State of the Hogs: Tubow Time

Colby Suggs claims assistant coach Todd Butler has been waiting all season to tell about the start to the recruiting process that landed him at Arkansas.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Colby Suggs doesn't have a "C" on his jersey just yet. He's not an official captain. But, it's only a matter of time before that changes.

"He's like a captain now," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said about the sophomore relief pitcher. "I probably won't even take a vote next year. I'll just name him captain."

Suggs reminded a reporter that Matt Reynolds, DJ Baxendale and Bo Bigham are the current elected captains during an interview after Tuesday's workout at the College World Series.

Then, when Van Horn's quotes were explained deeper, Suggs said, "If he said that, I guess that's what it will be. I'd do it if he says to do it."

Suggs did admit that he is not shy about taking charge in the dugout, in the locker room or at practice if he thinks someone needs a correction.

"What I learned was that sometimes the coach is busy and if you can keep things off of him, then that's a good thing," Suggs said. "I'll speak out. I know sometimes coaches get busy with the game or they need to be spending time away from us to recruit. I like to make their jobs as easy as possible."

There wasn't much to recruiting Suggs, assistant coach Todd Butler claims. Suggs called him, not the other way around. That was three years ago almost to the day after the Hogs ran out of pitching at the College World Series after a 12-inning victory over Virginia.

"Colby called me and left a message on my cell phone," said Butler, the recruiting coordinator at Arkansas.

"We were going to play LSU the next day and we just didn't have any more pitching. So I told him if he could get up here by game time, I'd have a jersey for him."

Suggs laughed when that story was repeated after the practice.

"Coach Butler loves telling that," he said. "When we started the fall, he said, 'You know, when we get to Omaha, I'm going to be telling that to every reporter that I see. Just get ready. I'm going to tell it over and over.' And he's been saying that all season about when we get to Omaha, he'll have something to talk about.

"I think he started telling reporters about three weeks ago before we went to Houston for the start of the tournament."

Suggs is not tired of yet.

"It's a pretty good story," Suggs said. "I called him and told him what I could do. I wanted him to recruit me. I told him I'd just been to a showcase tournament and was throwing 95 and 96. He said come on up and pitch."

The other part of the story was that Suggs was ready to be a Razorback if the Hogs would show some interest.

"He told me that he was a Razorback fan," Butler said. "He said his father was from Arkansas and he'd always wanted to play for us. I just had to go see him pitch. That was about all it took."

Then Butler had to convince Van Horn that Suggs was not a football player. Well, he was a football player.

"We saw him as a junior and got a commitment," Butler said. "But he played in the offensive line and just kept lifting weights that summer. He got so bulked up in the upper body for football that he lost velocity."

Van Horn said he went from mid 90s to upper 80s by the time he arrived at Arkansas last fall. Coaches got him off the bench press and into stressing and flexibility exercises.

At 6-0, 225, Suggs still looks like a football player. But not like the offensive lineman that he was.

"I was our center for three years," he said. "Every now and then, they'd play me somewhere else, but I'd say I was a center."

Butler said, "There's some YouTube of him running the ball smashing over someone at the goal line. I wouldn't want to tackling him. He's played more than center. I've seen it."

OK, Suggs said he got to play some quarterback, too.

"My senior year, my coach let me run the ball," he said. "We got in the Wildcat and I just ran it straight ahead. My coach called it our Tubow formation. You know, like Tebow with me. I was back there wearing No. 53. But I scored five touchdowns."

Suggs grins from ear to ear when he tells it. He does that a lot. His personality and makeup come through in all situations.

"He's got some makeup about him," said Dave Jorn, the pitching coach. "He wants the ball. He loves those late-game situations. He's a bulldog, I'm telling you that.

"He's still got a long ways to go in learning about pitching. But he's getting better. But nothing bothers him. He's raw, but he's not afraid of anything and he's going to have fun doing it.

"He's got a personality and a makeup and an attitude that you just love on your team. He's a leader and he's willing to learn. He wants it pretty bad.

"We are working on his mechanics. He's not real consistent with his release point. When he got here, he just reached back and fired it. He was trying to throw it as hard as he could every time. We have helped him with some of that and he's getting better. But he's not consistent as you'd want yet.

"That doesn't bother me as much because it doesn't bother him. It's going to go different places from time to time, but it may not be all bad. A hitter is not going to dig in too much. I wouldn't. When it comes at you that fast and the pitcher isn't sure where it's going, I'd be a little nervous, too.

"He doesn't worry when one gets away. He just comes back on the next one and figures it out and he usually gets it back together. I'm not too worried when there's a loose one."

Suggs is hopeful that he'll get in a CWS game soon. He was in all three games against Baylor. He went to the bullpen when Barrett Astin did against South Carlolina. And was up and throwing for a bit.

"I didn't ever heat up, though," Suggs said. "I was just playing catch. But I threw some with Astin and I threw soft in the first inning he was out there.

"When he got them out in the seventh, I wasn't going to stop throwing. That's just superstitious. He got 'em out so I stayed up. But that was all it was, superstitious."

Jorn is just glad he stayed on the mound. He's a jack of all trades in the bullpen.

"He'll grab a catcher's mitt down there and warm up guys," Jorn said. "I'm not too crazy about that. He likes it. Guys will be playing soft toss in the bullpen and he'll want to catch them."

Suggs did more than that when the Hogs ran out of catcher's in the South Carolina series in Fayetteville. He got behind the plate for part of an inning before John Clay Reeves figured out if a hand injury would hold up.

Catcher, quarterback, center or relief pitcher, it doesn't matter to Suggs. But he maintains he's not much of a quarterback.

"We have a lot of guys on our team that were really the quarterback on their high school team," he said. "Sometimes we get out our high school yearbooks and look at pictures.

"I don't know if I can name them all, but I know for sure that Bo Bigham, Dominic Ficociello, Barrett Astin and Matt Vinson were pretty good quarterbacks.

"How do you think Vinson would look on a sprintout coming at you? I think he'd smash me."

I'd be looking out for Tubow.



Colby Suggs tries to keep things easy for his coaches.



Colby Suggs works on his off-speed pitch in a bullpen session Tuesday.



Colby Suggs gets some conditioning at the College World Series.



Recruiting coordinator Todd Butler remembers the introductory phone call he received from Colby Suggs three years ago.



Pitching coach Dave Jorn loves the makeup of Colby Suggs.

Photo by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated

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