State of the Hogs: Heart to Heart

D. J. Williams didn't like what he saw on film of his play on special teams, but John L. Smith wanted to make sure everyone knew who to blame.

There is good and not so good to everything. I've even had some bad peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No doubt, someone substituted jam for the real thing, Concord grape jelly. Or, they spread the peanut butter too thin. It needs to be in big globs.

There have been some wonderful interviews during 35 years of covering college football. And some that were just bad. You knew when players were trying to fool you by stringing together all of the football cliches. Spencer Tillman did that during his time at Oklahoma.

Teammates sitting at the next locker often rolled their eyes as the TV cameras flocked to Tillman. It was like he had practiced by himself in his room. I still feel that way when he's on CBS Sports. Too smooth, too clever.

There's smooth in D. J. Williams, too. But it's real. The Arkansas tight end will share his heart, like the time he went to Tucker Prison last spring with an Fellowship of Christian Athletes group. There was reality in that interview, including promises to visit his father, incarcerated in Texas.

You got a little taste of the way Williams operates in a low-key interview session this week. There was a confession about how poorly he played on some of the special teams at Auburn.

"On kickoff coverage and returns, it takes all 11 to focus, to concentrate," Williams said. "Everyone has to handle his assignment. I know we didn't do that at Auburn and it cost us. I know. I had two plays that I'm not very proud about.

"We addressed that this week. I think some of what you saw was lack of courage. We weren't playing all out on every kickoff. There were plays that I missed my man that cost my kickoff man getting hit."

Arkansas assistant coach John L. Smith handles the special teams. He didn't blame Williams or any others for the poor performance at Auburn. He noted the blocked punt and consistent swings in field position as huge factors in the game. He blamed himself.

"It's my job as coach to get that done," Smith said. "I have to make sure we are focused. The thing you have to understand as a player, there are times they did get it done. So they can do it. I have to get them to do it.

"It was just disgusting. It's my fault we didn't get it done. My focus was lacking. I didn't provide the right leadership."

Told that Williams mentioned his poor play, Smith didn't stray from his theme.

"It's good that he realizes that he missed some plays, but what that tells me is that I didn't spend enough time working there and covering the critical nature of those plays," Smith said. "They understand it now. I'd call it a heart-to-heart meeting. We talked about pride. I think they understand the importance.

"We all know that those kick returns, the protection on punts and the coverage units can really impact a game. They did last week. What really bothered me was the blocked punt. We had a man come in with no one putting even a hand on him."

Smith said it was a matter of poor technique on kickoff returns.

"We didn't keep an edge in our blocking," he said. "We let them run right past us in certain situations. There is technique. You keep your left eye over your left shoulder to protect that outside edge. We didn't get that block on the outside to set the edge. That happened over and over on our returns."

Smith wouldn't discuss possible personnel changes to expect for this week's Ole Miss game, but it's sure to happen. Cobi Hamilton, the return man, noted some are in the works during his time with the media Tuesday.

Williams wants to stay on those special teams units and promises to do better.

"We are going to improve," he said. "And we aren't going to mope around about what we didn't do last week. That's past. You have to fix it, but you also have to move on and play the next game."

It just happens to be Ole Miss, led by Houston Nutt, the Arkansas coach when Williams picked the Razorbacks. Someone mentioned that the two were once close. Not any more, Williams assured.

"We don't have the same wireless carrier and I just couldn't afford the minutes," Williams said. "Had to drop him from my list. That mobile-to-mobile deal is pretty good if you are in the same network. That's not us anymore. One of us is Verizon, the other is on AT&T."

Now that's clever. Eat your heart out Spencer Tillman.

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