Nick Saban On Why Alabama Consistently Gets Hosed By Ole Miss

And other insights from the Alabama football head coach from the transcript of his 15th SEC Media Day appearance


Not exactly what Mark Stoops experiences

NICK SABAN: The one thing that I will miss is I’m usually up here responding to some barb from Coach [Steve] Spurrier, who is no longer with us and is retired, and probably playing a lot of golf, which we just wish he and Jerri the very best in the future. He’s made a tremendous impact on the game and I’m sure will continue to do that with his leadership and deeds and actions even though he’s not coaching.

Verne Lundquist who is the only person that I know, and there may be somebody else out there in the media or somewhere, that has spanned my entire career. Verne tells my wife Terry about a game that I was coaching at Kent State when I was first coaching 40-some years ago that he actually covered. So he — and he’s done a tremendous amount for the SEC on CBS in terms of the great job that he’s done with his telecast, and we wish him very well after this season, because this will be his last…

One of the very difficult experiences for us this summer was the terrible flood in West Virginia, which is where we’re from. And I think you probably all know we made a statement about trying to get some equipment for I think seven high schools that lost just about everything. So anything that you all could do to promote that to get equipment for these young people so that they’ll be able to participate and have a season this year, because otherwise they won’t, would certainly appreciated.

But after this week, our coaches will be back, and we’ll be making final preparations for our season. Our players report on August 3rd and we practice on August 4th, and we’re certainly looking forward to that. We continue to try to develop our players in so many ways, even over the summer, where we have all of our players now for summer school in terms of personal development programs, whether it’s mental conditioning for success, peer intervention for behavioral issues, leadership, communication, all of these things that create value in players that help them be more successful in life, and obviously academics is a big part of that.

We’re really, really proud of what we’ve been able to do to create a very positive history of academic success with our players in terms of — I think our graduation rate is well over 80 percent for several years now. One of the tops in the country, one of the leaders in the conference. Also a number of graduates that participate in playoff and bowl games and championship games. Last year we had 29. Three guys who already had master’s degrees, guys out there playing against Clemson that already had their degrees. I think we’ve been the leader in that regard for the past three years as well…

I’m really proud of the players that we have here representing our team. Jonathan Allen and Eddie Jackson on defense. Both players will graduate in December. O.J. Howard, who has already graduated and working on a master’s degree in sports medicine. All three of these players probably could have gone out for the draft and chose to stay in school and sort of enhance their draft status as well as finish their education or continue their education…

Our team has had a very good offseason. I’ve been very pleased with the progress that we made. We obviously lost some really, really good players from last year’s championship team, good leadership, good people. Great team chemistry. All things that are intangibles that are difficult to build, and our challenge is to recognize as they develop, because those things just don’t happen overnight. You know, it’s a work in progress. And it’s certainly been the case with our team this year.

But a year ago I didn’t know that we were going to have that kind of team chemistry when I stood up here and talked to you. I didn’t know we would have that kind of commitment. I didn’t know we would respond to adversity the way we did. And even though we’re trying to work on creating those things with the personality of this team, we don’t know that for sure either. But I’ve been pleased with the progress that we’ve made in the offseason, the spring practice that we had, the summer conditioning program.

We obviously had some challenges. For the third year in a row, I’m standing up here talking about somebody’s going to be a new quarterback for us. Somebody’s got to win that job. Somebody’s got to win the team. You know, that has not necessarily happened yet and, you know, I’m not going to sit up here and sort of try to, you know — I don’t know the right word, but give you some statistics on who’s winning the race and how the race is going and who’s ahead, are they on the back stretch or in the final turn. That’s something that’s going to happen probably in fall camp. I hope in fall camp.

We have three starters back on the offensive line, which is a good start of building a good nucleus there, and we have some good young players that can develop at that position. You know who our receivers are, and we have a pretty talented group. This is the first time for many, many years that we have not had an experienced, talented running back who has proven his value, whether it was way back when Glen Coffee played, it was Mark Ingram. Mark Ingram came back and played with Trent Richardson. Trent Richardson played with Eddie Lacy. Eddie Lacy played with T.J. Yeldon. T.J. Yeldon played with Derrick Henry.

We always had one of those guys coming back. This year we lost both guys in Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. This will provide opportunity, even though they are less experienced, for some other players who are talented players to have a chance to succeed at that position.

Continue reading Nick Saban On Why Alabama Consistently Gets Hosed By Ole Miss

Groupies, Drugs & Unbending Love: London Crawford’s Story

Former Razorback receiver London Crawford recently gave one of the more open and raw interviews I have ever heard with a Hog. The 29-year-old didn’t shy away from a single hardball question sports radio host Carter Bryant lobbed his way. Take the following exchange, for example:

Q: You are a handsome guy. Were the girls all over you in college?

 Yeah, sort of. I did my thing when I was in college, man, and you know it was fun. I’m glad I got it out of my system. Now I’m at the point where I need to to be focused on trying to find marriage. That’s what I’m looking for now. In college I did my share of bad things and rip and ran, and went to parties and hung out with girls — like, with a lot girls. I carried myself well so I was liked a lot, but thank God I made it out of there the right way.

Q: What’s it like having groupies?

Man, in that state of mind when I was in college, it was great to have woman all over you — women to love you or women to want to be with you or do whatever but as you grow mentally you think, “Is this worth it? What are you really benefiting from it? What are they giving you that’s going to make you really care or think about them beyond that time?”

Q : I feel bad, London, because I do radio and when people see me they’re like, “Oh my god, you look like this?!” Though I have a lot of listeners, I don’t have groupies man. What do I need to do to step my game up?

It’s not about how you look man, it’s about how you carry yourself. You carry yourself high, you carry yourself with confidence and you dress well, you smell well, you live well, you live clean. A lot of woman are drawn to the mind frame now. It’s not the old days where they’re drawn to how you look or what you got at the time because back in the day it was about, like “Oh, he got this amount of money.” But now it’s like what is his brain like? What kind of mind frame does he have? They want that longevity… They want the guys with the degree, the guy with the secure job, so things changed man.

Bryant also catches up with how Crawford is doing these days as a professional arena league football player. They talk about his young son — “he’s a very smart, handsome guy, love sports, loves video games” — and how grateful Crawford feels to have the opportunity to mentor him, to be the involved dad he did not have at the same age.  Crawford’s childhood was far from stable, but he nonetheless credits the early gang-related activity and street temptations as a source of strength. “Growing up in that tough environment, and growing up going through the drugs, and the fighting, and all of that stuff, it made me a better person. It made me a better man today.” He adds:

I’m happy my father has gotten himself to be able to be the dad in my life that I needed him to be and he’s a great grandfather in his grandson’s life. My mother she’s still having her struggles but I’m not ashamed of her struggles. The drugs are strong man, they take over people, and it’s hard for some people to come back from it… crack addiction is tough and I’ve watched it my whole life within my mother. She had bouts where she gets off of it but she relapses. I know it’s her because she’s asked me for help and I’ve tried, and she just relapses. It’s just something that is hard to control. A lot of people don’t have a strong mind frame like I have. A lot of people can’t overcome a lot of things. With that being said, regardless of what she does, she birthed me. I wouldn’t care if she goes through it for the rest of her life and I would love my mother like she’s always been in my life.

Q: Did it make you want to do drugs? Did you do drugs in high school?

To be honest with you man, I had a time where I went through where I wanted to sell it but for me to use it, to watch my mom go through the things that she went through and to watch me not have the things that other kinds had, to see my mom how bad she was looking when she was on that stuff … Man, I steered away from that.

Carter Bryant also spoke with Crawford about a white couple who essentially adopted him in high school and college. More insight about this unique  situation, often compared to Michael Oher and Lee Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, is provided in an accompany Fox Sports Arkansas piece.

Q: Janice Givens and her wonderful husband Bryan Givens took you in. They’re white, you are black – was there racism? Was there pressure with them to take you in? 

… They treated me as if God never gave any human a color, he gave us a name, that’s how they treated me. They treated me exactly like they treated their two kids, Jonathon Givens and Thomas Given, if not sometimes better to be honest. Anything I needed, they were there. Every football game in high school, once they got in my life, every football game in college after they dropped everything — their jobs, everything to move to Arkansas because they felt like I needed someone to be there for me, they were there. Anytime I needed to talk to them about anything, advice wise, family wise. When I didn’t want to forgive my dad they told me “Look, we love you regardless of what you do. Your mother is your mother, your father is your father. You have to forgive in order to forget.” And I forgave.

janice givens Q: I guess I should rephrase the question. Did they face racism? Were people chirping about them?

Oh man! When I was in high school, there was a lot of people asking “Why is she trying to help him? What is she trying to get out of this?” A lot of doubters man. I’m talking about people that was close to me doubting. And when I got to college it was like, “Okay, they see that he’s a great athlete. They trying to get this, they trying to get this and that, doing this for a payoff for when he goes to the NFL…” Ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. Okay, I went to the NFL. I got hurt. That hindered me. I’m here now, living a wonderful life. I’m happy and they’re in my life everyday now. Where’s the payoff? They’re still the same people they were. It’s not this. They love me more now than they did then. So, no. They faced a lot, a lot of ups and downs. I’m talking about through the media, through social networks, everything. They faced a lot, man, but the love that they had for me never showed that it bothered them, ever. They always told me no matter what goes on them, that “We love you and we’re going to always be here for you.”


Like these “Where Are They Now” type articles with former Razorbacks? I write plenty more at my main site BestOfArkansasSports.com. Sign up for my once-a-week newsletter and never miss another new post:

Bret Bielema On Jeremy Sprinkle’s Future As a Potential First-Round NFL Draft Pick

Below is the second of a two-part transcription of Bret Bielema’s 2015 season recap. You will learn about an emerging Chicago-Arkansas recruiting pipeline, injury updates on Josh Williams and Dominique Reed and Bielema’s dream of opening Ye Olde Egg Nog Shoppe  (above photo is courtesy of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.).

On the recruiting reach of the Hogs’ new offensive line coach, a native Chicagoan: 

There’s a lot of good players in the Midwest that have been very successful. Not only in the Midwestern colleges, but also in the SEC. I think we play against Alabama and there’s a [Ross] Pierschbacher kid that I remember came out of Iowa that we all wanted. He’s a very good player for Alabama right now. There’s players up there, Frank Ragnow comes out of Minnesota.

I think about our offensive line. Someone thought they’re all southern kids. You had a tackle from Miami, a guard from California, a center from here, a guard from Minnesota and a tackle was Denver. We’ve got them all over the country and that’s just what we’ve got to continue to do.

On the appeal of playing for Arkansas to kids in Chicago

Bret Bielema: I do. I think the kids love the SEC. We wen 8-2 in bowl games. Kids realize that stuff. There’s more kids playing in the Senior Bowl from the SEC than any other conference. Those things matter and it makes a difference.

On how many new scholarship players Arkansas will likely sign:

Bret Bielema: I think we’re going to get to 24 for sure. I think I’ll probably go to 25, to be quite honest. The by-product of having 3 juniors come out is you have 3 more scholarships become available. We had a couple scholarship players graduate early like Reeve Koehler. When he leaves out that presents an opportunity. All those things I couldn’t forecast a year ago at this time.

Bret Bielema: My vision is to do 12 offense, 12 defense and 1 coach’s discretion. The last 3 coach’s discretion have been 3 kids from Arkansas that have been — Korliss [Marshall] obviously loved to indulge in some things we couldn’t — but he was a good player. The next one was Josh Liddell. I think those guys have proved their worth and what they’re capable of doing.

On his starring role in the new reality TV-style series “Being Bret Bielema”

Bret Bielema: Really, the presentation. Thad and some people had kind of gotten together. I think it started with Chris, did it not? Some people said, “Coach, there’s some things about you that don’t ever get out there.” I haven’t done anything. All I do is slip on a mic and just be me. I’m getting beaten up left and right with my college buddies. Recruits love it. The amount of hits that I’ve gotten and the responses that I’ve gotten from recruits and coaches and donors. It’s amazing to me, but it’s also been a lot of fun. I don’t know where it’s going to end. I think they’re going to pop on the road with me for a couple days. We’ll make sure to follow the … because there’s certain things that you’ve got to do.

I watched the first one a while ago. I hadn’t seen the second one until I had enough people telling me all about it, so I watched it last night. They’d cut some things. I was just having some fun with some K State people there. Just different things. They’re doing a really good job with it…. I’m a big guy in the eggnog thing. If you’d ask my wife, I just think it’s ridiculous we can only have eggnog one month out of the year. Anybody that’s been around me knows that’s one of my pet peeves in life.

I am going to open an eggnog store. I think that’s a good thing…

On Josh Williams‘ health

Bret Bielema: Unfortunately, Josh had another procedure. He’s lost a pretty significant amount of that calf muscle. It’s unfortunately one of the bad parts of our profession and part of our job. He’s really going to struggle to get back to a point of walking and doing things functionally again as a normal person. Hopefully, he’s going to be able to play football again someday, but it’s probably a long ways away from that being able to happen. We’ll address it.

He wasn’t able to go home until last week. He had been in the hospital again when we were in Memphis. He didn’t join us until Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, just a lot of by-product off of that surgery.

Right now, he’s not ready for Spring ball and I don’t expect it to be for Spring. Let me tell you if he could get cleared for Fall football I’d be the biggest, happiest fan of Josh’s in the world. I just don’t know if it’s going to be possible. It’s a bridge that we’re going to have to cross together. If he can’t do, I’d be the first to hire him as a linebacker assistant and let him be involved in every way possible. He has truly been one of the greatest blessings for us. He’s a A-B student. He does everything right. He can play all 3 positions. He’s an absolute coach’s dream.

On tight end Jeremy Sprinkle’s potential:

Bret Bielema: Well, [Jeremy] Sprinkles going to be the first to tell you. He hasn’t even scratched the surface. He’s probably the most creative touchdown celebration, but that’s about all he’s got as a No. 1 spot right now. I think we can get him to 260. I think he could be 10 pounds heavier than he is. I think he’d be the first to tell you he was committed 75% of the time. I need a full 100% commitment out of him because if he can give me a year of his life like he’s never had, I’ll give him the next 30 that are pretty good.

I was talking to one NFL coach who had watched our game the day before and their head coach and him and a couple other of their VP’s were there with their GM and they said, “Can we get both those tight ends to play for us tomorrow in the NFL?” Hunter and him have got all the things that you want. I think we could probably have two of the best tight ends in back-to-back years that anybody could produce, but I need a bigger commitment out of Sprink. I mean from diet to sleep to behavior to accountability to responsibility to everything. He’ll get it. His dad and I will get it. I guarantee it.

On overall position depth:

Bret Bielema: I think linebacker depth is a concern of mine in the Fall and Spring so one would tell you that an ideal shooting number for us is 4. I’d love to get 3 high school and a JUCO. The magic number on defense for sure is kind of 3 to 4 at every position. On offense, even though we lost only 1 tight end, he’s a great one, but we signed a number of tight ends a year ago. Wide receiver, we got a fix number. Running back is intriguing because obviously losing 2 backs in the NFL draft — it’s fun to talk about but it’s really not great to live through.

But Kody, Rawleigh, I think the emergence of hopefully J-Day, I think we’ve done a nice job in recruiting. We’re in some of the most elite backs I’ve ever been involved with and they’re saying a lot of really good things. Those things are yet in front of us. It should be a fun two weeks. We’re fixing ready to hop in the last two weeks of recruiting. It’s probably one of the more enjoyable times for me as a head coach – just to get some finality to certain situations.

Continue reading Bret Bielema On Jeremy Sprinkle’s Future As a Potential First-Round NFL Draft Pick

Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

I recently wrote a piece for OnlyInArk.com supporting the theory that my hometown of Little Rock is the “tight end capital of the world” (in football, not fitness). My theory is supported by four* great college and/or NFL players: Keith Jackson, D.J. Williams, Hunter Henry and Charles Clay. I realize Williams is technically a Fort Worth, Texas native, but for the purposes of this piece he should be considered a Little Rocker — especially since he still lives there.

Little Rock has a population of about 200,000. That means one out of every 50,000 of its native sons is a world-class tight end!

Not just wanting to rely on blind hometown pride, I decided to drop a little research my theory’s way. Thanks to sports-reference.com, I gathered the hometowns of the best NFL tight ends in history — first-team All-Americans since the late 1970s and winners of the John Mckey Award for the nation’s best collegiate tight end (those winners are asterisked below).

The spreadsheet helps Little Rock’s case** by showing how the town produces so much more on a per capita basis than anywhere else. A few places vie for second place. Torrance, Calif. for instance, produced the greatest TE of all, Tony Gonzalez, and a great collegian in Daniel Graham.

St. Louis doesn’t go quietly into the positional night, either, not with Hall-of-Famer Kellen Winslow and three-time Pro Bowler Paul Coffman to its name. But according to the list, at least, these towns don’t have more than two great tight ends. Sure, it’s possible someone moved into the town as a child or young teen (like D.J. Williams did with Little Rock), but I will need to see those cases first before I admit the slightest of doubts that my theory could be wrong.

Continue reading Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

The Best 3rd & 4th Down Quarterbacks in Major College Football

 

Name School 3rd Down Rating
1 Everett Golson FSU 182.89
2 Vernon Adams Jr. Oregon 181.87
3 Anu Solomon Arizona 167.74
4 Trevone Boykin TCU 166.28
5 Seth Russell Baylor 164.21
6 Cody Kessler USC 163.15
7 DeShone Kizer Notre Dame 159.17
8 Patrick Mahomes II Texas Tech 157.45
9 Deshaun Watson Clemson 154.62
10 Treon Harris Florida 153.69
11 Matt Johns Virginia 152.6
12 Brandon Allen Arkansas 143.65
13 Luke Falk Wash St 142.6
14 Baker Mayfield Oklahoma 141.97
15 Jake Browning Washington 139.09
16 Will Grier Florida 138.88
17 Dak Prescott Mississippi State 138.69
18 Jacoby Brissett NC State 138.02
19 Sefo Liufau Colorado 137.68
20 Mason Rudolph Okla St 135.73
21 Montell Cozart Kansas 135.4
22 Jared Goff California 134.71
23 Mike Bercovici Ariz St 131.43
24 Connor Cook Mich St 128.19
25 Tommy Armstrong Jr. Nebraska 127.52
26 Kyle Allen Texas A&M 127.28
27 Patrick Towles Kentucky 126.81
28 Sam Richardson Iowa State 125.68
29 Lamar Jackson Louisville 125.66
30 Travis Wilson Utah 124.6
31 Skyler Howard WVU 122.53
32 Perry Orth South Carolina 121.25
33 Chris Laviano Rutgers 120.4
34 Tanner Mangum BYU 119.29
35 Jake Rudock Michigan 117.95
36 Joshua Dobbs Tennessee 117.3
37 Maty Mauk Missouri 117.06
38 Josh Rosen UCLA 116.85
39 Brenden Motley Va Tech 116.6
40 Thomas Sirk Duke 115.67
41 Jerrod Heard Texas 115.33
42 Sean White Auburn 114.19
43 C.J. Beathard Iowa 111.03
44 Ryan Willis Kansas 109.87
45 Clayton Thorson N’western 109.03
46 Mitch Leidner Minnesota 108.09
47 Johnny McCrary Vanderbilt 107.43
48 Nate Peterman Pittsburgh 105.74
49 Brad Kaaya Miami (Fl) 105.52
50 Chad Kelly Ole Miss 103.14
51 Joe Hubener Kansas St 102.4
52 Wes Lunt Illinois 102.24
53 Kevin Hogan Stanford 101.79
54 Cardale Jones Ohio State 101.11
55 Joel Stave Wisconsin 100.87
56 Marquise Williams N Carolina 100.28
57 Greyson Lambert Georgia 100.22
58 Nate Sudfeld Indiana 94.29
59 David Blough Purdue 91.29
60 Seth Collins Oregon St 88.71
61 Christian Hackenberg Penn State 85.55
62 Jake Coker Alabama 85.33
63 Caleb Rowe Maryland 84.26
64 John Wolford Wk Forest 83.82
65 Perry Hills Maryland 80.98
66 Jeremy Johnson Auburn 70.78
67 Kendall Hinton Wk Forest 67.88
68 Drew Lock Missouri 55.34
69 Justin Thomas Ga Tech 52.24
70 Kyle Bolin Louisville 48.1

All stats are passer ratings gathered from cfbstats.com through the first seven weeks of the 2015 season. I’m essentially looking at current/ex starting quarterbacks and backups who have played heavy minutes (sometimes as former starters).

Continue reading The Best 3rd & 4th Down Quarterbacks in Major College Football

Brandon Allen & Rohan Gaines After Arkansas Lost to Toledo

The following are excerpts from interviews held after the Arkansas football team’s lost 12-16 to Toledo in September, 2015 in Little Rock:

Brandon, you guys were one for five going into the red zone; you got down there; how tough was that? What was going on in the red zone?

Brandon Allen: We were killing ourselves, we felt like we could score. We had a bunch of plays held back. Couldn’t punch it in for the life of us today. Can’t win against anybody if we’re one for five.

On the struggles of the run game:

Allen: We couldn’t get it going. Got to give them credit, they did a good job stopping it, but can’t win one-dimensional. Got to get around the ball, and we couldn’t.

You outgained them by about 200 yards. You gained over 500 yards. Normally you do that you’re going to win. How frustrating was that?

Allen:  Very… Were one for five in the red zone there. You can get all the yards you want but it doesn’t matter if you can’t put it into the end zone.

As a leader of this football team what do you have to do this week to get ready for Texas Tech?

Allen: I know this team. We have our minds right, and this isn’t going to affect the rest of the season. We have a lot of games left. Tomorrow we will watch the film, we’ll move on, and we’ll be ready for Texas Tech. I know this team. There’s no quit. This is one game. We got ten more, a lot of games to play, and the team’s got their mind right, and we’re going to play each and every game like it’s our last one. We’re trying to play them all.

85 yards in penalties. Coach B’s playing clean didn’t get it done today in that area. Any thoughts?

Allen: That killed us. It really did. Any time we had momentum going on offense, you know, we’d get a holding call or something, get held back, and I think we scored a touchdown at the end, holding call called it back; so we’re really killing our momentum with penalties, and can’t win when you’re killing yourself.

On the last drive of the game:

Allen: I felt like we were going to score, and we moved the ball pretty much all day; can’t punch it in, and got all the way down there, give ourselves a chance. Last play, kind of just dropped it; went out in the in zone but there was nobody to throw it to, and kind of stumbled a little bit.

***

What’s the locker room feel like right now?

Rohain Gaines: I feel like we’ve got enough leaders to turn things around. I’ve been down this road before. I’ve been here for a long time and I know it can go one of two ways. I feel like with the leaders that we have on this team it can go up from here.

What’s the key to making it go the right way?

Gaines: You just have to come back and prepare. We have to come back Sunday and work, we got to come back Monday, get some overtime. Got to come back Tuesday, Wednesday practice, Thursday practice, Friday practice, and Saturday play our ball.

What did they do to surprise you guys? They seemed like they had a lot of wide open guys running free to pass to the linebackers.

Gaines: Give all the credit to Tolito. They’ve got some great athletes. They called great plays and they obviously schemed us up.

***

What’s it feel like?

JaMichael Winston:   It’s terrible, it’s a terrible feeling. Unbelievable feeling. Those guys came in here and earned their win and we didn’t today.

What did they do that gave you guys problems?

Winston: There was a lot of scheming up. They schemed us up pretty good. They got on us. You can tell they’ve been working on them for a while.

A lot of the times expect Arkansas playing a team like that to out physical them and it seemed like it was the other way. Were you surprised at how physical they were?

Winston: Yeah, they were pretty physical today. They came out with a lot of energy today and played good football and earned a win.

There’s been times when a loss like this for a big program can affect the next game and the next game. What did coach talk about in that post game about making it just be the one loss and not letting it linger.

Winston: Just having a 1-and-0 mentality and moving on to the next one. Can’t let one bad game affect the next, just got to go on, going on Sunday. Start focusing on Texas Tech and get better.

Winston: What was happening on the third and long because they converted several third and longs.

Winston: They were getting the ball out quick to their guy, that guy  number 40 was doing a good job at catching the ball and getting the first down.

***

Mitch Smothers: We didn’t earn that victory today. We didn’t come out and we didn’t play Arkansas football like we should. We just didn’t come ready to play.

Why did you not?

Smothers: I feel like it starts with me, but it’s just that the preparation we did and just … I just felt like we didn’t come out and did what we should have.

You guys out-gained them by a couple hundred yards. How tough is that to lose a game when you dominated like that statistically?

Smothers: We didn’t play clean enough. We had too many penalties, pre-snap penalties, post-snap penalties that drove us back. You can’t win football games when you have that many penalties.

Given what happened last year, with grounding and pounding people, it looked like this year was set up to be that again. Today, maybe not the rushing numbers you’d like. Same with last week. What do you think’s going on there?

Well, we’re not going to let one game define this whole season. We’ve still got a lot of football left to play. We’re definitely going to work on that.

What’s been the difference, though, in the rushing game, in not getting the yards you guys-

Smothers: These first two opponents, they like to move a lot on us. We just didn’t come ready to move them vertical like we should have. Like I said, we’re going to come … We’ll become better.

When you say they didn’t come ready, are you guys not prepared for this one?

Smothers:        I started to say … I’m just going to go back to what Coach B said. We just didn’t earn it. We didn’t come out and play Arkansas football. That’s all I got to say about that.

Since you guys are one to five scoring in the red zone, what do you think when you’re standing down there?

Smothers:        It’s definitely very frustrating, but then again, it goes back to us up front, me included. We didn’t run the ball like we should have today. That’s the one thing you’ve got to do in the red zone is run the football if you want to win a football games.

Unhinged Mississippi State Fan Makes You Laugh, Then Feel a Little Uncomfortable

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.00.11 AM

The ancient Romans erected household shrines to represent dieties who essentially kept watch over the food in their pantries. They were called penates, or “gods of the penus.”

In modern America, especially in the South, we still have a  lot of behavior that is very much penus-genic. But in the Bible Belt, shrines are no longer built to protect pantries – they are instead built to glorify SEC football programs.

Exhibit A:

Comparing the 1971 Georgia Bulldogs to the 2015 Arkansas Razorbacks

Below is the third part of a four-part series looking at how the best AP preseason No. 18 teams of all time compare to the Arkansas Razorbacks, which currently hold that spot. Based on one metric, the Simple Rating System, the ’71 Dawgs punch in at No. 2:

1971 Georgia

Coach: Vince Dooley

Weeks Ranked No. 1: 0

Date of First Loss: November 13

Final Record: 11-1

Final SRS rating: 22.22

While Georgia had won two SEC championships in the late 1960s, “Dooley’s Dawgs” had been a .500 team in 1969 and 1970 heading into the fall of 1971. That changed in a hurry with a top-five defense and dual-threat sophomore sensation Andy Johnson at the helm. In its first eight games, no team came within 10 points of beating Georgia.

While Georgia lost its next game on the road against No. 6 Auburn, it bounced back to beat archrival Georgia Tech. That set up a Gator Bowl showdown with North Carolina, led by Vince Dooley’s younger brother Bill Dooley. The resulting sibling slugfest produced 20 punts between the teams and a total of one touchdown. According to SB Nation’s T Kyle King, “the 7-3 Georgia victory prompted one sportswriter to observe, ‘Vince won the toss and ran the clock out.’”

Like Arkansas… these Bulldogs boasted a highly regarded offensive line with All-SEC selections in Tom Nash, Royce Smith and Kendall Keith. They also had an All-American All-Nickname first-teamers in Jimmy “The Greek Streak” Poulos and Buzy “Super Frog” Rosenberg. Leaping ahead 44 years, Arkansas counters with its own strong candidate here: Damon “Duwop” Mitchell.

Unlike Arkansas… Georgia’s starting quarterback eventually played running back the entirety of his 8-year NFL career. Andy Johnson helped New England finish 2nd in the AFC East in 1976 with a combined 1,042 yards running and receiving and was selected to the Patriots’ All-1970s team. While college quarterbacks still occasionally make the transition to NFL wide receiver (e.g. Matt Jones, Antwaan Randle-El) you no longer see them become running backs. Even those with the physical tools to pull it off, like Nick Marshall, are more likely to become pro cornerbacks.

It’s safe to say NFL receiver, cornerback or tailback gigs aren’t in Brandon Allen’s crystal ball.

How Much Do SEC Schools Pay to Educate Former Football Stars?

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Thanks to LSU’s “Project Graduation,” former Tiger QB Jordan Jefferson has even more to celebrate.

Every year, hundreds of collegiate athletes leave campus before graduation. Sometimes, as with other students, it’s because they simply didn’t complete the courses they needed for a degree before their four or five years was up. Other times, it’s because they leave school early to pursue a career in professional sports.

While in school, students on a full ride athletic scholarship typically face a pretty straight-forward scenario: They play sports, keep their nose out of trouble and in return they get reimbursed for housing, board and tuition.

But what happens when the same student leaves school, ending his athletic eligibility and then returns to campus years later in order to finish his degree? This, I found while reporting a story about Razorback football players struggling  after their playing days, is a bit of a grey area.

From talking to former Razorbacks like C.J. McClain and Fred Talley, who are currently in the process of returning to school, it appears there is no set protocol on how much a former football player can expect to be reimbursed. Talley, for instance, came back after 11 years and got his tuition paid for, but NOT his room and board. Furthermore, he was told he has to maintain a C average in order to keep that reimbursement.

I confirmed with Arkansas that indeed similar scenarios are handled on a case by case basis. I wondered if this happened elsewhere, so questions were sent to each of the other SEC West schools to find out

  • how much tuition/room & boards the school will play for if an athlete leaves early for the pros but later wants to finish his degree.
  • if the schools have a minimum grade requirement for the former athletes to retain their tuition compensation.

I found out the University of Alabama, for instance, “pays tuition and fees, books, and other costs on a case-by-case basis for former student athletes who left the University in good standing and are eligible to return to UA,” according to Deborah Lane, Associate Vice President for University Relations. “Former student athletes who return must maintain a 2.0 GPA for all classes taken during the semesters they are enrolled.” Other schools echoed similar stances, with an Aggies employee adding Texas A&M scholarships typically demand  a minimum 2.5-2.7 GPA.

The most detailed answer came from Brett Russell, Ole Miss’ assistant director of compliance. “Although NCAA rules permit former student-athletes* to return to their institution to finish their degree and receive financial aid, the decision to award financial aid is left up to the institution,” he wrote.

The institution is permitted to provide financial aid up to the institution’s published cost of room and board and can vary depending on the student’s residency/enrollment status [i.e., living on their own vs. living with parent(s)/legal guardian(s), full-time vs. part-time] .

Also, the NCAA does not have a minimum GPA requirement in order for a member institution to provide aid to a former student-athlete. In general, member institutions each have their own ‘degree completion’ program in which a student must apply for financial aid and be vetted through the appropriate departments before he/she will be awarded financial aid.

In fall, 2010 LSU launched such a degree completion program geared specifically toward its former athletes. “Project Graduation” director Kenneth Miles touts his program’s goal as “providing information and assistance to former student-athletes with the help of several university departments including the Athletics Administration, Admissions and Senior Colleges.”

“All of the related departments collaborate to provide former student-athletes with information regarding reapplying to the university, degree audits, health center requirements, financial aid assistance applications and contact information all while creating a positive environment consisting of full advisement and assistance services.” According to this press release, the program had helped 35 former student-athletes finish their degrees from inception through summer 2014. One of them was former star LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, for whom a long-time career in the NFL always seemed such a long shot. Not unlike the chances of his alma mater competing for a national title heading into the 2015 season, according to recent sportsbook online betting odds.

Many of the 10 former Razorbacks I interviewed believe a similar program is needed at the University of Arkansas.

 

 

*The NCAA’s super hardcore technical  definition for “former student-athlete” is a  “a student-athlete who has exhausted his or her five-year period of eligibility.” It can also mean a student-athlete “who is permanently ineligible to participate in intercollegiate competition due to a violation of NCAA amateurism and athletics eligibility regulations (e.g., signed an agreement with a professional organization, secured the services of an agent, exhausted eligibility due to delayed enrollment penalties) but is still within his or her five-year period of eligibility, who returns to the institution with no intent to participate in athletics shall be considered a former student-athlete for purposes of NCAA financial aid legislation.

Black Razorback Fans of the Jim Crow Era: A Forgotten Past

Early black fans were segregated to the track around the first Razorback Stadium.
Early black fans were segregated to the track around the first Razorback Stadium.

The history of the African-American athlete at the University of Arkansas has become well chronicled in the last couple decades. Many outlets have covered their experiences on the field – ranging from Yahoo sports columnist Dan Wetzel’s look at Darrell Brown, the first black Razorback football player, to a new “Arkansas African American Sports Center” business which focuses on the histories of black student-athletes at the UA across various sports. The university’s athletic department itself has created a series honoring its minority and women trailblazers.

But what about the history of the Razorbacks’ black fans?

That story appears to be entirely unreported. It’s time that changes and – thanks to Henry Childress, Sr. and Wadie Moore, Jr. – the right time is now.

Childress, Sr., likely the oldest living African-American man in Fayetteville, told me about a small group of black men, women and children who consistently attended Razorback football games at Razorback Stadium in the 1940s. Remember – this was an era in which Jim Crow laws still pervaded the South, although the social climes of Fayetteville have always more progressive than many other Southern towns (aside from a brief flare-up of KKK activity in the early 1900s).

Childress, Sr., now in his upper 80s, recalls seeing about 25-40 black Hog fans at games he attended in the 1940s through early 1950s. They weren’t allowed to sit in the bleachers like all the white fans. Instead, they had to sit in chairs on the track which then encircled the football field. But black and white fans alike Woo-pig-sooed their hearts out during the games against Tulsa, Texas, Texas A&M and SMU which Childress, Sr. saw. A black Fayettevillian named Dave Dart was the loudest cheerleader. “He’d be out there – he’d be out on the side of the field almost. He’d be just a-holerrin’ and yelling ‘Come on!'”  And soon enough, Childress couldn’t help but join the frenzy.

This Hog mania was a far cry from Childress’ younger days growing up in Ft. Smith. Then, he didn’t consider himself a Razorback or much of a football fan at all. One reason was Hogs’ games didn’t then dominate statewide airwaves like they would after 1951, when Bob Cheyne – the UA’s first publicity director – crisscrossed the state to enlist 34 radio stations in the broadcasting of Hog games.

Plus, Childress hadn’t gotten swept up in football mania at his all-black Ft. Smith high school. Lincoln High had cut its football and baseball programs by the time he moved to Fayetteville in 1944, he recalled. He added in the early 1940s the school only sponsored basketball. The teens who still yearned for football simply gathered to play it by themselves on a nearby field after classes let out. “We’d go out to the back of the school, and choose up sides.”

After moving to Fayetteville, it took a little while to warm to the fanaticism and voluminous qualities of certain Razorback fans. “It was kind of strange to me,” Childress said. “I just came out and sat and looked.” Pretty soon, though, he got the hang of it. He learned many fellow black fans actually worked on the UA campus, usually as part of house, cafeteria or groundskeeping staff. This meant they personally knew the white student-athletes for whom they rooted. Dave Dart, for instance, worked at a fraternity home and cheered on the frat bro-hogs he knew by name, Childress recalled.

Hog games weren’t the only setting where black Fayettevillians came to cheer all-white spectacles. Childress said in this era both races got off work to watch the town’s parades (which then featured all-white floats). “We’d come out and stand. There would be lines all up and down Dickson Street.”

I asked Childress what he then thought of the whole situation.  Did he or any friends at any point consider it unfair only white players could represent a state university to which blacks had contributed as employees, taxpayers and students since its 1872 founding?

“No, we didn’t give it a thought,” Childress said. “Wasn’t nobody [African-American] going over there to school,” and he didn’t expect an influx of black UA students to begin any time soon.

What About Black Fans at War Memorial Stadium? 

I haven’t yet found anybody who can speak to the experience of central Arkansan blacks at Razorback football games at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium in the immediate years after its 1947 construction.

But I did find Wadie Moore, Jr., who recalls the situation in the early 1960s Little Rock was more stratified than in 1940s Fayetteville. As a 13-year-old in 1963, Moore began working at War Memorial, where his father was a maintenance worker in the press box. Moore said about 5-10 black fans would attend each Little Rock Razorback game in that time. They didn’t sit in sight of the white fans. Instead, stadium policy “would allow you to sit under the bleachers in the north end zone and watch the game,” he said.

Wade Moore Sr.’s proximity to the media – including future local legends like Jim Bailey, Bud Campbell and Jim Elders – actually opened doors for his son, though. When Moore Jr. found a passion for sportswriting as a high schooler at Horace Mann High School, it was his father who made sure an article he wrote got into the hands of Orville Henry, the longtime sports editor of the Arkansas Gazette.

The mid to late 1960s brought a tidal wave of change to racial dynamics across the South and War Memorial was no exception. Wadie Jr. recalls one of first times he saw black Razorback fans sitting in the crowd – and not secluded below in the stands – coincided with the Little Rock homecoming of one of the Razorbacks’ first black band members. The young woman’s family, last name of “Hill” as he recalled, watched her in the audience around 1965 (the first year black UA students were allowed to live on campus) or 1966. In 1965, too, a young walk on named Darrell Brown joined the defending national champions in Fayetteville full of hope he could break down regional color barriers all by himself. By the end of the next fall he would limp away, that hope beaten out of him.

But he had opened the doors for others, including Jon Richardson – who a few years later became the Hogs’ first black scholarship player.

In 1968 one of Richardson’s schoolmates, Wadie Moore, Jr. became the first black sportswriter at Arkansas’ oldest and most prestigious statewide newspaper.


There are hundreds of other stories about Arkansas’ forgotten sports heritage which need to be recorded and published before it’s too late. Thank you to Henry Childress, Jr., Rita Childress, Jerry Hogan (author of the NWA pro baseball history Angels in the Ozarks) and the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History) for helping me find a treasure of historical knowledge in Henry Childress, Sr. Send tips on stories/interviewees to evindemirel [at] gmail.com.

For more on this topic, visit my other work here:

1. Vanishing Act: What Happened to Black Baseball in Arkansas? (via Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

2. Integrate the Record Books (via Slate)

3. It’s Time Arkansas Follows Texas in Honoring its Black Sports Heritage (via The Sports Seer)