12-30 Arkansas Head Coach Press Conference 2017-04-25T11:39:32+00:00

December 30, 2010


Opening Statement: “We’re very excited to be here in New Orleans and represent the University of Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. It’s something that our players worked extremely hard to get here and we’re hoping to have a great experience. We’ve had two practices already. The majority of that is to knock off the rust from our Christmas break. We practiced up until the 23rd. We were able to send them home for Christmas, and then we met here on the 28th and have two good practices in. I’ve been impressed. I think our players are back in shape. They obviously worked out when they were home. We didn’t bounce too many balls off the carpet. We’re throwing it and catching it pretty well. I’m excited to get into tomorrow, which will start our normal weekly preparation for a game. We’ll go through the exact same schedule that we normally do on a game week. I think our players understand it. They’re excited to get that going. We had a great experience already, had a nice event last night bowling and then went to the basketball game, which was a good deal for our football players. Like I’ve said many times, this has been one of my most enjoyable years as a coach. I’ve had a football team that has a tremendous work ethic, a very very positive attitude and tremendous leadership from within the team and really made it an enjoyable year. I really feel like we’ll continue to do that in our preparation down here and hopefully go out and put on a great show on the fourth.”

On his reaction to the Ohio State players facing suspensions next season but not in this game …
“When it first came out, we happened to be having a team meeting right before we were ready to leave. We all talked about how we hoped there’s nothing to this situation. We want them to be eligible for the game. We get to a bowl game of this magnitude, you want to play against their best players, so I think we’re fortunate that they’re eligible to play.

On first practices and mood of the team …
“They were good. You get here and you’re very excited and energized. We went back and did a lot more individual drills. We did some of the practice (in preparation) for Ohio State. You throw the ball a little bit more, you do a little bit more of the run game just to get your legs under you and get back into it. Today was a little more focused toward Ohio State but again continue to do personal technique and fundamentals. Tomorrow we’ll start our preparation. We’re healthy. We look good out there. We’re running around, we’re fast. The one thing you’ve got to balance out with five practices before the game is to make sure we don’t wear them out or we don’t get sore.

On Ryan Mallet’s development and what most people don’t see about him …
“The first thing about him is that he loves the game of football. He loves competing. When he first came to the university, immediately he shows his natural leadership and his ability to influence the guys around him. He’s really matured as far as his technique, his fundamentals and his footwork, and his balance and his delivery has gotten better and better. We were fortunate to have him for a spring and he wasn’t eligible, and next fall he had to redshirt so I actually had him a year and a half before he played a game. That’s a lot of time to be able to spend and work on technique and fundamentals. He understands the game really, really well – both sides of the ball, offense and defense. As the years went on, he thinks more like we do as a coaching staff and adjustments become very easy during the game.”

On comparing coaching both Louisville and Arkansas in their first BCS games and what it means to Arkansas’ program to be in its first BCS game …
“It’s very similar. We were both in the stage of building our program. It’s our third year together. A lot of these players played as true freshman their first year with us. We took a lot of lumps, we got beat up, we stuck together, and we got better as the year went on. When we came to camp this year, we set our expectations high. We felt like we could really get it done and get to the national championship game. We stumbled a couple of times along the way but we stuck together. We fought our way back in it. We went on a nice six-game winning streak. This is what we want from our program is to be a top 20 team every year, get in the top 10 and find a way win a national championship. I think all of our players now believe that. When you first start talking to them, I think they hear you but they don’t really believe it. What’s fun about our football team now is that they really believe it, and they know how close we were when we were actually winning in the fourth quarter of both games we lost. So this is a big deal for us and certainly for our fans. I think that’s the thing that’s been really fun for me is to be able to see our fan base come together and support us like no where I’ve ever been.”

On what impressed him the most looking at Ohio State on tape…
“They’re very, very good. They do things right. They’re very, very sound in their schemes. They’re very well-coached. You can see that their football players really understand the game of football and play fast and physical so it’s going to be a great challenge for us, certainly to move the football. We’re going to have to block their front and their linebackers are guys that know the game. They understand plays sometimes before plays are run so we have to do a good job of really executing and play the game the way we know how. Defensively, it’s real important for us to play aggressively and play fast. We’ve played really well defense this year except in one game, and I feel like in that game we were hesitant; we were thinking, we were slow with our eyes. So we have to be aggressive and play fast and play it together the way we can.

On Ohio State’s visit to Louisville when Petrino was coach …
“In this profession, you always try to go out and visit somebody in the offseason or the spring, learn football, and “steal”; I call it steal, let’s see what we can go steal. We do it every year as a staff. We find somewhere our offensive staff goes, somewhere your defensive staff goes, and really try to learn more about the game, see what is new, or what they are doing different. That is not unusual. I honestly don’t really remember when they came to Louisville. I don’t know if it was offensive or defensive staff, but it is not uncommon for people to do that.”

On the impact of Petrino and Tressel’s successful fathers had on them …
“As far as our fathers go, that was a special way for me to grow up to be a football coach’s son. I used to get out of grade school, and it was three blocks to the practice field. I was the defensive end read for the triple option. I had to come and take quarterback, go to pitch or feather, and then take quarterback. If I didn’t do it right, I got coached up at night when I got home. It is just a great way to grow up. I think it is special. And what I have tried to do with my family and our coaches and their kids is to make them part of football is let them come to practice and let me be a big part of the recruiting weekends. Because we are gone so much and it is hard on you, but your family has to become part of your profession.”

On what his brother told him and the surprises after spending a year in the Big Ten …
“He is very impressed with the coaching and the players, how competitive it is, and how it is very similar to being in the SEC, where week in and week out you have to be ready to play because anybody can beat anybody. But there is little difference in the conference, as far as the run game and the pass game. In fact, I watched them last night and he is running the ball a lot. That is really different because he was always the offensive coordinator, wide receiver coach. So his influence was how many times we could throw the ball in a game. And now he is calling plays and they are running it a bunch. It is good to see him have that pressure and have to change his philosophy a bit.”

On Arkansas coaching staff raises …
“You really can’t say enough about our staff and I don’t know if we gave them as much of a raise as we would like to, but you have to work with what you’ve got. When you start on the offensive side of the ball, Garrick McGee did an unbelievable job. We have new coaches, really three new coaches on the offensive side of the ball. The way he was able to bring them into the mix and obviously use their inputs, but also make sure they understood how we go about our business, how we prepare for a game. We got better and better as the year went on on the offense and I think that is a tremendous job by Garrick on brining in the staff and improving each week. On the defensive staff, we know that the first two years we were there, we were playing a bunch of young guys. They had big shoulders and they were very criticized at times on how we played defensively, but we had beliefs. We had beliefs that we were doing things right and that our fundamentals and our techniques were improving. We stuck with those. I thought it was a great job by Willy [Robinson] and the defensive staff by sticking with what we believe in, continuing to improve and get better. Our defense was a huge part of our success this year in almost every game.”

On recruiting in Louisiana more or the same including Jerico Nelson …
“We are definitely going to continue to recruit this state. The high school football, the competitiveness, and the speed is something that we love when we come down here to recruit. The young men are very well coached and football is big in this state. I think that is important that you are raised that way because we use a lot of their time. It is a hard thing to be a college football player between going to class, going to weight lifting, position meetings, practice, study table at night. There are four days a week where they are there 7:30 in the morning till 9 or 10 at night without much of a break. I think it is important to us to go recruit areas where football is a big thing to them.”

On what he liked about Jerry Mitchell because he was unknown when they recruited him …
“As far as Jerry goes, Willy Robinson came down here and was really familiar with him. We liked his size and speed combination. He is right now corner for us, but he keeps growing. He will probably move inside to either safety or will linebacker. He is very physical and very fast football player. He is still young; he was young when he graduated from high school so he is going to continue to mature and get better for us. The interesting thing about Jerry is that he was one of the easiest guys we had to recruit. When they relocated with Katrina, they came up into the state of Arkansas and really liked it when they were staying up there.”

On what being on a national stage does for recruiting …
“I think that the year has really helped us in recruiting. The number of times we have been on national T.V., obviously now that we are in a BCS bowl game, and we see how close we were to getting into the championship game, more players are interested in you. We have to get them on campus. That is always a key to our recruiting is getting them on campus, let them see what we have there to offer, academically as well as our facilities so that they can become the best possible player they can become. I think that is the key, is they see when they get on campus that you have the ability to help them become the best player that they can. Certainly, I think that this year we have gotten in on more of the better players throughout the country. Sometimes that is the hard thing because you lose a lot more times too. I always tell our players we have to have more of a Muhammad Ali jaw than a Jerry Quarry jaw when we are going against all the great teams in the country because you are going to take a lot of lefts and rights and you have to stand up and get a few too. We have been able to hopefully get that done this year.”

On the length of time to prepare for a bowl game, changing things without getting away from what Arkansas does offensively …
“Well, we are going strictly wishbone. You see us coming out and running a two-triple. Ryan [Mallet] is doing a good job. He is opening at a 45, reaching the ball back, not riding it past his front hip. We worked hard at that. No, it is a long time, it really is. I think the one thing that I try to do is make it more like a normal game. Pick the games that you are going to break down, the games you are going to study, put the same number of plays you put up and keep working on them. I think the one thing I have made mistakes before with that period of time is trying to do too much, trying to change things, and trying to get bored with the scripts that you write. The ‘Hey, I just practiced that play three times last practice, so let’s go to a different play.’ I have tried to really not do that. We try to do what we do. We spent the first part of preparation more like spring ball, going against each other, going fast on fast, and working hard on our techniques and fundamentals. It was great for our young guys because they got a bunch of reps and we really learned a lot about a lot of our young players.”

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