FAYETTEVILLE – The Southeastern Conference released its all-conference freshman honors on Thursday and five Razorback football players were among the 30 on the team including offensive lineman Grant Cook, defensive linemen Jake Bequette and Zach Stadther, linebacker Jerry Franklin and return specialist Dennis Johnson.
The Razorbacks, who played 16 true freshmen in 2008 and another 10 redshirt freshmen during Bobby Petrino’s first year as head coach, placed more first-year players on the team than most of the SEC with only Georgia (6) garnering more all-freshman team honors.
For Arkansas’ offensive line, Cook made a huge impact at the strong side guard position. Placed in the starting lineup after an injury, Cook made such an impression his coaches that he continued to start for the next three games before he was set back by a minor injury. He was an integral part of Arkansas’ success both running and passing and graded out over 90 percent on his assignments the entire season. Over his four starts Cook totaled 15 knockdown blocks.
Arkansas’ defensive line was young this season and a testament to that is the pair of players that were named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Bequette, a redshirt from Little Rock, Ark., started 11 of the 12 games this season and ended the campaign with 45 tackles, three for loss and one sack. He was tied for third on the roster with six quarterback hurries and had a career game against No. 20 Auburn when he made seven tackles.
Stadther was a great surprise for the Razorback coaching staff as the true freshman joined the Arkansas starting lineup in the fifth game and never relinquished his position. Stadther finished the year fourth on the team in tackles with 57 and made four tackles for loss with eight quarterback hurries.
Completing Arkansas’ defensive awards was Franklin, a redshirt freshman from Marion, Ark. Franklin started every game for the Razorbacks, mostly at middle linebacker but moved outside late in the year to help Arkansas cover an area that was ravaged by injuries. All the while, Franklin’s play never faltered and he led the Razorbacks with 87 tackles. He was also the club leader in interceptions (2) and fumble recoveries and his interception of Florida’s Tim Tebow ended the third longest stretch of consecutive pass attempts without an interception in SEC history.
Arguably one of Arkansas’ most valuable players this season, Johnson rounds out Arkansas’ selections to the All-Freshman team. Named a return specialist on the team, Johnson did more than just return kicks although he did that very well. His 96-yard return for a touchdown against No. 19 Tulsa was a game-changing play and the eventual game-winning score. He ranked 88th in the nation in kickoff returns with a 22.07 average and 10th in the SEC in average, but led the conference return yardage with his school record 905 yards. He also capped the season with 230 all-purpose yards against LSU in Arkansas’ upset over the Tigers.
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