Back To Being Special

Arkansas special teams coordinator John L. Smith should have all the pieces in place this season to put the special back into the Razorbacks' special teams.

As far as Arkansas assistant John L. Smith is concerned, it's time to put the special back into the Razorbacks' special teams.

With a punter and kicker regarded highly enough to be picked on preseason all-SEC teams, the school's leading kick returner and his own personal protector, a dynamic punt returner and a plethora of young legs infused into the program, that should be what happens.

"We have to go to the field and prove it, but I think our kids are looking forward to going to the field and doing just that," Smith said. "We as coaches are. We believe we are going to be pretty good. We are putting some pressure on ourselves to go out and make sure we do a great job and make sure we are good. I think that works its way down to the team."

Punt returner Joe Adams was named to the Coaches All-SEC first team while kicker Zach Hocker and punter Dylan Breeding were both named to the third team.

Adams will get pushed in preseason camp, but Smith knows that what he has in a guy who averaged 15.6 yards per return last season and took a 97-yard one to the house.

"We are going to get some people to push Joe so he will go catch everything," Smith said. "But I am excited about Joe coming back because I think he can lead the SEC in punt returns if he just sets his mind to doing that and will go out and do that."

"Marquel Wade will be the number one guy we will look at, but there are a number of guys that want to give that a shot and that we have been working with," Smith added. "But I would say that Marquel would probably be the biggest threat. It will be good competition."

Hocker started last season as the third-team kicker, but won the job in preseason camp and never let go of it.

He was 16-of-19 on field goal attempts and 56-of-56 on PATs.

"Zach Hocker had a great year as a freshman and he is going to continue to grow and get stronger, going to get better," Smith said. "I am excited about Zach and I just want to make sure we don't wear him out in fall camp."

Breeding rebounded from a subpar first season to flourish in the role last season by averaging 42.5 yards per boot, putting 18 inside the 20-yard line and having 10 punts over 50 yards.

"I am also very excited about Dylan Breeding," Smith added. "I think he had a much better year (last season). You have got to remember he was just a sophomore last season. I expect much more consistency out of him because he grew a ton. If he grows as much this year as he did last year, then he is going to be a real quality punter for us.

"In the snapping side of it, we have got a few new guys that are going to help us as far as our execution time as far as the kicking game goes."

After last season having three scholarship placekickers on campus, there is just one heading into the 2011 season.

"That's the thing you kind of worry about," Smith said."We don't have –and you don't normally – have a lot of depth at your kicker and punter spots. We need to make sure we get some good guys coming in and we are going to have to wait and see who that is going to be. They would kind of take pressure off them, especially in practice more than anything. Hopefully you would bring some guys in there are good enough to push those guys and make them better.

"Right now they are pushing each other," Smith added.

The kick return game should improve with the return of Dennis Johnson and up-back Seth Ambrust, both lost to season-ending injuries early during the last campaign.

Johnson returned 40 kickoffs from a school-record 1,031 yards in 2009 and has over 2,000 yards in career return yardage.

"Getting Dennis back just provides so much," Smith said. "He has got good vision, he's got experience, he's done it.

"And having Seth back, you have a guy that has a concept of where to lead that thing," Smith continued. "We have to wait and see, but I think our consistency will go back like it was two years ago where we were a threat to break every one."

The coverage and return teams are places that youngsters can make a difference.

" For most of the kicking game, we'll sit down and put - in the twos and the threes - all of freshman, all of those new guys that want to get on the field, all of the guys we want to take a look at and put them in different spots on all of our special teams," Smith said. "So we are able to get a look at them as it goes along."

Dennis Johnson

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