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.
Herbert toning, honing
Arkansas Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Herbert works with the Razorbacks during practice Saturday March 30, 2013 in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks have taken to the practice field this spring as a stronger, more physically fit team, strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert said.
“Without a doubt,” Herbert said last week, before the team’s first workout, a closed session in the Walker Pavilion on a snowy Sunday.
“From a development standpoint, when guys understand - when their bodies understand they can tolerate more stress - they have a better understanding of what we’re looking for, they’re technically more proficient in doing things we want them to do, no doubt. We’re getting to where we want to be and where we need to be.”
The Razorbacks,coming off a 3-9 season that finished with a school-record nine consecutive losses, hold another closed practice today before members of the media gets their first views of the team Thursday.
Herbert used receiver D’Arthur Cowan and defensive tackle Darius Philon as examples of players who impressed during the team’s eight-week winter workout program.
Philon, a sophomore who started the final five games after Robert Thomas suffered a broken leg last fall, was pitted against veteran defensive end Trey Flowers in competition drills set up by the staff at the end of winter.
“I love Trey Flowers,” Herbert said. “He and Darius Philon went against one another and Darius Philon won the day.”
The competition was a mixture of agility drills and a sled push, four events that don’t involve football-specific training, which funneled into the Razorbacks’ start of spring drills.
Herbert said Cowan, a junior, has the look of someone who should be evolving into a difference maker.
“He has to be a game-breaker for us,” Herbert said. “He has that ability. I’ve heard coaches say it. My staff and I see it. He’s a great example of a guy that has to be - he has physical ability that very few people have, in terms of you watch him and he’s explosive.”
Herbert rattled off a list of players who were impressive during winter workouts.
“Offensively, guys that you want to see really take a step: Brey Cook, Jonathan Williams, Brandon Allen, Keon Hatcher are guys that jump out at me right off the bat,” Herbert said.
“On the defensive side of the ball, Trey Flowers is Trey Flowers - outstanding. Brooks Ellis took a step. Really Braylon Mitchell and Martrell Spaight took a step. Not there yet, but heading in the right direction. The guys on the back end, Alan Turner’s a guy we’re going to lean on, and we’re trying to get Rohan Gaines to be one of those guys.”
Herbert said sophomore offensive linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper established themselves as leaders without being pushed.
“Two guys that are obviously good football players, but are very influential guys,” he said.
Herbert said he and his staff stressed accountability across the board.
“If you see something that you don’t like … you see a guy skip a rep, you see a guy show tempo that isn’t reflective of what we want or what we need, you’re being a good teammate, you’re being a good friend if you call him out on it,” Herbert said. “Do not let those things go unnoticed. You’re not helping somebody, you’re definitely not helping the program if you don’t. And that was one of our biggest challenges is nobody wanted to be the bad guy, so to speak. You’re being the good guy. Getting guys to understand, don’t be sensitive.
“If somebody calls you out, it’s because you’re doing something detrimental to what we’re trying to accomplish.
“Embrace it. And we’re getting there. Not there, but guys are looking at it the right way.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 03/18/2014