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Thought Of The Day – 9/10/12

Good Monday morning.  News stories, headlines and our own SEC Roundup are being put together as you read this.  While you wait, enjoy the first song of my iPod this morning.  Disappointed Arkansas fans might apply this one to Paul Haynes’ new defense.


“When I needed you the most, emptiness was all I got.  I’m not gonna cry no more.  I’ve shed my last teardrop.”


Buddy Guy – Too Many Tears Feat. Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi


News shortly…

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Hogs’ Smith Says SEC West Is His Toughest Challenge

Last week in Destin, Arkansas interim football coach John L. Smith got some national pub due to his love of adventurous challenges — running with the bulls in Pamplona, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, etc.

But Smith admitted that his toughest challenge yet will be winning the SEC West:


“The hardest one is coaching in the SEC Western Division, yeah.  The toughest division in the toughest league.  Not that I’m biased, but yeah, it’s pretty tough.  From that standpoint, we’re going to have to be good and we’re going to have to win some games… I expect to and our kids expect to, and those are going to be the expectations that we have had and that we’re going to continue to have.

It’s tough.  Every week is going to be tough, as you know.  The good thing this year is that we have Alabama at home and this year we have LSU at home… So that’s good for us.” 


Last season — facing both the Tide and the Tigers on the road — Arkansas was hammered 38-14 in Tuscaloosa and 41-17 in Baton Rouge.  Those were the only two blemishes on the Razorbacks record in Bobby Petrino’s final go-round with the Hogs.

The year before, the games were much closer when played in the Natural State (and with Ryan Mallett at quarterback).  Arkansas got nipped late by Alabama 24-20 and actually up-ended LSU 31-23 in their season finale in Little Rock.  This season, the LSU matchup will be played in Fayetteville, as will the Bama game.

The home field should help Smith and his Hogs’ cause.  So should the return of Knile Davis and Tyler Wilson.  The question will be whether or not new coordinator Paul Haynes can cook up a championship-caliber defense in his first season at Arkansas.  Doing so would go a long way toward closing the gap between the Razorbacks and their two national-title contending divisional rivals.

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SEC Headlines – 3/29/12 Part Two

1.  This writer says Alabama was wise not to saddle Nick Saban with a mega-buyout.

2.  Crimson Tide hoops attendance has made big strides since Anthony Grant’s arrival.

3.  Auburn linebacker Kris Frost is “shaking off the rust” on the Plains.

4.  Tiger players seem to like the new styles two new coordinators have brought to their program.

5.  New Arkansas D-coordinator Paul Haynes isn’t having his veterans do much tackling so far in spring practice.

6.  Tenarius Wright says “it’s a dream come true” to be a full-time linebacker.

7.  This scribe says LSU’s best and only option at quarterback is Zach Mettenberger.

8.  That’s partly because he’s already taken on the leadership role of a starting QB.

9.  Josh Boyd will try to replace defensive tackle Fletcher Cox at Mississippi State this fall.

10.  As you already know, Arnett Moultrie — MSU’s top scorer and rebounder — is heading to the NBA.

11.  New Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork is starting to do some Q&As in Oxford.

12.  The SEC has denied Texas A&M’s request for a waiver that would allow them to keep their band right behind the opposing team’s bench at Kyle Field.  (That’s a no-no in the SEC.)

13.  New Aggie coach Kevin Sumlin has a big job ahead of him.

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Hogs Lose LB Highsmith For Spring

New Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes needed veteran leaders to help implement his new system this spring.  One returning starter who was being counted on to fill the leadership void left by a number of departed players was linebacker Alonzo Highsmith. 

So much for that.

UA announced yesterday that Highsmith suffered “a partially torn tendon in his pectoral muscle” during a team bench-press test on Tuesday night, the eve of spring drills.  He underwent surgery yesterday and will miss all of spring practice.

“We’re going to miss him,” Petrino said yesterday.  “It was big for him to be here, but guys are going to have to step up and really provide leadership.  That’s what I was waiting to see was him take over that (linebacking) group.  Be the leader.  Make all the calls.  Run it.  Now he’s just going to have to make sure that he does it this summer and early in the all… Obviously it does hurt us.  But we’ve just got to move on and get somebody else ready to go.”

Highsmith is the team’s leading returning tackler.  Braylon Mitchell — a sophomore with seven career tackles — took Highsmith’s spot in Haynes’ defense yesterday.

(And, yes, fellow old-timers like myself, Highsmith is indeed the son of the former Miami Hurricane and NFL running back of the same name whose playing career stretched from 1982 through ’92.  Ouch.)

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New Hog Coach Johnson Happy To Hop On Board

Taver Johnson is an Ohio native.  He’s played football in Ohio and for the great part of his career he’s coached football in Ohio.  But he’s more than happy to be moving from Ohio to Arkansas now.

The ex-Ohio State assistant was hired as the Razorbacks’ linebackers coach and assistant head coach last week.  He says it was fellow former OSU coach Paul Haynes — now UA’s defensive coordinator — who convinced him to trade in his scarlet attire for cardinal:

“Once he got here, I could hear the excitement in his voice.  Coach Haynes is a mild-mannered guy.  So once he gets excited you know it’s something really good…

It was a difficult decision, obviously being an Ohioan and my family being there and things like that.  But the opportunity here with Coach (Bobby) Petrino and Arkansas… like I told the players (Monday) night, the way this train is rolling, it’s going pretty fast and, tell you what, we didn’t mind hopping on board.”

While Johnson coached cornerbacks at Ohio State from 2007 to this past season, he did coach linebackers from 2000 through 2003 at Miami (Ohio).

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Arkansas Hires Another Ex-Ohio State Assistant; Targets Ohio Prospects

Bobby Petrino has added another ex-Buckeye to his 2012 Razorback coaching staff in the person of linebackers coach Taver Johnson.  Johnson  coached cornerbacks at Ohio State from 2007 through this past fall.  His hiring in Fayetteville was reported yesterday evening.

Johnson is an Ohio native and has coached across the state at the small college (Wittenberg), big college (OSU), and pro (Cleveland Browns) levels.  In Columbus, he served under recently-hired Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes.

Johnson replaces Reggie Johnson who went with ex-Hog offensive coordinator Garrick McGee to UAB.

Johnson and Haynes give the Hogs some good ties to the state of Ohio, one of the most talent-rich states in the country.  As you must know, Arkansas is one of the most talent-poor states in the SEC when it comes to producing future NFL players.  And with Texas inroads already laid, Petrino now appears to be turning his attention to the Buckeye State.

Wise move.

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New DC Haynes Says Cotton Bowl Could Provide Preview Of His New Arkansas Defense

New Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes is in an unusual position.  Hired quickly enough after the regular season that he’s already on staff and coaching his new team in their bowl game, the ex-Ohio State assistant says the Hogs’ defensive style in the Cotton Bowl might provide a preview of what he’ll do next season.

Asked if his gameplan for Kansas State will be more of what Arkansas has done in 2011 or what he plans to do going forward, Haynes said:

“I think it’s going to be a little bit of both.  But, again, I think one of the reasons why I’m here is there is a little bit of similarity to what we did at Ohio State and what we do at Arkansas.  It’s going to be a little bit of both.  A little bit of a mixture.  But, to me, football is football.”

Haynes also said yesterday that the “jack” linebacker position used by Willy Robinson the past four seasons will remain a part of the Hogs’ scheme.  “Those type of guys, that position, will stay for sure.”  That position is basically a hybrid safety-linebacker spot.

The Razorbacks will — finally — face KSU in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow night.

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New Hog DC Wants To Keep Things Simple

New Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes knows exactly the type of system he wants to implement in Fayetteville – a simple one:

“Really it’s not about what I know, it’s about what those kids know.  That’s what we’re going to concentrate on and understand that those kids know exactly what they are doing.  I want feedback from them. … So if you don’t feel comfortable with a call we won’t call it.  We won’t call it.”

That’s a novel approach from UA’s new coordinator, who was introduced to the press yesterday.  Haynes served as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator this past season.  Given the cloud hanging over that program in 2011, it’s impressive that OSU’s defense was able to log a Top 30 ranking in both scoring defense and total defense.

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