FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Houston Nutt addressed members of the media during the annual Arkansas Razorbacks media day on Wednesday. Nutt held a press conference in the Burlsworth Room inside the Frank Broyles Athletic Complex. Following the press conference, players and coaches were available for interviews and photos.
The following is a partial transcript of Houston Nutt’s address to the media.
“We have so many good things to talk about. Before we do I’d like to touch on some things that everyone is anxious to hear and I want to get this behind us.”
Status of Cedric Cobbs:
“I want to start with Cedric [Cobbs]. Cedric has done everything that I’ve asked of him since January. I’ve had a lot of conversations with his mother the last few weeks. I’ve had a lot of conversations with his family, and the thing that I appreciate about him is that since January he has met 15 conditions that we laid out for him. He’s had his best semester in school, been more focused than ever before and I’ve been proud of the way he’s been carrying himself.
“You’re going to find out this afternoon that his attorney is going to drop the appeal. They’ll have a statement then. You’ll find out more through him. I’m looking for one thing with Cedric. That is to be the person that I know he can be and put this thing behind him and move forward.”
Status of Ken Hamlin:
“Kenny Hamlin – I’ve wrestled with this all summer long. I’ve been back and forth several times, and I’ve talked to the team. I talked to the seniors real hard last night. This has been the most difficult decision since I’ve been at the University of Arkansas. When I first got the phone call, my immediate reaction was to kick him off the team. I really wanted to suspend him and get him off the team – that was my gut feeling, my reaction.
“Until you talk to one’s family, until you’ve been in a relationship with a person, until I saw him in an orange suit, until I saw ten days, until I saw his face and his heart and what he did with his teammates, I knew that he as a broken man. I knew in my heart that he was sorry. He knew what he did was wrong and he faced it.
“I’m not going to suspend Kenny Hamlin one game. He knows that he is on very thin ice. He knows that he can’t drive and has curfews. He knows he has two strikes against him. He knows all of those things.
“If I told you back when this happened that I’d been saying this today, I’d say that’s not true. I feel good about it about it today, I feel very strong about it. Kenny will make a remark when I get through today.
“I want them to say something. I want you to see their face. I want you to listen to them. I just feel that sometimes that when you have to make a decision regarding a player you have to do what’s best for them and what’s best for the team.
“I love these kids and I’ve never had a tougher summer. I might be wrong. I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not a perfect father all the time. I feel like right now – today – especially after 12:30 last night, I think I’m doing right. You do ten days, and I want to thank the judge. He didn’t have to do ten days; he could’ve done seven or five. I want to thank the judge. I think that he’s responsible for turning around [Ken’s] life.
“Until you actually spend the night with 14 other inmates, until you actually can’t see the sun – I have a piece of paper that I’ll probably keep in my wallet for the rest of my life that Ken Hamlin wrote me – I think this is what it’s all about.”
The Team on Cobbs and Hamlin:
“At our senior meeting last night I didn’t feel the same way I do today. When they see how remorseful he is they know that he’s learned a lesson. I think the one thing that got across last night is that I have a short fuse right now. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for anything dealing with off the field.
“I feel good about our staff right now and how we’ve been handling discipline. I feel that we’ve been very consistent. The most embarrassing thing is these incidences this summer is that things have been dragging along. Only time will tell if the message has gotten across.”
The Important things:
“We have 123 student athletes on our team and I want to hit on some things right now that have been important. We set a record for a GPA last spring – we had the highest GPA in ten years. We had four graduates walk across the stage to get a degree, but they still have eligibility left: Mark Bokermann, Jermaine Brooks, Raymond House and Josh Melton. We had ten guys go to Honduras, numerous guys get in the community. It’d be real easy to say go do some community service, go do this or that. Until they look and say Coach Nutt I want to do that. I want to be a Razorback for a day, be a role model and be in front of these people. Until they actually learn to give and give their heart, it’s hard to fake that.
“We’ve got some good kids. We have 22 on the SEC Academic Honor Roll. That’s number two behind Vanderbilt. We have one philosophy: I want to us to win football games and I want them to graduate. I want them to grow up. Sacha Lancaster is just back from Arena Football and now he’s here working for us.
“There was one time Sacha had 32 stitches in the back of his head. He was going down the same road that Hamlin and Carlos Hall at one time. That’s one example of somebody changing their life. Again, starting today, I want to put this so far behind us and I want to go forward.
“I told our team last night in our first family team meeting that we have so much to be thankful for. We have the best indoor arena. We have brand new turf. We have the greatest academic center, the greatest team room.”
“On the back of this team room wall is Brandon Burlsworth, and you all know the legacy that he left. I really believe that it is because of him that we are second behind Vanderbilt because he left the legacy of doing what’s right.
“I want to talk about the team, about the freshmen. I get excited when I see them. This is probably the best group of linemen we’ve recruited. Big massive guys, not just big guys, but guys who can move and with great attitudes. I’m proud of guys like Zack Tubbs and Tony Ugoh. I want to thank our Arkansas guys too. Mitch Nuchols didn’t have to come here. Jason Grimes didn’t have to come here. He’s one of the best looking guys we’ve had here in a long time from Bentonville, Arkansas.
“Then the skill guys – Vickiel Vaughn, Desmond Sims, John Jackson, Dedrick Poole, John Johnson. These guys can run and play a lot of positions – Michael Coe, a coach’s son. I’m pumped that these guys are here.
“We are missing two guys who may not be here until next week due to clearinghouse logjams. Reginald Banks should be here as well as Johnathan Barry. Our guys came in last night and looked real good.”
“My seniors are my first class. Not big in number but big in heart. I can look at Jermaine Brooks and it’s just like yesterday him trying to keep Gary Hobbs from being homesick. All the way from California trying to convince a guy from 47 miles down the road not to go home.
“Raymond House, had the privilege to work with his grand father, a great person. Nathan Ball who all we’ve done is move him. All he says is what position do I play. That’s what you want, that type of warrior mentality.
“I know that there is going to be a lot of questions, but sometimes I feel like I’ve got to go with my heart, my gut feeling. I’ve got to do what’s best for the player and what’s best for the team. Right now I’ll look everyone in the face and if I didn’t think it was right I wouldn’t do it.”
The Kicking Game:
“Marvin Jackson helped us at punt returner last year and has put on some weight and is 12 pounds heavier. He is going to be a difference maker as a punt returner and at kick returner. He is going to make a difference at cornerback and in our nickel package. I’m excited about Chuck Nalley our deep snapper. He’s been deep snapping for four years and every snap is perfect. He snaps for extra points and our punter.
“Richie Butler, senior, a punter who walked on from Harrison and earned a scholarship. We expect a battle on kickoff between Brennan O’Donohoe and David Carlton. O’Donohoe is farther along than he was in the spring and Carlton is getting stronger and hopefully soon will be kicking the ball out of the endzone.”
The Quarterback Battle:
“Regarding the quarterback situation, we will know the number one quarterback ten days before kickoff. What’s so exciting is that each of them has a different talent and a different style. Tarvaris [Jackson] can throw the ball on a dime he has a touch. Matt, everyone knows what Matt can do.
“When it comes down to it, the best player is going to get the job.”
Note: Junior free safety Ken Hamlin asked to read a statement to the media gathered for media day.
“I’ve asked Coach Nutt to let me have some time to talk to everyone. I’d like to ask everyone not to make the same mistake that I’ve made, to not get behind the wheel and drive after drinking. Hopefully someone can learn from my mistake and avoid a very bad decision, especially young people in my situation.”