State of the Hogs: String Music

If there are no fumbles, it's hard to lose. It doesn't take a scientfic rocket -- in the words of Danny Ford -- to understand the logic.

Listening to football coaches closely for around 45 years, you sometimes hear something a little different. And, sometimes, it's just the way they talk that's different.

Danny Ford kept you in stitches. His grammar was awful. The way he used double negatives made him tough to follow, but it was funny, too.

I asked him after one lengthy interview if he wanted me to clean up his grammar. No, he said, better not do that, not with what most didn't think he could talk no more. It don't matter not much of the time anyway, right? OK, I got the point.

There was the time Danny explained how Madre Hill was going to recover from a second ACL surgery much faster than the first. The coach explained that he had learned anytime there was a second surgery of a similar nature it didn't take nearly the recovery time.

"It's like a woman having a baby," he said. "The first one is tough. The second one pops right out."

It's taken me around 20 years to get that one in print and it could be that it was too early.

Ford was the coach that also explained that it didn't "take a scientific rocket" to figure out some things that happened on the football field. Blocked punts will get you beat, among other things that were easy to understand.

Now, we've finally got an Arkansas coach with proper knowledge of real rocket science. Jemal Singleton, the new UA running backs coach, took a course in just that while earning a degree from the Air Force Academy. Once in training to fly A-10 fighter jets, Singleton stopped just short of signing up for the 10-year commitment that would make him a pilot.

"I learned that I really liked being a pilot, but I loved coaching," Singleton said. "I was going to fly the tank destroyers."

Instead, he launched a coaching career that brought him to Bret Bielema's staff this winter. Last week we heard Bielema use the rocket science reference correctly, as he explained Singleton's method for coaching his running backs not to fumble.

Bielema was asked about a drill that Singleton brought to practice that includes a string attached to a football. Singleton tries to jerk the ball away from the backs. There is also a new definition for the term fumble. Singleton's backs did not lose a fumble at Oklahoma State last year. That's not an accident.

"I've been very impressed, like I said, with all three of my (new) coaches," Bielema said "But one of the things that first intrigued me to coach Singleton is his statistics keeping hold of the football.

"So I make all of our coaches give me the notes they give to their players. And coach Singleton is very creative, like i said he's taken rocket science, so he's got a better grasp than probably all of us, but his notes, they're not written, they're computer generated with graphics and all this jazz.

"Just a very intriguing guy to get notes from. I found it very interesting, one of the first meetings he had with his players, he defined the word fumble.

"Like everybody in here, if you hear the word fumble, you probably think, OK, a ball that's loose on the ground. His definition of a fumble is any ball that is not handed to the referee when the play is done.

"I thought that was an interesting perspective, that it's not through the ball, it's not until the ball is on the ground, it's when the ball is handed to a referee, that is the definition of a non-fumble and I get his post-practice charts."

Singleton's managers charts whether or not they are given the ball back at the end of the plays, or the grip on the football to begin the play. The first practice of spring was a learning experience for the backs. They didn't come close to what Singleton demanded. There were 49 ball security errors in the opening practice.

"And every one of those equated to five up-downs from his players, so that's a lot of up-downs," Bielema said. "You know what, the second practice that was cut in half."

Bielema loved it. And, he emphasized to his team that it was exactly what he wanted from the rest of the team.

"I embarrassed them a little bit in front of my coaches because you will get the results that you emphasize and he obviously emphasizes ball security, which is why it's been a prolific part of what his coaching tree is."

New offensive coordinator applauded and grabbed Singleton's mantra for the quarterbacks and everyone else in the offense. It's a coaching emphasis that fits perfectly into the two-minute system, too.

“It's good," Enos said. "I think absolutely and I told the quarterbacks in our meetings, basically from here on out, hand the ball to an official, or in practice hand it to a manager because also that build our habits when we are in two-minute offense.

"Obviously, if you end up with the ball when the play is over, you immediately want to hand it to an official so they can spot it quickly. So you can either clock it, get your field goal team out there. So I think are habits are good for everyone.

"And, obviously ball security is huge. I coached running backs in the past. People tend to think it's just for the select running backs. Really, if you handle the ball if you are a quarterback, tight end, wide receiver, ball security is as just as important as a running back.

"Obviously, a running back is getting more opportunities, but that's another reason the wide receivers and tight ends should spend more time with it because they are limited in their opportunities. So we have to spend time so that when they do catch a ball and are running down the field with their hands on the ball so that when they do get tackled they understand how to protect the football in all of those situations.

"Obviously, you are really good at what you decide to emphasize and we have decided to emphasize from Coach Bielema permeating all the way down through the rest of us, we are going to be as good there as we can be."

Danny Ford would say, if you don't have no fumbles, can't nobody beat you, not no stinking way. OK, maybe not. It doesn't take a scientific rocket to figure that one. I know what I've figured out. If there is anything close to a fumble, Jemal Singleton will order some more up-downs.

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