Little known linebackers succeed in anonymity

Updated: August 29, 2003, 6:06 PM ET

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A foot injury kept Clarke Moore out of Arkansas' 23-0 victory over Troy State last year, but it didn't hurt his standing.

The redshirt freshman played behind linebacker Jeb Huckeba before the injury, but Moore earned the starting nod in the Razorbacks' final six games when Huckeba got hurt.

Moore's emergence allowed Huckeba to move and bolster a thin defensive line during the off-season.

"I felt more comfortable as I got more reps and (played) in games," said Moore, who finished fifth on the team with 61 tackles. "It's so crazy during the game, but I had a great group playing around me, with Tony (Bua), Caleb (Miller) and the defensive front.

Miller, Bua and Moore combined to make 305 tackles in 2002. Meanwhile, rover Jimmy Beasley, who crowds the line of scrimmage like a linebacker on most occasions, made 99 tackles.

The linebackers helped Arkansas finish as the second-best rushing defense in the Southeastern Conference, allowing just 113.6 yards per game and only 3.2 yards per rushing attempt. The team ranked 18th in the nation.

Bua was second on the squad with 131 stops, but the two-year starter at outside linebacker is taking over for Ken Hamlin at free safety. Bua, a senior, was named second-team All-SEC after each season.

That leaves Miller, a senior from Sulphur Springs, Texas, as the leader of the linebacker corps. Miller has started 25 straight games at linebacker for Arkansas and last year he had his second straight 100-tackle season with 113.

Miller had his best games on the road with 17 tackles at Tennessee, 15 at Mississippi State and 12 at South Carolina. He and Bua are the top returning sack leaders with four last year.

Moore proved to be a valuable backup last year by stepping in for Huckeba and earning the starting role. Right now, the backups don't have much experience with sophomore Pierre Brown, senior Brandon Holmes, who switched to defense last year, and redshirt freshman Desmond Sims.

"We're fine. We've got great players across the board," Miller said. "Even the depth, if you count the rovers and the wolves with us, especially Jimmy and Bo at rover. I love both those guys. As hard as both of them hit for their size, you don't know which one to play."

With Bua moving to free safety, Jimarr Gallon was slated to start in his place at outside linebacker. However, Gallon may not be ready for the season opener against Tulsa next Saturday because of a broken finger and Sims would start.

"Desmond Sims ... is really coming on," Miller said. "He's put on a few pounds and once he gets some playing time he's going to be big-time."

Miller would like to join two other recent Sulphur Springs graduates in the NFL -- defensive lineman Damione Lewis of the St. Louis Rams and Tyreo Harrison, a Philadelphia Eagles linebacker.

As Miller nears the end of his time at Arkansas, his only regret is not adding more weight to his 6-3, 225-pound frame.

"I'd like to be a little heavier," Miller said. "Maybe 235 instead of 225, but honestly it doesn't really matter in college playing at this weight. The pro scouts would like to see a little more weight for a linebacker, but that stuff will all come in time so I'm not going to worry about it."

Gaining 10 more pounds would put Miller on par with the 6-2, 235-pound Harrison, a sixth-round pick in 2002 out of Notre Dame.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index