FAYETTEVILLE -- Junior-college defensive end Dorian Gerald was in good physical shape when he reported to the Arkansas Razorbacks on the day training camp opened Aug. 3.
But he wasn't in great game-day shape.
Gerald, a 6-3, 260-pounder who has quick-twitch muscles plus power, has gotten after it in camp. The junior-college sack machine has improved his conditioning, taken significant reps with the top couple of units and shown the coaching staff he's ready to contribute.
"Oh, there's no doubt," defensive coordinator John Chavis said Saturday. "Let's just tell it like it is: He has to. We don't have a choice."
Gerald racked up 22 sacks in two seasons at College of the Canyons in California, and he drew scholarship offers from a who's who of upper-level college football programs as the No. 1 rated junior-college defensive end in the country by ESPN. He narrowed his list to Arkansas and Texas A&M before choosing the Hogs.
Because he was paying out of pocket for classes there, he had to stick around in the summer to solidify his eligibility at the University of Arkansas. The wait caused angst among Razorback fans, who kept up with the summer drama through Gerald's social media posts. He also spoke to the Democrat-Gazette's Richard Davenport about his academic progress.
"I haven't failed any classes," he told Davenport on July 12. "I have a 3.0. I just needed extra classes. I wasn't able to afford some of these winter classes and summer classes beforehand."
Gerald has not been available for interviews since arriving on campus. He spoke to Davenport about receiving a visit from Arkansas defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell in late May.
"He could tell I was working out because I slimmed up," Gerald said. "I promised. I told everybody I was going to lose some of that stomach fat."
Gerald power-cleaned 360 pounds three times, just 5 pounds short of the school record, during the offseason.
He said he kept up with Razorbacks comings and goings during the summer by communicating with players such as McTelvin Agim, De'Jon Harris and Ryan Pulley.
Caldwell -- whose former players at Arkansas include Trey Flowers, Jake Bequette, Chris Smith and Tank Wright -- said prior to camp of Gerald: "We definitely need him.
"It'll just be making the adjustment once he gets here," Caldwell said. "Not only to the scheme, but just the way we coach, the technique we coach. Athletically, Dorian will be fine. I've got to bring him on. I've got to get him coached up. I've got to get him ready to go. That's my responsibility."
Coach Chad Morris assessed Gerald's status Saturday.
"I think Dorian has got to continue to get into shape," Morris said. "Dorian will go really good for two or three or four plays, and he's got to play more than that. I can't go three plays and pull you out.
"So he's got to continue to get in shape. We knew that coming in. He's going to be a really good football player for us. And he'd be the first to tell you, 'Coach, I've got to continue to get into shape.' Especially only being over here what, about the last three weeks?"
A four-star prospect coming out of West Florence (S.C.) High in 2015, Gerald was a force for College of the Canyons in the Western State Conference. In addition to his 22 sacks, Gerald racked up 43 tackles for loss and 6 forced fumbles.
"He's a great player," Agim said early in camp. "If we get him where he needs to be and we can mesh together, I understand it's going to be hard for any offensive line to hold me and him at the same time, and Rambo [Randy Ramsey] and Gabe [Richardson] and Armon Watts. It's going to be hard to hold everybody."
Richardson talked about Gerald on Saturday.
"For a guy that missed all the summer workouts, it's kind of hard for him to get in SEC conditioning, but he's going through it and continuing to go through it with coach Caldwell," Richardson said. "I'm just trying to help him out. He's got the playbook down. He's got to learn how to play when you're tired, and he's going to continue to do that and to play lower. He's strong. He's going to be a great asset to us."
Chavis has handed out praise sparsely during camp -- saving it primarily for players such as linebackers Harris and Dre Greenlaw, and defensive backs Santos Ramirez and Ryan Pulley -- but he touted Gerald's potential.
"He's as talented as we thought he was," Chavis said. "Right now, the things that he's hearing has been really the first time, and it's like learning a different language. He knows how to play football.
"Some of the techniques that we're teaching him are techniques that he's played before but have been explained to him in a different language. He's getting there. You can see it."
Agim described Gerald's assets.
"He's explosive," he said. "He gets off the ball. He's aggressive. All of it, man. Everything that makes a great defensive lineman."
Gerald explained to Davenport how he matured in California.
"Now I'm very open," he said. "I listen to everyone's opinion. Everyone's opinion matters to me because it's more than one way to do things. Juco has made me a lot more hungry to get where I'm going."
Sports on 08/20/2018
Gerald at a glance
POSITION Defensive end
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-3, 260 pounds
HOMETOWN Florence, S.C.
HIGH SCHOOL West Florence
JUNIOR COLLEGE College of the Canyons (Calif.)
NOTEWORTHY Rated the No. 1 juco defensive end and the No. 4 juco player by ESPN. … Ranked the No. 1 strong-side defensive end by 247Sports. Posted 96 tackles, including 43 tackles for loss and 22 sacks, in two juco seasons. Racked up 12 sacks in 2016 and 10 sacks in 2017. Forced 6 fumbles and recovered 2 at College of the Canyons. … Chose Arkansas over offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska and Oklahoma, among others.
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