Hogs get back to basics, running game in preparation for Texas Bowl; more notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas senior offensive tackle and offensive co-captain Brey Cook predicts a running theme throughout the Razorbacks' preparation for their Dec. 29 Texas Bowl date in Houston with the Texas Longhorns.
2ND-TEAM ALL-SEC RB
The Razorbacks, off Monday and Tuesday since Sunday's first bowl practice, practice Wednesday. Coach Bret Bielema will call offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Robb Smith off the road to supervise while most of the staff remains on the recruiting trail before this weekend's recruiting dead period begins.
Whether it's today's workout or the "more intense" practice Bielema said he has scheduled Saturday with the full staff expected, Cook foresees the offense trying to get its running game back to early-season form.
Although running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins both surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, Arkansas did not post the rushing stats late season that it did earlier. Much of that attributed to stouter defenses the Hogs faced in October and November, but Cook said the line didn't consistently block like it blocked before.
"We have had our ups and downs," Cook said. "Been here and there and had some very successful games and some not so much. It's been fun. I wouldn't trade it for the world, but we have got a lot to get in the next couple of weeks to get better."
That begins with working on themselves, even more than working against Texas, Cook said.
"We need to get back to the basics," Cook said. "That's being physical, pounding the rock. That's soothing we can do and something we like to do and something we will focus on and get after it."
Martrell Spaight's burst to first manifested on the Associated Press All-SEC teams.
The Arkansas senior linebacker from North Little Rock, pretty much a SEC non-entity last year as a first-year junior college transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, led not only the Razorbacks but the entire SEC with 123 tackles in 2014.
For that and other attributes that Spaight displayed, he was voted first-team All-SEC by media participating in the AP poll.
Arkansas senior defensive end Trey Flowers, whose "honorable mention" All-SEC shows the league's prowess since he posted a first-rate season, called Spaight's first-team vote "very deserving."
"Being the SEC leader in tackles, he couldn't be more deserving," Flowers said. "I'm a firm believer that a product of hard work can't help but be successful. This man works hard. Over the summer he was locked in to this scheme of defense and watched film. He's probably been in the film room every day this year. He tears it up on the field and it's great to see his hard work rewarded."
Safety Alan Turner of Junction City, the Razorbacks senior defensive co-captain with Flowers, also lauded Spaight.
It seems no coincidence that Spaight's banner year accompanies a resurgent defense that helped lift the Hogs from 4-8 and 3-9 seasons of 2012 and 2014 to 6-6 and headed to play the Texas Longhorns in the Texas Bowl, Dec. 29 in Houston.
"Martrell from playing just a little bit last year and then the season he's had this year, it just shows the progress we've made as a team," Turner said. "The guy's work ethic is amazing. He's a real student of the game. He watches film all the time and it really shows on the field."
Arkansas junior running back Jonathan Williams and third-year sophomore defensive tackle Darius Philon were voted second-team All-SEC while sophomore tight end Hunter Henry of Little Rock via Pulaski Academy, sophomore offensive guard Denver Kirkland, sophomore offensive tackle Dan Skipper and Flowers all received AP SEC honorable mention.