FAYETTEVILLE -- Many who coached in the 1970s and
before would have eyed Arkansas' "scrimmage" last
Saturday night and retched.
Glorified touch football, what with coach Houston Nutt's
edict of no tackling to the ground among the first- and
second-teamers, though third-teamers and likely
redshirts scrimmaged the real thing.
Times change. Many who coached in the 1960s and
'70s still coaching today now coach their preseason
like Nutt does, especially inching closer to the season
Even Lou Holtz, who coached Nutt at Arkansas in 1977
and likened his preseason drills to "Fayettenam," has
had to adjust.
Holtz did have his South Carolina first- and
second-stringers scrimmaging some last Friday, but
reportedly the Gamecocks spent almost as much time
polishing such noncontact basics as pre-game routine
as they did scrimmaging.
Numbers and scheduling just don't allow the
pre-season bloodlettings that Bowden Wyatt had at
Arkansas in 1953 and '54 or Bear Bryant's "Junction
Boys" at Texas A&M.
Back then scholarships were virtually unlimited. Many
big-time schools might sign a marginal instate
prospect just on the off chance he might ambush them
at another school.
Things have changed. A lot for the better. Some,
debatably, for the worse.
Women athletes were getting a Gary Coleman-sized
short end of the stick in those pre-Title IX days while
football stockpiled scholarships like a greedy CEO
Women get their due now, but football, at least at a
school with a self-supporting athletic department like
Arkansas' men's athletic department, pays the bills for
That in part, among other burgeoning costs, is why
football, with increasingly fewer scholarships, keeps
playing more games with earlier than ever season
starts. Four teams kicked off the season last Saturday.
Used to be it was always after Labor Day before the
college season began, but Arkansas' Sept. 6 season
opener with Tulsa is tardy by today's standards.
Don't worry, the Razorbacks will catch up. They play a
12-game season. It was a 14-game season last year
with the SEC Championship game and a bowl game
"It's like an NFL season," Nutt said of how teams must
He's right. Fourteen games used to be the NFL regular
season. NFL teams, even with luxury of taxi squads and
waivers to replace the injured, generally conserve
hitting for the games.
As players continually are bigger, stronger and faster
and collisions more intense, it more than ever puts a
premium on lower impact drills and conditioning and
less on scrimmaging.
It's a calculated risk. Nutt knows critics will harp and he
might second guess himself if the Hogs aren't sharp
tackling against Tulsa. But this is a strongly
experienced senior team, and he already frets whether
starting outside linebacker Jimarr Gallon ( broken ring
finger) and starting nose guard Arrion Dixon (sprained
knee) will be ready Sept. 6.
"You want all your weapons on the field," Nutt said.
"These guys have played a lot of ballgames and you
can get average (via injury) in a hurry. Jimarr Gallon's
down if a (starting inside linebacker) Caleb Miller or
(starting free safety Tony) Bua goes down ... we lost
(starting strong safety) Jimmy Beasley before the bowl
game in practice last year and that hurt us a lot. Would
you rather miss a tackle or miss a season? That's the
bottom line with me."
It can work both ways. Nutt's 1998 team practiced much
in the preseason style of this one and went 9-2 for the
But the only bowl game his Hogs have won, trouncing
Texas in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day 2000,
came after he reacted to an embarrassingly lopsided
regular-season loss at LSU with intense practices. But
that 8-4 team had just played 11 games before its
bowl, not 13, Arkansas' aim to play again before this
With just one preseason week left, senior
cornerback-punt returner Marvin Jackson and junior
wide receiver Steven Harris continue to show the Hogs
what they missed not having them last year because of
injuries. Jackson picked off two passes Saturday night.
Harris caught a 27-yard pass from quarterback Matt
Jones. Both have excelled throughout August.
Two true freshmen, Jacob Skinner of Texarkana, Texas,
and walkon Rusty McEntire of Harrison, figure in the
Skinner is the No. 1 punter, and it appears McEntire's
kickoffs could free junior David Carlton strictly to
concentrate on placekicking, special teams coach
James Shibest said.
Carlton placekicked impressively last Saturday.