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Razorbacks Preparing for Cotton Bowl Classic

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Razorbacks Preparing for Cotton Bowl Classic

DALLAS – The No. 24 Arkansas Razorbacks held practice in brisk but sunny conditions on the practice fields behind SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium as preparations continued for the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic on January 1, 2008. Arkansas (8-4, 4-4 SEC) will face the No. 7 Missouri Tigers (11-2, 7-1 Big 12) on New Year’s Day.

The Razorbacks took off the pads for today’s practice as game day approaches. “We are winding down with one more practice left,” Arkansas Head Coach Reggie Herring said. “We take the pads off, get our bodies right, our legs right, and get in the right frame of mind for the game.”

Despite all of the activities occurring during Cotton Bowl week, the Arkansas coaching staff is getting the team focused on the game in three days. “We are toning things down,” Herring continued. “We have to make a mental, spiritual, and physical transition.”

The Hogs worked on special teams plays during practice, but also showed good production in offensive sets.

“Offensively we ran 60 perfect plays,” Coach Herring said, “and had two offsides. We had excellent focus, concentration, and wisdom. We are starting to focus in.”

Senior fullback Peyton Hillis was held out of practice today as a precaution after tweaking his hamstring. He is expected to be ready for the Classic on Tuesday.

Tomorrow the Razorbacks will practice at Ford Stadium from 11:10 a.m.-1:10 p.m. Media may obtain video footage in the first 20 minutes of practice; however, practice is CLOSED to the media following the 20-minute video window. Players will be off limits for interviews, but Head Coach Reggie Herring will be available at the Head Coaches’ News Conference starting at 9:00 a.m. at the Omni Mandalay Hotel.

Transcript: Offensive News Conference

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR DAVID LEE

On his offensive philosophy: “Football is the acquisition of talent. Acquiring talent is the way you win football games. Now, you’ve got to coach them after you get them there. But if the spread offense were the answer, North Texas wouldn’t be where they are right now. … It’s not offenses. It’s those players. What was recruited to Arkansas was a great covey of running backs. You have three guys who are going to be drafted, two of them probably in the first round. So you have to do what your players do best.”

On what makes TB Darren McFadden an exceptional player: “He is fiercely competitive. When he runs the football, he is so violent. He loves to attack the tackler. It’s the reason he had a fumble or two knocked loose. He’s knocked it loose himself. … He loves it. He’s a great competitor. I see him as a real fast (Dallas Cowboy) Marion Barber. That’s who he reminds me of. He has great hands. He can throw the ball, catch the ball, play on special teams. This guy has enormous value for a pro football team.”

On being back in Dallas, where he previously was an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys: “I love it. I kept my house next to Valley Ranch. We just loved it, and we’re going to try to retire there even though I’m too young to be thinking about retirement. We’re sitting on the No. 5 green. I just like being able to look out and see the sand trap and people putting. I’m going to try to hang onto it. It’s good to get back to Dallas, get in my house and get out of the apartment I was in at Fayetteville.”

On the media reports surrounding McFadden: “He’s playing. Darren McFadden didn’t do anything wrong. One of these media outlets put the inaccurate information out. Darren hasn’t done a darn thing wrong. We haven’t missed a lick. We’re putting stuff in. He will be ready to go – throw it, run it. … I addressed it with the offense this morning briefly. I told them it was another stupid mistake by the media. We fought it all year long. … It’s irresponsible, but it happened. Darren hasn’t done anything wrong. He doesn’t need to be defensive about anything. All he is doing is getting ready to play every single week, taking a heck of a beating and representing the state of Arkansas beautifully. He probably should have won the Heisman Trophy. He has been a class act.”

JR. TB FELIX JONES

On the week of preparations thus far: “We’re still practicing hard. We have a good game plan. We’re ready to play ball now. This is more exciting than a typical game week. There’s a lot of attention on this game. We’re just trying to stay focused, though, and prepare like we always do.”

On handling the distractions of media reports about the team: “This has been going on for a few years. We just have to take it as it is and try to make our situation better. We’ll work through it and stay focused.”

On whether game preparations have changed with Reggie Herring as the head coach: “It’s pretty much the same approach. We’re going out there, working hard and leaving it on the field. We’re going at it 100 percent. … They’ve been pretty lenient with the curfews. Coach Herring is a real understanding coach. We know what we came down here for. We don’t have anybody going out there and doing crazy stuff.”

On Herring’s approach to practice: “He’s making sure we stay focused. The game is what we came down here for. He wants us to be classy guys.”

SR. FB PEYTON HILLIS

On the 2007 season: “It started off real good when we won our first game. But the season has had its ups and downs. An off week early in the season kind of hurt us a bit. And then we lost some early SEC games. We had to move on from there. We had a good team with unselfish players. We put everything together toward the end of the season.”

On highs and lows of the season: “The low was losing our first three conference games to Alabama, Kentucky and Auburn. They were close games. We could have easily had 11 wins instead of eight. Things work out for a reason. We’re all happy to be at the Cotton Bowl.”

On the transition from Coach Houston Nutt to Herring: “There really wasn’t that much transition. We acted like it never even happened. Coach Nutt was a good man, and Coach Herring is too. He keeps us motivated. We like going to practice. He has competitions every day so we can have fun and live it up a little bit. He has done a very good job.”

On his role in the Arkansas offense: “I’ve had a pretty good year. I’ve gotten the ball a little bit more, and good things have happened for me. But none of that matters unless you win games. We won enough games to get us into the position we’re in now.”

On the preparations for the AT&T Cotton Bowl: “They’ve gone very well. People here have done a great job. We’ve had nice facilities to work out in and a great hotel. It is good being here. It’s a privilege.”

On the Missouri defense: “Missouri has a big, strong, tough defense. They’re hardnosed. Of course, they have some weaknesses, but who doesn’t? It will be a physical game for our offense.”

On his role in the game: “Doing just a little bit of everything. Since I’ve been here, I’ve never had a specific role of doing just one thing. I’ll continue that role and just see what happens.”

JR. CENTER JONATHAN LUIGS

On whether the team is maintaining its focus: “We definitely got some needed days off for the holidays to spend time with our families. It was good to get back down here with our guys and play football again.”

On whether this is like a normal game week: “The practice schedules are very similar. We’re obviously down here in a different atmosphere, but the coaches have done a good job of keeping us focused. This time of year, practice can become a drag. It’s just natural to lose focus. So Coach Herring got on us today. After that, we turned it around and had a very good practice.”

On activities outside of practice: “No players have missed curfews. The coaches have kept us on the right path. We’ve been focused on the right things.”

On Arkansas media reports about McFadden: “It’s just another day in the life of the Arkansas Razorbacks. We definitely have some experience as far as dealing with the drama. You really just have to take it with a grain of salt and move on as football players.”

SR. SE MARCUS MONK

On the Missouri defense: “They have a great team and great schemes. We want to help our defense out by controlling the ball. So we have to get out there and make plays.”

On whether it was worth it to come back off an injury rather than taking a redshirt season: “There’s nothing wrong with hard work. It took some time to get where I am physically. I know I have some more to go. I’m just taking it a day at a time.”

On plans after the bowl: “I want to train somewhere, but I have not decided where it will be.”

On his career at Arkansas: “I had a great time. I just want to finish on a good note.”

On the highlight of his senior season: “Beating LSU. I hadn’t defeated them before. I wanted to beat them before I left, and we did it. It was a good feeling. It shows what level we’re on as a team and what we can do when we go out and play hard.”

On the importance of winning the bowl game: “Last year, we didn’t finish like we wanted to (loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl). Our coaches always tell us it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. So we want to finish strong.”

On the distraction of the coaching change: “Coach Herring held us together extremely well. He helped us stay focused and told us to treat it like another day at work. We approach every practice as if it’s our last. We had to start over with stretching today at practice. Coach Herring won’t let us fall off. The distractions don’t bother us. We’ve seen so much.”

JR. QB CASEY DICK

On going up against a team quarterbacked by Chase Daniel, who like Dick is from north Texas: “I am excited about that. It will be a fun experience for both of us. We went to some of the same camps and talked. But we never really hung out outside of that. Obviously, he’s running more of a spread, high-octane offense. … We like to establish the run. They throw the ball around a lot more. … We have two or three backs who are game changers. When you give them the ball, you never know what’s going to happen. We’re happy to have them. You have to do what’s called. When your number is called, you perform.”

On how McFadden has handled the week’s distractions: “You just cannot ask for anything more. He’s probably the best player in the country. He has been fantastic about how he has handled things. He has put it behind him and kept going.”

On how the latest distractions affect the rest of the team: “We’ve had our fair share of rumors and stuff that has happened. This team certainly has done a great job of not paying any attention to those things. … We put that behind us, keep going and don’t really worry about what everybody else says.”

On the 2007 season: “A couple of plays here or there, and you’re looking at two, three or four more wins than we had. We certainly know we’re a good football team when we’re clicking on all cylinders.”

JR. TB DARREN MCFADDEN

On handling the latest distractions: “It just adds fuel to the fire. The whole team has had its ups and downs. I just try not to even think about it. I don’t want to pay any attention to it.”

On the focus in practice: “Coach Herring is making sure things are not slipping. It’s a great focus.”

On what he wants his example to be for younger players: “You have to work hard and listen to the advice coaches give. You’re not going to go out there and just do everything on your own. The coaches know a lot. It has been a lifelong dream to be a Razorback. Everybody wants a role model. Some kids choose the wrong role model. So I’ve tried to set a good example.”

On having Monk back from injury: “It is a great feeling to have him back. Now I don’t feel like the defense is going to load eight or nine men in the box. … I’ve been going against eight or nine all year. Injuries come with the territory. He just had to rehab and come back. He’s one of my best friends. I hope he has a great game."



Sports Category : Football