Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Razorback linemen shed pounds with a little extra work
Arkansas offensive tackle Brey Cook runs a drill during practice Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Motorists and pedestrians around the corner of College Avenue and Maple Street were treated to quite a spectacle a few weeks back.
A large pack of the largest Arkansas Razorbacks -- 300-pounders, many of them sporting weight vests -- jogged across the intersection, up Maple and on to the top of Mount Sequoyah.
"You could see people kind of pointing," said senior offensive tackle Brey Cook, who is 6-7, 322 pounds with a heavy beard and one of the ringleaders of the big man bunch.
The jaunt to Mount Sequoyah in late July was one of the many adventurous outings held this summer by the Heavy Hogs. What began as strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert's plan to help Arkansas' largest players trim a little weight turned into something much bigger for the Razorbacks.
Before the weight-loss program for defensive tackles DeMarcus Hodge and Bijhon Jackson and offensive linemen Denver Kirkland, Luke Charpentier and Reeve Koehler was completed, it had turned into a team-building exercise that could pay dividends for Arkansas' physicality this season.
Hebert came up with the idea of having the Heavy Hogs walk around on campus together, and the program eventually evolved into having them fast-walk up a steep hill on Cleveland Street, which has been a staple routine for the men's basketball program under Nolan Richardson and Mike Anderson.
The linemen who needed to lose weight did just that, but they didn't do it alone. Herbert joined in, and many of the team's offensive linemen, who weren't a part of the weight-loss group, followed suit.
"We were just getting up in the morning and getting in some extra work, and it inspired some other guys to get in the group," said Hodge, who has lost about 20 pounds to reach about 330. "It was pretty much the rest of the offensive line."
Kirkland said he lost 20 pounds to reach 337 pounds.
"I'm moving better, moving faster, playing faster, thinking faster and playing better," said Kirkland, who added that he lost the weight to "bring my pain to the defensive tackles."
Charpentier, who is holding down a first-team spot at left guard, said he lost about 15 pounds to reach 307 for the start of camp, while the workouts helped Jackson trim roughly 30 pounds as he made it down to 316.
Cook spearheaded the participation by the bulk of the offensive line
"I mean, they're our brothers out there," Cook said. "We weren't going to let them outwork us, so we had to jump in, go in with them. Climbing Cleveland Hill, going up Mount Sequoyah in a weight vest, we were just having fun with it."
On some days the linemen would roust quarterback Brandon Allen at 6 a.m., pile four-deep into the cab of his truck and six-deep in the bed and have Allen drive them to the bottom of Cleveland Avenue for the long march up two or three times per week.
"If you were the first one in there, you felt that suspension," Cook said. "You started going, 'uh' going down, going down. ... He did a great job for us."
"I just hit the brake and let it go downhill," Allen said. "It was all right."
Allen watched the proceedings as the driver.
"It's an ugly hill," he said. "It's a fast-paced speed walk going on because you've got Coach Herb leading it. He's going to put up a pace for them."
Hodge said his esteem for Herbert rose because the strength coach participated in the difficult walks with the weighty ones.
"One day we got competitive and I got chained to Coach Herb and I had to keep up with him," Hodge said. "He's at the front of the group every time, so that was a big challenge, but I did it."
Kirkland, a native of south Florida, said there is nothing like the hill on Cleveland Avenue in his old stomping grounds.
"I didn't even know what the Cleveland Hill was," Kirkland said. "I'd never seen anything like that. I'd been up that hill, but I never knew it was that hill.
"It was pretty good, getting to bond with my brothers more. But the Cleveland Hill, oh, man."
Sports on 08/14/2014