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Arkansas coach: Versatility and maturity make Jake Bequette a unique find for the Patriots

05.11.12 at 12:18 am ET
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Jake Bequette was drafted in the third round by the Patriots. (AP)

There are some overriding themes in how the Patriots attacked the 2012 draft, but above all, it appears that many of the guys they went after are versatile, maybe none more so than third-round pick Jake Bequette, a defensive end/linebacker out of Arkansas.

Bequette has played all along the defensive line as a collegian, but really made his bones on the outside. With the Razorbacks, he played predominantly defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but he also got some extended work standing out as an outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl and the combine, and that positional versatility will likely be tested this weekend at New England’s rookie minicamp.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said shortly after New England made the pick that the 6-foot-4 1/2-inch, 274-pound Bequette (pronounced BECK-ett) might be able to play either defensive end or linebacker in the Patriots’ system.

“Jake was a very productive guy in the SEC as a defensive end in [the Arkansas] system,” Belichick said of the 23-year-old. “[He] did some linebacker stuff at the Combine and the all-star games, but he’s primarily been a productive pass rusher for Arkansas over his four years in a good conference.”

Bequette has some impressive numbers. Not considered an elite athlete, the four-year starter was a first-team All-SEC selection last season after totaling 28 tackles, an SEC-best 10 sacks — the sixth-highest single-season total in school history — and five forced fumbles despite missing three games to a hamstring injury.

He finished his collegiate career with 22 sacks (third in school history) and 13th with 31 1/2 tackles for loss. Overall, he notched 140 tackles, 24 quarterback hurries, eight forced fumbles, seven pass break-ups and three fumble recoveries in four years.

Paul Haynes, who left Ohio State to become the defensive coordinator with Arkansas near the end of the season, spent about a month with Bequette, and he can’t say enough good things about Bequette and what he meant, both on and off the field.

“He does have that flexibility the Patriots love,” said Haynes, who also served as a collegiate coach for the Patriots’ sixth-round pick Nate Ebner at Ohio State before he left for the Razorbacks.

“He can play over a tight end — he’s big and physical enough to do that, but he’s also athletic enough to drop into coverage. Jake is a big body that’s athletic,” Haynes said. “Whatever the Patriots want to do make him and mold him into, you can do those things with him. You can move him inside. You can move him outside. You can do whatever.”

There’s also a level of maturity in Bequette you might not see in your average rookie. Older than most (he’s 23 — already older than several young players on the New England roster, including Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski). Haynes said the two-time defensive captain made the transition to the new coaching staff a seamless one.

“He made the transition really easy for me. It could have been really different, especially with those guys who were seniors, but what he did to make things easier was incredible,” Haynes said of Bequette. “I’ve always thought that because of everything he brings, including his leadership qualities, he’s going to be successful, even if he didn’t play football.

“There are guys you like to coach, who give you reasons to keep showing up in the office, even when you do want to,” he added. “Jake is one of those guys. He will do what you tell him to do. You don’t have to worry about him when he leaves the facility. He’ll be a great player and a great teammate in New England.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner
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