(This is the seventh in a position-by-position Q&A with University of Central Arkansas football players as they break for the summer. Interviews were conduted after spring practice)

With middle linebacker Justin Heard, last year’s leading tackler, leading the way, the University of Central Arkansas appears to have a dynamic mixture of youth and experience at linebacker.

Depth at defensive back allowed UCA coaches to move sophomore Aum’Arie Wallace from safety to outside linebacker to work in rotation with vetern Radarious Winston.

JUSTIN HEARD

6-1, 225, SR.

How much farther this year?

"From year to year, everything has slowed down a lot. During the spring, I could tell things were a lot slower. I know how things are supposed to be and where I’m supposed to be. I still have things to work on."

After being moved to middle linebacker last year, are you more comfortable at the position?

"I’m much more comfortable. First, I was thinking, I had to do everything. Basically, you have to make sure you are doing the right things first and everybody will follow. If there needs to be a question answered, I can do it then rather than telling ‘you’ve gotta do this or you’ve gotta do that.’ If somebody needs some help, I’m right there. That’s what you’re supposed to do as a leader on the field."

How do you view this group of linebackers?

The group is talented. I’m really impressed with a bunch of young guys. We have some pure athleticism out there."

What about the defense?

"We’ve got a lot of veterans. We’re able to teach the young guys and get them up to speed because we need depth. Our D-line is stacked with people who are talented. Our linebackers are stacked. And our defensive backfield is stacked. We’re looking to have another good year on defense and be even better than last year."

What did you learn from the playoffs last year?

"The fact is you have to come prepared every game. You can’t have an off game in the playoffs. You’re off, you’re going home. We’ve got to do a better job when the games start. We’ve done a good job preparing in practice, but when the lights come on, you have to be ready to go. We’ve got to do a better job of showing up at games. We need to find out what it is in the month of December that we find that edge. We’re right there. Once we get over that hump in the second round, the sky could be the limit."

AUM’ARIE

WALLACE

6-1, 190, SO.

How do feel about where you are as a younger member of the defense?

"I was moved down from safety two weeks before spring practice. Coach (defensive coordinator Matt Williamson) told me he was going to do everything he could to get me on the field as soon as he could. I naturally made a few mistakes that slowed me down a little bit but I learned from my mistakes."

What’s been the biggest adjustment going from safety to outside linebacker?

"Just knowing you have somebody behind you and you can be a little more aggressive and a little quicker. "

Do you like linebacker?

"When coach said you can get on the field a little quicker. Coming off a redshirt year, you just want to put on pads and hit somebody. I stayed open-minded about it and am actually enjoying it."

How do you feel about the overall defense?

"The days we came out intense, you could tell we came off the ball, it was loud and the competition was intense. I feel good about the defense."

Do you sense from last year, this team wants to go farther?

"Everybody wants to add to our ring collection and everybody is working hard on and off the field to get farther. The veterans are motivating us."

BLAKE

CHILDRESS

6-2, 217, JR

What are you better at now at linebacker?

"I think I’m more explosive, more instinctive. I’m able to read plays faster and play faster overall. I can read coverages and plays faster."

What types of things are you working on for next year?

"My upper and lower body strength. Continue to start gaining more weight. I would like to have more agility than I had when I was a little lighter."

How do you feel about this group of linebackers?

"I think it’s an amazing group of linebackers. There is really no dropoff. I know we can be the best linebacker corps in the conference and I hope we can be one of the best in the nation. All of us are hungry and we finally have depth. Instead of one group of linebackers the whole time, we can rotate in and out and be fresh. There is a lot of competition."

What about the overall defense?

I really don’t feel like we have any major weaknesses. Our D-line is great, our linebackers are great, our defensive backs are great."

What do you take away from the playoff experiences the last couple of years?

"The things you do early in the season carry over to the playoffs. You skip a rep in preseason camp, you can pay for it at crunch time in the fourth quarter in the playoffs or on the goal line. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s all about doing the little things."

RICKY WYATT

5-11, 233, SO.

How much have you progressed at linebacker?

"Coming into spring, I had to drop a couple of pounds to move around a little better and I did that. I’m able to move much better and I can play much faster."

How do you feel about this group of linebackers?

"It’s a deep group. We have a lot of talent with a lot of people fighting for starting spots. The competition is pushing us to be better. You have to expect competition in college football."

How do you feel about the overall defense?

"We did well as a unit in spring practice. I believe we can get better. But that’s what summer and preseason camp is all about. The main thing we have to work on is tackling and wrapping up. We were struggling a little at tackling in the spring."

What did you take away from last year?

"Limiting our mistakes, being held accountable, playing as a unit. "

POSITION ANALYSIS: Most depth in years. If the younger players continue to develop with the senior leadership, linebacker, initially a question mark, could be a real strength.

NEXT: Defensive line