State of the Hogs: Learning Process

Randy Shannon is coaching more than football this spring for the Razorbacks. The new UA linebackers coach wants players to let him into their lives.

Randy Shannon didn't want to name names Thursday in his first meeting with the media during spring football drills at Arkansas. How can you talk about linebackers when there hasn't been a scrimmage?

I get that. I also understand that Shannon is trying to build relationships with his players more than build the depth chart after just two weeks of practices. That's heady stuff from a veteran linebacker coach.

Shannon is famous for going deep inside for the relationship stuff. That's what he did as a linebacker coach for years at Miami. His reputation as head coach with the Hurricanes also included father-figure stuff and recruiting victories based on relationships.

So it wasn't a surprise when Shannon pointed more to the relationship process than listing his depth chart when he came to the media room Thursday night. He said he's trying to get his players to let him into their lives as a person, more than driving them as a coach. It all will fall together eventually.

It didn't surprise that he was less concerned about who is playing weakside or strongside linebacker, once he explained that in the system installed by defensive coordinator Chris Ash, most of it is the same anyway.

"It doesn't matter because when the tight end flips, strong becomes weak," Shannon said. "You have to learn both. We aren't going to be flipping them when the formation changes. We'll just stay there."

Shannon is more concerned with helping his players as young men. He's spending as many quality hours as possible with them.

"What I've seen so far is that they all play hard and they are all like gym rats," Shannon said. "They are in here studying tape. They are in here talking with me. And we don't just talk football.

"It's about life. They are letting me into their lives. I want to help them grow and hope I have a chance to help them when they stumble. And we all stumble.

"This is a stressful time for them. The world is full of Twitter, Facebook and camera phones. There is a lot out there."

Shannon has given his linebackers some tips on how to make life easier on the field. He said they can keep the bell cows happy in front of them.

"Things get easier for linebackers when the linemen are having fun," Shannon said. "You play better when it's fun. So I tell them they need to be joking and having fun with those linemen up front of them. When those guys are happy, things are good."

Shannon wants to keep football fun.

"I told them for the scrimmage, just go have fun," he said. "Go out, play hard, have fun and fly around. Play with a lot of enthusiasm."

That's the most important goal as the Hogs roll through the early part of installation with the Ash defense.

"We are going slow," Shannon said. "We are going to learn the basic fundamentals. It's like math. You do the basics first, just plus and minus. Then you put in division, then later it's algebra."

So that's what the Hogs are doing, just stance, footwork, hand position and alignment. There will be more later. And, in the meantime, Shannon said he's learning his players.

"I want to know all about them, who has a son, about their mothers," Shannon said. "I want them to be able to tell me everything, all of their problems."

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