State of the Hogs: Motivation

There are different ways to motivate. Some will make you wince. But as they say, it's a must-win week.

Through the years I've seen a lot of different ways coaches motivate players. Some of them made me uncomfortable.

Do you remember Reggie Herring's tricks? How about Keith Burns? Wilson Matthews?

Here are some reminders. There is some comedy here and some that are anything but funny.

I'll start with Herring's pink jerseys, not so funny. They didn't last long after the brass in the Broyles Center received complaints from women cancer survivors.

They didn't think the defensive coordinator's decision to punish those who loafed in practices or games was the right way to use pink. I saw that coming as soon as players lined up to stretch that first day.

Burns tried several motivational tools during his brief stay as defensive coordinator at Arkansas. He took his players to the visiting team bus when it unloaded for the Friday walk through practice.

It was something akin to taunting. But Burns said he thought it produced ownership. He thought his players would have to back up their actions. I worried that it might produce a Friday fight, not better effort on Saturday.

There were also stories about pictures tacked to the other team's locker room door that didn't go over so well. Didn't Kentucky players revel in that one after beating the Hogs in Lexington?

Matthews was a dandy. He once told a player to run around the field "until I tell you to stop." Matthews forgot about him until dinner.

"Where is he?" Matthews said.

"He's still running around the field, coach," a player said. "You never told him he could stop running. He's not going very fast now, but he's down there still going around the field in the dark."

Matthews retrieved him and got him fed. A local minister still has that story in his sermons. The minister survived that day, proving his mettle to Matthews.

So what do I make of Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee telling the media Tuesday that many of the upperclassmen didn't compete to the finish at Alabama? And then right after that players confessing that they weren't ready to play in a game that had been hyped for months?

It's just coaches doing what coaches do. They use every tool they can find to motivate their players for the next practice, the next game and the rest of the season.

I wasn't surprised. Seldom is a coach going to just say the other team is better and they wore us out. That's partly what happened against Alabama. But the Hogs must play better, too. They must compete to the end every week.

McGee, the offensive coordinator, was following his mentor's mantra. Verbalize goals and issues. If you talk about it, there is more ownership.

Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino is heavy into accountability. He took the blame for not calling a timeout when Alabama broke from field goal formation into a shotgun set that eventually produced a touchdown pass to open the game. That's ownership.

Petrino is about competition. The ultimate praise he can give a player is to call him a competitor. To tell his players in the meeting room that they didn't compete to the finish hurt him more than telling that to the fans through the media.

McGee said there are no punches held back in the meeting room. And it wasn't a shocker that he would bring that up Tuesday.

Players don't have a choice but to confess. They've already been told by their coaches that they didn't compete. Ronnie Wingo and Alvin Bailey repeated what they had already been given as the hard facts by their coaches as the video rolled.

As Petrino has said many times, the resume of a coach or a player is the video. You want to talk about first or second team status? He'll put in the video and show you.

I can guess that Petrino wasn't easy on his staff either. That video is their resume, too. And he owns it now, too.

That's the nature of the business. You get the big bucks, you get the blame.

Petrino's players aren't running in the dark. They aren't wearing pink jerseys for loafing. They won't tack any pictures on the Texas A&M locker room door this week.

But his staff is coaching them as hard as is allowed under the rules. Practices are timed by the NCAA now. There are just so many minutes that can be used. But players talked about jamming more plays into practice Tuesday.

Nothing is easy any more. That's life in the SEC. "This is a must win this week," Tyler Wilson said Tuesday.

The motivational tools may change, but what Wilson said never does.

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