HOGS lock in on No. 1 LSU
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas interim coach Barry Lunney Jr. calls the Hogs "refreshed, recharged, reenergized, healed up psychologically, physically and emotionally,” heading into Saturday 6:30 p.m. game at top-ranked LSU.
Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek fired coach Chad Morris on Sunday, Nov. 10 before Arkansas' open date last Saturday.
Lunney, the Fort Smith Southside alum, 1992-1995 Razorbacks quarterback and Arkansas’ tight ends coach since 2013, practiced the Porkers twice last week trying to “refresh and re-energize” them from their recent traumas on the field and off with their head coach dismissed.
“I feel very strongly that we got those things accomplished,” Lunney said. “I think it was clear when they came back Sunday night we had done that.”
TAKING ON NO. 1
An Arkansas victory Saturday night at LSU’s Tiger Stadium won’t be so easily achieved. The top-ranked Tigers (10-0) are 46-point favorites.
“It is what it is,” Lunney said. “And the truth is our mantra, our attitude, our approach would be the same if we were playing Portland State (the lower division FCS team that Arkansas beat, 20-13 in its season opener) again this week in a rematch. It’s about us. It’s about us playing our best football game that we’ve played all season long. Period. End of story. All three phases. It just so happens we are playing right now the best football team in the country.”
The Tigers certainly are the No. 1 team, Lunney asserted. “Where they stand right now, yeah they are clearly are the best,” Lunney said. “And we are going to one of the best environments in all of college football at night.”
WHY LSU IS NO. 1
Playing the Tigers at night in Baton Rouge is notoriously tough but way tougher this year.
“They are great obviously what they do offensively,” Lunney said. “Defensively they are very gifted. They are just super well-coached on both sides of the ball and special teams. So all three phases - you throw in a great talent, and great scheme and great coaching. You’ve got a team playing really confident. Everybody sees it. Anybody that follows college football sees it and recognizes it. They are certainly playing at a very high level.”
The Razorbacks’ depth chart released Monday lists “Or’s” for starting quarterback with true freshman KJ Jefferson, redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and graduate transfer football eligibility junior Nick Starkel.
Of Arkansas’ four quarterbacks played including graduate transfer Ben Hicks, Jefferson is the only one without a start but has played in the last two games, the 54-24 SEC loss to Mississippi State at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and the 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Lunney has known since last week who he intends to start but won’t publicly disclose it.
“That die is already cast, I think, with the way we’re heading.” Lunney said. “At this point do we think holding our announcement of a starting quarterback is going to be a significant advantage over our opponent? No, it’s not. But at this point we would be foolish, in my opinion, to declare that, to just clarify it for them, so they could know exactly who they’re preparing for and what they’re preparing for.”
POOL, ADCOCK AVAILABILITY
Lunney was asked about the Saturday night game availability of starting weakside linebacker Bumper Pool and previously starting offensive guard Kirby Adcock, both not practicing last week because of injuries, and any others who have idled but might be recovered to play against the Tigers. “I think we are trending in the right direction in that regard,” Lunney said. “I do anticipate several of those guys being back.”
LONE VOICE LUNNEY
Normally, media also meet Monday with offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and defensive coordinator John Chavis and with selected players Tuesday evenings after practice.
However, under his interim coaching circumstances, Lunney said he’ll be the Razorbacks lone public voice this week until players are made postgame media available Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
“I'm going to let them concentrate and focus on the task at hand and make them available after the game this week,” Lunney said. “This has been a lot for them to handle and digest. I think unity is really important here, and I have no concerns that any of our players would get up here and say anything that didn't reflect that, but just for the time and situation we're in, I made a decision that I'm going to be the voice right now.”