As a player for North Texas back in 1995, current first-year Arkansas secondary coach Clay Jennings had three sacks against Alabama in his team's 38-19 loss in Tuscaloosa.
He's hoping the Razorbacks – who have lost to the Crimson Tide by identical scores of 52-0 – can have both individual and team glory on Saturday when Alabama visits for a 5 p.m. Game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“I've heard it, but I think our kids are getting to the point that they don't want to talk about the past anymore,” Jennings said. “We talk about how this is our time to go play great, our time to go play physical, our time to be more mentally tough than our opponent on Saturday. If we can continue to do that week and and week out, we are going to be just fine.”
Ole Miss beat Alabama 23-17 last week in Oxford and the Rebels' defensive plan gave Arkansas some things to consider.
“I think they somewhat give you a blueprint of success,” Jennings said. “But I think that is what you get from every team that plays them before you do. You can not change the personality of who you are defensively. We are who we are and I think we do it quite well. We just have to do it for four quarters.”
The Razorback secondary will have freshman cornerback Henre' Toliver back this week after he was hurt – while looking up at the scoreboard at AT&T Stadium – and taking an errant pass to the eye.
“He's back,” Jennings said. “That is probably one of the weirdest plays I have ever seen in my lifetime. It hurt us just a little bit not being able to have him in the rotation at the end or just have him in the rotation period. He has been great the last couple of weeks and he'll be lining up on Saturday.”
Toliver is likely to see some work against Alabama star junior wide receiver Amari Cooper (6-1, 200), who has a whopping 52 catches for 746 yards and five touchdowns so far this season while no one else has caught more than 12 passes,
“I think he is a great talent and there is a reason that he had caught a lot of balls,” Jennings said. “The great thing about Amaury is he is not the only good receiver they have over there. They have got (Christion) Jones and DeAndrew White, too. We have got to be able to match their physical play when the ball is in the air. We have to go make plays.”
Jennings compared Cooper to Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (6-5, 236), whose nickname is Megatron.
“He is basically one of the SEC's versions of Calvin Johnson,” Jennings said. “He is a Megatron. He is unbelievably light on his feet. He goes up and he makes tough catches. He can track the ball in the air once the ball is thrown downfield.”
He also had praise for Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, who is 90-of-128 passing for 1,319 yards with 8 touchdowns and three interceptions.
“The thing about him is that he is doing a pretty good job of managing the game,” Jennings said. “He can also extend plays with his feet as well. I don't think they have put too much on him and what they are putting on his plate I think he is soaking it up and trying to put his team in position to win games.”
Arkansas' offense and defense have both been going through periods at the end of practice to perfect their fourth quarter finishes – something that has been an issue.
“When we do the perfect fourth quarter, we are on the field with them at the same time,” Jennings said. “Our big deal is we have got to be able to finish. Finish plays, got to be able to finish practices and got to be able to finish games.
“It is going pretty good,” Jennings added. “It is more between the ears than it is physical and I think that is what gets to you on game day. The one thing you better be able to do is that if you can do it in the first quarter, ok, you have to be able to do it in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. That is where our kids have to mature and we do as coaches as well, too.”
Jennings is Arkansas' lead recruiter in Texas and he, Razorback head coach Bret Bielema and the rest of the staff hit the state hard during the bye week.
“We got a chance to hit Dallas and we got a chance to hit Houston, too,” Jennings said. “The coaches have been very gracious to us with open hospitality. They like what we are doing and we just have to do our part and win some more games.”
DeAndre Coley, Clay Jennings
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