Marshall football: Arrington adjusting to return to linebacker
HUNTINGTON -- Devin Arrington loves being back at linebacker for the Marshall University football team. Yet, in his mind, he doesn't feel totally back.
"I'm fortunate that we've got two more weeks left before any serious play, because I've still got a lot of work to do," he said. "But I'm getting there."
His tour of duty as a strong safety, a move made to shore up a shallow depth chart, lasted one season. A strong-side linebacker his first two years, he's now on the weak side and in the process of recalibrating himself for his new role.
While the blitzes and some of his techniques returned quickly, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound redshirt senior said he's still honing his linebacker reads.
"Linebacker is a read-react position," he said. "That's what it's all about, your reads. If your reads aren't on key, you're playing slow.
"I know myself. I know that when it's time to go, I'll have it down pat like the back of my hand."
Arrington has been a major contributor in both roles as a member of the Thundering Herd. He started 11 of 12 games at strong-side linebacker as a redshirt sophomore finishing sixth on the team with 64 tackles, including four for a loss, 1.5 sacks and three pass breakups. As a redshirt junior, he started all 13 games at safety, finishing tied for fourth with 77 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, two interceptions and four pass breakups.
Safety wasn't a foreign position for him. He played there at Deep Creek High School in Virginia and said he practiced at that position during his redshirt year.
But when it came to on-field college competition, he was a linebacker until last season.
Marshall head Coach Doc Holliday said that safety experience should help in Arrington's return to linebacker.
"The transition playing safety for a year, he was forced to play in space the entire time," Holliday said. "I think moving up to that second level has helped him because of the space and the plays he had to make at safety."
Arrington agreed, saying what he learned about pass coverage, how he saw the whole field and now knows where every player fits in the defense will make him a better linebacker. He didn't think about the totality of the defensive scheme in his first linebacker stint.
"I knew what I had to do, but I didn't know how all the pieces fit together," Arrington said. "But once you know how everything fits together, there's no question you become a better player."
While he appreciated what playing safety did for him as a pass defender, Arrington relishes the return to linebacker for the constant contact. There were practices, he said, when the ball-carrier would never reach the secondary. At linebacker, he's taking on offensive linemen and feels closer to the action.
"It's more fun because you actually feel like you're in tune with the game," he said. "Sometimes at safety, from my standpoint, you feel like 'I'm just back here.' At linebacker, you're in the mix."
Sophomore strong-side linebacker Raheem Waiters said Arrington's return to his meeting room is helping make him a better player. Waiters worked behind Arrington in the spring and said his advice has been invaluable as he makes his own transition from safety to linebacker.
"He knows the position like the back of his hand," Waiters said. "It's just great. He knows I'm on the field and I might make a mistake. He'll be like 'Don't worry about it,' and tell me what to do and I'll just get back on the field. He's been there every step of the way."
Defensive coordinator Chris Rippon said that, more than his advice, Arrington has improved the linebacker corps with his demeanor and performance.
"What he does is he goes into the meeting with a professional approach," Rippon said. "He comes to the field ready to practice with a professional, ready-to-practice, no-fooling-around mode. That leadership right there has taken the linebacker group up a notch."
Yet Arrington knows he can, and must get better before the Thundering Herd opens its season at West Virginia University on Sept. 1. He doesn't think it's going to take long.
"I'm giving myself until the end of this week," he said. "Next week, I need to be polishing."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.