FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas football interim head coach Reggie Herring met with local media Wednesday to discuss the current changes affecting the team and the upcoming bowl season for the Razorbacks. The following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
On Arkansas’ schedule heading into the bowl season
“I don’t think there’s any need to change what we’re doing. Right now our kids are in class. That’s a priority for our team right now with finals approaching that they’re doing what they need to do in the classroom and they’ll have ample time to do that. Our practices in the next three weeks to come are all scheduled around finals and exams, so bowl eligibility is probably the biggest goal for this football team right now.
“Academically, Mike Beaumont and Mike Ritchie are working diligently with the targeted players that have some work to do to get bowl eligible. There are some as there are every year probably all across America. Right now, that’s our No. 1 goal. That and doing some lifting and running and staying in shape.”
On responsibilities as interim head coach for the Razorbacks
“There’s nobody with illusions of grandeur around here. That’s why I have the word “interim” in front of my name. I’ve been strapped with the responsibility to get this team to the bowl game and play a spirited game and represent the Razorbacks as the fans would expect and know. Having said that, don’t get any false impressions or ideas that this is an easy job. You’ve got coaches right now that are in turmoil right now with their lives and their wives and their families. Everybody’s affected. The players are affected. They don’t know who their head coach is going to be. There are a tremendous amount of distractions.
“It is not a normal circumstance, but at the end of the day, we’ve got the bulk of our staff here and the players will have a team meeting tomorrow at 4 p.m. and we’ll give them their marching orders and their directions and where they’re headed and what we’ve got going on. The main base structure of this program is intact right now. It will be run in a fashionably order with discipline, structure and organization. As far as the game goes, there are some things that I’d like to talk to you about. There are some adjustments being made to make this function and happen properly and to happen in a dignified way.
“For instance, you asked about the offense, David Lee is still the offensive coordinator and he has as good a feel for the players and their capabilities as anybody on campus, so there won’t be any changes there. David has been told to go score, to score a lot and score often. As far as me getting involved in play calling, and I’ll you this very much so, some of these things are going to sound like I’m interviewing for the job and it’s not, but at some point in time you’ve got to know what an individual is thinking.
“My thinking is I was hired here for the next three weeks to get this organization to perform at a high level and to do that, my vision of what my job description is to delegate, to discipline, to organize and to coach all facets without getting in the way. That is my idea of a head coach, to hire and to get people to do their job and to stay out of the way.
“That’s why David will run the offense and he’ll do the play calling. He’s been told there’s no straps, there’s no chains on him. My idea of a good offense is to be balanced, to be able to run and throw and not be predictable. Those are the teams that have given me the most fits as a defensive coordinator for 27 years. If it’s throw the ball every down, I have no problem. If it’s run the ball every down—whatever’s working. At the same time, it goes back to being balanced and being entertained.
“I’m a Florida State grad and the greatest show in town on Saturday night in Tallahassee, Fla., was seeing that ball in the air about 50 times and playing good, fast, hard-nosed defense. What I would want to be is entertained. I want to be exciting, to be explosive, but hire people and get people in here that do what they’ve been asked to do.
“On the same hand, on the defensive side, I don’t believe that I can personally coordinate a game and have to deal. I can tell you in the three days I’ve been here (as interim coach), this is a very demanding job as far as organization and making things go right. There’s no way I can study an opponent and do a great job, the service this university deserves, and coordinate this game. Having said that, I’m going to put total faith and confidence in Louis Campbell.
“Louis Campbell is more experienced than most coordinators in this country. He’s a man I truly believe in and trust. He’s an experienced coordinator. He was on our defense last year and he knows our package inside and out. He’s been there every snap of the day this season. He’s been in meetings and has never really left us. I have a comfort level with him, a comfort zone where I’m going to entrust the defense and move him back on the field in the safety position. Please understand this, this is a very difficult time, but it can be done as long as the ingredients remain intact, but there will be some bumps along the way. I can not restrain or demand that a coach does not take a job in the next week or so and take care of his family.
“Knowing that, to my knowledge right now, every coach is in the boat and every coach is committed to winning this game. We love our players. We love our players. We’ve been through a lot together, but regardless of that, we’re professionals, we’re under contract and with the spirit of that contract and the spirit of this university, our coaches will honor it and I’ve been assured by all of them they will go coach and fight this game, as well as the players. They’re extremely excited. They’ve all jumped in the boat. They’ve worked hard for this bowl trip. It’s a reward for them. I’ve seen no signs of anybody flinching and these coaches and players will come to work and will be there on game day.
“Having said that, once again, you never know what’s going to happen the next couple of weeks and we’ll adjust and adapt, but Louis Campbell is going to coordinate this game. I’ll be watching, but let me tell you something, you don’t like anybody staring over your shoulder while you write. I have total confidence in him, that much that I’ll let him run the show and do this thing. It’s going to be our stuff, our package. I’ll give him some guidance leading up to what works and what doesn’t and what the players believe in, but it’s going to be his show. Working with all the other coaches, they all know each other. There is a comfort level. Other than that, the offense is as is and I think Dean Weber is still with us, so I think we’re ok.”
On the players’ attitude heading into bowl season
“(Darren) is going to be on the road traveling. He is our marquee guy. He is an incredible ambassador for Arkansas and his great responsibility will be, for the next week and a half, to make us all proud and represent the University of Arkansas with this awards. We’re all cheering for the Heisman, obviously, but as far as that goes, Darren is fired up and ready to go. Felix Jones has his smile on his face. (Marcus) Monk is more worried about what we’re wearing in the bowl game than what kind of route he’s going to run right now.
“This is a team that is a true team in the sense and these guys are closer sometimes than what we as coaches give them credit for. They’re extremely excited. Make no mistake, there is a mourning period of the loss of Coach (Houston) Nutt. These were his players. He recruited them. He coached them. There is a sort of sadness and deservingly so, but at the same time, I have spoken to Coach Nutt and the last thing he said was ‘go win this bowl game and make us proud.’
“It’s truly a reflection on the players attitude and their attitude is let’s go play. They’re just waiting to find out where they’re going. As far as that goes, that is a rumor and rumors are like water in this universe right now and that’s just part of life, but let me put that one to rest. Everybody’s got a smile on their face and they’re ready to go.”
On involvement with the special teams
“Special teams will be a high priority as always and I’m a firm believer because it’s always been most of my guys on defense. They understand that’s the extra part. It’s one-third of the game. Right now James (Shibest) will still be the special teams coach and Bobby (Allen) will be right there with him as assistant special teams coach. Like I said, all our staff is intact right now. Like I said, there could be somebody vacating and we’ll adjust, but as far as special teams, it’s always been a priority for me. As far as if we’re going to kick an on-side kick the first play of the game, I’d love to say I’d do that, but as long as you don’t boo me before we get to halftime. We’re not going to do anything crazy. We’re going to be sound and they’re going to be well-coached and play hard.
On shifting coaches positions
“It’ll be natural. Chris (Vaughn) has coached the linebackers before. Those guys are pretty much structured. The guys that I have at linebacker with the exception of getting lost every now and then for thinking about cheerleaders or something, those guys will know how to line up and what to do and I’ll be watching. It’s really an easier transition than what people on the outside know who don’t know about this program and about Louis.
“I believe in Louis so much. I know his heart. There’s not a bigger Razorback and a guy who’s bled more than anybody. The guy is so qualified and so capable. He’s like a little kid in a candy store right now. He’s so excited and I have so much confidence in his knowledge and experience. I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, the last time he stepped as a temporary (coach), they beat Texas here as the coordinator. You just have to go with people and what you know about them. I’m really excited about it.”
“Tracy (Rocker) is out right now seeing a commitment in Florida and Georgia. We’re going out and seeing everybody that’s committed to the Razorbacks right now. I told them to make sure they get in the home and look their mamas and daddies in the eye and reassure them that Arkansas’ commitment to them is true and is always there, and, at the same time, trying to reschedule official visits for the first week of January. Doing whatever we need to do within the spirit of this university the coaches being professional.
“At the end of the day there are going to be some (withdrawn commitments), it’s natural, and you just don’t know how many. You just hold your breath and here you go. Right now you can imagine the 21 or 22 commitments that Arkansas has right now, if you can imagine a piece of meat being thrown into a pack of wolves right now. There’s not anybody asking when to take a turn. They’re being attacked by all schools, anybody around the country.
“(Recruiting) is a vicious job. It’s a competitive thing. We’re doing whatever we can to maintain those relationships and salvage as much as we can for this school. I’ve got everybody, every player that’s committed and a couple guys calling some other players that were on the block. That is being done as far as the recruiting aspect.”