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Razorbacks Assistant: Adapt to New College Football or Get Left Behind

Hogs' defensive line coach Adams understands ever-changing landscape of college football
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas Razorbacks defensive line coach Deke Adams is not an assistant to worry about when it comes to adapting with the times. College football as a whole has become a money grab whether it be on television, coaching contracts or NIL. While there's nothing that can be done to slow down the evolving sport, Adams knows he must embrace change or fear being left behind.

During a recent edition of Coaches and the Mouth Podcast with Jeff Williams and Brey Cook, the co-hosts met up with Adams for a quick show to discuss how NIL and recruiting has changed over the years. With NIL still in its infancy, it has changed how coaches have to interact with their athletes.

"The landscape of college football has changed tremendously," Adams said. "Right now, it's an every day deal. You know, recruiting never ended before all this and now since this stuff started, it never ends dealing with it all the time. You know, the portal stuff, the NIL stuff, you know, it's such a touchy subject."

Razorbacks' Deke Adams at fall practice in 2022

Arkansas Razorbacks' defensive line coach Deke Adams coaching the defensive line in fall practices Aug. 11, 2022, on the outdoor fields in Fayetteville, Ark.

The Razorbacks looked to be ahead of the curve initially with the OneArkansas campaign, which was a community service type of NIL opportunity. Now, it has moved to more of a collective group, Arkansas Edge, which is similar to most other schools around the country have. 

While NIL talk between coaches and players on and off campus is not permitted by NCAA rules, there are compliance options, as Adams eludes to.

"With kids talking NIL, you know, I kind of I have no control over that," Adams said. "I kind of lead them down the hallway or across the building wherever they need to go. That's kind of out of my control."

Recruiting has turned into a bigger monster than anyone could have imagined since the incorporation of the NCAA transfer portal. The days of only having to worry about an incoming freshmen class is over. Coaches around the country have to recruit their current roster day-by-day in fear of losing depth at the position.

"The hard part right now is recruiting the kids in your room right now as much you're recruiting kids outside," Adams said. "I believe kids deserve opportunities for change. There are certain situations where change is about, but me personally, my own personal opinion, I think, you know, in some ways, we're teaching kids how to give up on things."

The Razorbacks have been one of the more physical defensive lines in the SEC the past two seasons. The Hogs' SEC rank is in the Top 5 for sacks and tackles for loss since Adams was added to the staff prior to the 2022 season. A combination of transfers, underclassmen and returning players alike have seen success in the defensive system under two separate defensive coordinators.

In recent years, Arkansas has benefited mightily from NIL and the transfer portal. Star players like Drew Sanders, Dwight McGlothern, John Ridgeway, Feleipe Franks and many others might not have come to Fayetteville if it weren't for the changing landscape of the sport.

Razorbacks' defensive line coach Deke Adams against Alabama

Arkansas Razorbacks defensive line coach Deke Adams on the sideline against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Oct. 14, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

This offseason, Adams' line has used the transfer portal to its advantage, adding top-100 transfer Anton Juncaj (Albany). The FCS All-American was a dominant fixture for his Danes' team as he recorded 55 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, five forced fumbles, 12 quarterback hurries and three pass breakups.

Adams shares that he has embraced the current landscape of college sports. Encouraging student-athletes to pursue NIL opportunities is certainly the right move here and shows why the third-year Arkansas assistant remains a popular coach on staff.

"I didn't start when I went straight to school," Adams said. "I had to fight through two guys in front of me, and I got that opportunity to do it and that was just part of the game. This is the landscape of college football, either in it or you're against it. And, if you're against it you'll probably get left behind."

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