Friday Grid Update, 12/17

Arkansas will head to New Orleans with a clear idea of what life is about at a bowl site. Garrick McGee said there isn't any doubt among players.

Garrick McGee was the featured coach after Arkansas practiced Friday in Walker Pavilion. Something about last year's suspensions for the Liberty Bowl and the possibility that players would remember that fact as they head to New Orleans in a couple of weeks.

With Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, there is always focus. It's always about winning. And the current team reflects that attitude.

Even before the talk of last year's suspensions for curfew violations was mentioned, McGee was clear about the current attitude of the Arkansas team. The offensive coordinator and quarterback coach said nothing has changed from the regular season when the Hogs punched their Sugar Bowl trip with six straight victories to finish 10-2.

"Our practices (since the end of the season) have been good," McGee said. "Our kids are focused. We are in the early stages of installing the game plan and they are focused -- on winning."

Tight end D. J. Williams said the same thing during his time in the interview room Friday. He said no one needs to remind them about the mindset of this head coach or what happened at the Liberty Bowl last year when three players were sent home for curfew breaks.

"That it did happen last year puts everything in perspective as we head to New Orleans," Williams said. "No one has to talk about that. We know.

"And we know Coach Petrino's hands were tied in regards to the punishment. I think even the players involved know it wasn't Coach Petrino's decision to hand down the punishment. It was their decision. They aren't upset at him, but upset at themselves for the decision they made. We learned from that. But no one doubted what was going to happen.

"I don't think that's going to happen. But if it does, we know the result. I don't think it's going to happen, though, because the focus is on going there to win a game.

"Yeah, there are some things to do down there, but that's all going to be secondary to getting done what it takes to win the game. We are going to play a football game and to win it."

McGee had a wry smile when someone reminded him of the suspensions from last year's bowl game.

"Do you think anyone around questions whether or not if he's playing around when he says how things are going to be?" McGee said, referencing Petrino. "If you (break curfew) we all know that means that you won't play in the game. He doesn't play around."

McGee had a similar reaction to a question about Petrino's new contract and raise and what it means for assistant coaches.

"If you are an assistant coach here, that (new contract) means if you operate at a high level then you are probably going to get to stay around here," McGee said. "If you don't, you are probably going to be gone. That's how it is."

McGee was asked about the play of quarterback Ryan Mallett this season. Did the quarterback get accomplished what was asked of him?

"If we finish out the year right in this game, I'd say yes," McGee said. "We didn't get everything done, but he was pretty good. What we wanted to do -- what we talked about since last year -- was to go on the road and win in the fourth quarter. We wanted to finish out those road games the right way.

"I think we did that for the most part. The only one of those road games we didn't win in the fourth quarter was Auburn. And Ryan didn't play in the fourth quarter in that one. The games he played in the fourth quarter, we won.

"What that did is put us in a pretty good situation. Our goal was to be in the BCS title game, the championship. We didn't get there so we didn't get that goal. But we might be in the next best game, the Sugar Bowl."

Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love thinks Mallett had a pretty good season, too.

"I think he's a rare player," Love said. "The things he can do in this offense with his arm are unique and he was pretty good with his decisions in our check system, too. He got us in the right play most of the year. If I was a defensive coordinator, I'd lose a little sleep preparing for him.

"I think what he did was help all of us, make our job easier. We got the run game going middle of the year and that made it a little easier on him, but what he brought to us with his arm really helped our run game.

"I think what I saw this year is at the start of the year, defensive ends were teeing off in the pass game. But as we got the run game going, there eyes were not peeking into the backfield as much because we were hitting them with the big chunk run plays. So that made it easier on Mallett. But you need that big arm to get it all started.

"Ryan's so rare. Just a different level of ability. I don't know if you ever see many arms like that. Plus, he led us. He did things to motivate us. We had a special player in the huddle at quarterback."

Offensive line coach Chris Klenakis visited briefly with the media after practice. He likes what he sees of the young offensive line prospects early in workouts.

"I'm not going to mention any names just yet," he said. "I do that, the hype starts building for one or two of them and just keeps building ahead of spring practice. I'd like to see them do it for quite a bit longer before I'll talk about them.

"But you are asking me after a pretty good day. I liked what I saw from that group today. Which ones? Like I said, no names just yet. I will say there were more than one. Let's say there were a couple that were really good today in the team segment at the end of practice."

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