“It’s basically like a little outside linebacker but a defensive lineman,” Davillier said. “We drop in coverage, we play the run, pass rush. It’s just a stand-up end basically.”

The hybrid nature of the position makes Davillier an intriguing candidate to play it, as he’s listed at 6-foot-4, 271 pounds, but the coaching staff has always talked highly about his athleticism.

After all, he was a pretty good basketball player who played in a state championship game and he was used some as a wildcat quarterback at Maumelle High School. As a freshman at the UA, Davillier moved inside to defensive tackle for depth purposes, before shifting back to defensive end as a sophomore last year.

He’ll still play as a traditional defensive end this year, too, but the added role could allow him to showcase that athleticism.

“I like it because I get to be more versatile,” Davillier said. “I just get to help my team out a lot more than I would be probably in the 4i.”

Not lining up in the 4i — which is just inside the offensive tackle — should have a trickle-down effect, as well. It’ll space out the defensive line enough to potentially make it easier for the defensive tackles to do damage.

“It can definitely free up some one-on-ones on the inside and the interior,” defensive tackle Cameron Ball said. “It shows versatility for the inside guys as well. Just like I said, more one-on-ones in pass rush.”

Spence is probably the frontrunner to start alongside Georgia transfer Xavian Sorey Jr. in Arkansas’ base defense, but he got most of his reps Tuesday with the second unit because he primarily played the “Buck” position.

It’s a natural fit for him because he actually played quite a bit on the edge at Klein Forest High in Houston and had to lose a bit of weight to shift inside to a more traditional linebacker spot as a true freshman. Spence is now listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, which is up slightly from last season.

It’s unclear how much the package will be used in 2024, but the fact that it’s being installed in the sixth practice of spring indicates this wrinkle is certainly part of the plan for defensive coordinator Travis Williams.

The Razorbacks last employed the tactic two years ago when they occasionally used Drew Sanders – an elite pass rusher – in a stand-up rush end role.

Day 6 Spring Practice Observations

Here are a few other observations and tidbits from the Razorbacks’ sixth day of spring ball, which was indoors because of cold temperatures in Fayetteville…

  • Some good news on the injury front: Tight end Luke Hasz, who suffered a low-ankle sprain while warming up before the Thursday scrimmage just before spring break, was back at practice Tuesday and moving around like nothing happened.
  • Another tight end, Ty Washington, was back at practice after missing the start of spring as he recovered from the shoulder surgery that ended his 2023 season early. He was in a green non-contact jersey, though, and only participated in individual drills.
  • The only other player in green was freshman linebacker Justin Logan, who has been in green all spring.
  • In a 1-on-1 period, the defensive backs started out strong with several pass breakups – by Snaxx Johnson, Jaheim Singletary, Jaylon Braxton and TJ Metcalf – but the wide receivers eventually got open and made some plays themselves. Davion Dozier made a one-handed snag and Andrew Armstrong beat Braxton deep, with Malachi Singleton hitting him in stride. Cornerback Kee’yon Stewart struggled against receivers running double-move routes.
  • Tight end Var’keyes Gumms continues to stand out as a pass catcher. He consistently catches everything thrown his way. That is a stark contrast to last fall, when he got reps, but never really did anything impressive in the passing game.
  • For the most part, it was a pretty good day for the quarterbacks. These are extremely unofficial numbers and include both check-downs and dropped passes, but here’s what we have for the four scholarship quarterbacks:
    • Taylen Green: 21 for 29
    • Jacolby Criswell: 11 for 21
    • Malachi Singleton: 16 for 24, 2 INT, 1 near INT
    • KJ Jackson: 7 for 10
  • There were three total interceptions in the practice. Snaxx Johnson picked off walk-on and former baseball player Austin Ledbetter, while Brad Spence and Marquise Robinson picked off Singleton. Spence’s interception came near the goal line, while Robinson’s ended a two-minute drill. Spence nearly intercepted Singleton earlier in practice, as well.
  • Jaylon Braxton looks like he’s ready to step up and fill the shoes of Dwight McGlothern as the team’s top cornerback.
  • On the Tuesday before spring break, kicker Vito Calvaruso had a rough day in which he went just 1 for 4 on field goals. He looked significantly better on this Tuesday. Although he missed from 37 yards, he booted kicks of 46 and 52 yards. Matthew Shipley missed from 51 yards, but is still safely the leader to be the starting kicker. He was successful from 28 and 46 yards.

Arkansas Football Injury Report

  • TE Luke Hasz (ankle): Rolled his ankle the Thursday before spring break, but was not limited in any way Tuesday
  • DB Dylan Hasz (hand): Out with a broken hand
  • WR Bryce Stephens (ankle): Did not participate in practice Tuesday.
  • LB Justin Logan (undisclosed): Still in a green non-contact jersey
  • TE Ty Washington (shoulder): Returned to practice in a green non-contact jersey, limited to individual drills
  • OL Zuri Madison (ACL): Tore his ACL in a scooter accident a few days before spring ball. It’s likely to be a season-ending injury, but he could potentially get ready for a bowl game. However, as a true freshman on the offensive line, he was probably a redshirt candidate anyways.

Arkansas Football Unofficial Depth Chart

This is how the Razorbacks lined up during their first team period in practice. Players may have rotated and lined up differently in later periods, with the offensive skill positions rotating quite a bit.


QBTaylen GreenMalachi SingletonJacolby Criswell
RBJa’Quinden JacksonIsaiah AugustaveDominique Johnson
TELuke HaszVar’keyes GummsShamar Easter
WRTyrone BrodenIsaac TeSlaaDazmin James
WRJaedon WilsonAndreas Paaske (TE)CJ Brown
WRAndrew ArmstrongJordan AnthonyKamron Bibby
LTFernando CarmonaE’Marion HarrisTommy Varhall
LGPatrick KutasJosh StreetParis Patterson
CAddison NicholsAmaury WigginsBrooks Edmonson
RGJoshua BraunKobe BranhamLuke Brown
RTKeyshawn BlackstockTy’Kieast CrawfordAaron Smith


DELandon JacksonAnton JuncajCharlie Collins
DTCameron BallKeivie RoseKyle Thompson
DTEric GregoryIan GeffrardKaleb James
DENico DavillierBrad Spence (LB)Quincy Rhodes Jr.
LBCarson DeanAlex SanfordBrooks Both
LBXavian Sorey Jr.Kaden HenleyJuJu Pope
NBLorando JohnsonDoneiko SlaughterTevis Metcalf
CBKee’yon StewartJaheim SingletarySelman Bridges
SJayden JohnsonTJ MetcalfRJ Johnson
SHudson ClarkMiguel MitchellAhkhari Johnson
CBJaylon BraxtonMarquise RobinsonJaden Allen


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