D’Appollonio Embraces Role, Strives For ConsistencyArkansas football head coach Bret Bielema has embraced walk-ons throughout his career, and that philosophy has resulted in three conference titles and seven bowl appearances as a head coach. The list of walk-on contributors is lengthy and includes 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and 2013 Burlsworth Trophy winner Jared Abbrederis.Coach Bielema began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Iowa, earned a scholarship for the 1990 Big Ten champion Hawkeyes and was voted co-captain as a senior. His personal experience certainly plays into his valuing walk-ons, but as a coach he has also recognized their role as “recruiting erasers”, developing throughout their careers and being able to contribute when spots are available for any number of reasons. At Arkansas, his philosophy is already paying off with multiple walk-ons earning scholarships and contributing for the Razorbacks.“In this state, kids grow up wanting to be Razorbacks,” Coach Bielema said. “Walking on allows them to chase their dreams, and they usually end up being pretty special.”One of the former walk-ons with consistent playing time is senior snapper Alan D’Appollonio. The Phoenix, Ariz., native has appeared in 36 games during his first three seasons in Fayetteville.“My dad and I went through schools looking for who had senior snappers during my senior year in high school,” D’Appollonio said. “I sent my highlight video to those schools, and Arkansas was one of the ones that replied. Everyone wants to play in the SEC, and I couldn’t turn down that opportunity. I’ve loved every minute of my time at Arkansas. It’s been awesome. I’m excited for my final season on campus.”The snapper has a crucial job that, if done correctly, goes completely unnoticed.“My job is to make the holder’s and kicker’s jobs as easy as possible,” said D’Appollonio. “The snap has to be good so the holder can catch it and put it right on the spot. Then, you need protection. It’s a big-time collision play that most people don’t notice. If you lose focus at all, the kick can be blocked. We want to be consistent so we are confident on every play.”Last season showcased another dimension to D’Appollonio’s game. After seeing a fake punt on tape, Arkansas’ coaches wanted to feature the former tight end as a receiving threat. The play worked, and D’Appollonio was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after a 24-yard reception at Rutgers.“The coaches called me on a Sunday night out of the blue and asked me if I could catch,” he said. “On Tuesday the coaches watched me and (punter) Sam (Irwin-Hill) run the play 15 or 20 times and it worked out well. Coach Bielema put it in the game plan and it worked out. The other team already has to worry about Sam kicking with both feet, plus his rugby kicks and I’ve shown I can catch so it gives us another advantage in the kicking game.”
Already an integral part of the special teams unit, D’Appollonio is embracing an even more important role in 2014 as the Razorbacks will have a new kicker following the graduation of UA’s all-time leading scorer Zach Hocker.“With Zach leaving, it’s going to be a huge change for me on and off the field,” D’Appollonio said. “Zach has been my roommate my whole time in Fayetteville. On the field, we have three good kickers on our team right now that all kicked great in the spring game. The biggest thing is getting the timing down between different kickers. Timing is important because it’s difficult to hold the blocks for a long time. John (Henson) has game experience so that has helped this spring.”D’Appollonio has taken advantage of his opportunities on the field and in the classroom at Arkansas. He is majoring in political science and international relations and is on track to graduate in December.“I pride myself on making the SEC Honor Roll, something I’ve done every year I’ve been on campus,” D’Appolonio stated. “My parents always instilled in me that academics came before athletics. I’ve carried that to college because I know football ends and academics will carry you through the rest of your life.”D’Appollonio will continue to work consistency with the Razorback holders, kickers and punters throughout the summer as they prepare for the 2014 season. Arkansas opens fall camp in early August and kicks off its schedule Aug. 30 at Auburn in a game set to be televised nationally on the SEC Network.
SEC Announces Football Schedule FormatYesterday the SEC announced the format for future football schedules will keep the current 6-1-1 format featuring games against all six division opponents, one permanent crossover opponent and one rotating crossover opponent from the other division. Arkansas’ Eastern Division crossover opponent will continue to be Missouri, an annual rivalry that begins this season with a Nov. 29 contest in Columbia, Mo. In addition, beginning in 2016 each SEC team must play a non-conference game against at least one opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12. For the complete release on the scheduling format, click here.
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