Tuesday Grid Update, 12/21

Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson talks about how bowl practices are different than regular season ones and how his team is preparing to face an Ohio State team that presents a different challenge than SEC foes have this season.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson noted Tuesday after practice the preparations for Ohio State are not limited to just the practice field or the meeting rooms.

There's also an emphasis on the weight room during the break, which means the Razorbacks aren't as quick in practice as normal.

"We are doing a great job in the weight room and really pounding them," Robinson said. "Maybe that has a lot to do with how we are a little bit slow, a little bit nicked and stuff because we are really trying to sit down and emphasize power because we know they will have a little bit of lay off and we would not have the same opportunity down there lifting and that stuff.

"The demands of what we are doing in the weight room are really making them bulk up and getting more power into them has really be laboring on them," Robinson added. "Be it a sore back or a sore leg, a sore shoulder or whatever it might be, they still seem to be coming out and practicing awfully hard for us. Not quite as fast as you would like to expect, but the speed will come back to us when we get our legs back."

While Ohio State has made 8 straight appearances in BCS Bowl games and Arkansas will be making its first in the Sugar Bowl, Robinson is not worried about his team being in awe on the big stage.

"I don't think we have even talked about it," Robinson said. "It's a valid point, but we still look at this as the next game as opposed to what the arena is, what the atmosphere is or talk about what the energy is going to be like or talk about how we are going to be playing in an indoor stadium," Robinson said. "The energy you are going to feel running through the A, the fact that there are going to be a ton of Arkansas fans - it's all the build up, but once the whistle blows for the next game, it really is just a matter of who you are playing and really it is not a matter of who you are going to play, but how you are going to play.

"The fact that we are the only game on television that night, we still haven't dwelled on that," Robinson added. "We still haven't talked about it other than it is a show me world and we get to show the world about what we are at Arkansas."

Like Arkansas, Ohio State's offense improved as its running game took hold during the season.

"The running game is very direct," Robinson said. "They have some misdirection stuff, but the guy you still have to defend is the quarterback (Terrelle" Pryor) and that is the guy that you usually don't account for. You are taking care of their tailback and you are playing to their power game and the next thing you know, he's the guy that has the ball in his hands. He is not unlike the other quarterbacks that we have faced. He is very dynamic and they do a lot of things with him, be it the belly option or the read zones or be it the speed option. You have to account for him and he is a guy you have to take away first."

Having two backs in the backfield as Ohio State does a lot is different than what the Razorbacks see in the SEC.

"You look at our conference and we don't see a lot of two back, direct runs and that type of stuff," Robinson said. "You see the one-back read zones. In our conference you would have to look a long ways to find where all of a sudden you have two backs and two-back direct runs. That is a little different element for us. Being able to match up those things, making sure you have the right defenses, the right personnel so you don't have smaller bodies on there and all of a sudden they are running a power game.

"...Usually you don't see that until second and short windows and third and short windows, but this guys lead off with it," Robinson said. "So we have to be aware of that."

The Buckeyes' offensive line has impressed Robinson.

"Their offensive line is really a good group," Robinson said. "They are experienced, they are physical. We were kind of surprised that they weren't as big as some of the teams we had faced in our conference, but they are very strong and there is not a defense where you don't see them have a hat on a hat and drive people off the ball."

Both the defense and the entire team have come quite a ways in the current coaching staff's three years at the helm.

"We were just struggling to beat Western Illinois," noted Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin. "To where we are now, that shows you the growth of the program and what Coach Petrino has done and the rest of the coaching staff."

Franklin has led the team the last three seasons in tackles.

"I think the first thing is that he has played a whole season and been healthy," Robinson said. "To be able to sit down and do that for a football team, that is where it has got to start. He has a great understanding of what we are trying to get done. He is a very fluid football player and he is quick to react. I still think it is the fact that we have improved up front that allows that youngster to come up with the numbers that he has had."

Defensive tackle Lavunce Askew and Franklin both noted that Robinson, who took a lot of criticism his first two seasons, kept to his old school ways.

Robinson, who has coached in the NFL, says that will never change.

"Since I started coaching in 1978, the thing about it I was going to coach the way I was coached, and the way I learned from other coaches coaching," Robinson said. "And it didn't matter - and you can call any of the NFL guys I coached, dealt with, and they'll tell you I never changed. And I'm not going to change. If it means that somewhere along the line because I'm not politically correct and I lose my job, so be it, but I know one thing, I'll wake up in the morning believing in the fact that I did what was right in my mind's eye."

Askew said the players had heard the criticism of Robinson and were anxious to get that off of him.

"I think he does a great job as a coordinator," Askew said. "He calls the right plays, he calls the right blitzes and he knows what he is doing in the schemes. I really thank God for Willy Robinson."

o o o

Freshman linebacker Braylon Mitchell, who was injured Monday,was not practicing on Tuesday.

Junior safety Elton Ford did not participate in practice, but worked out on the side to rehab his injury.

"We have got Rudell Crim working back there and he started there most of the year so it is a pretty seamless transition," Razorback safety Tramain Thomas said.


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