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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hog Calls

Thursday, August 28, 2003

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

opener.

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

stockpiling bonuses.

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

all.

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

added on.

"It's like an NFL season," Nutt said of how teams must

prepare now.

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

regular season.

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

bowl season.

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

kicking game.

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.



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