Hogs Know Arkansas vs. Arkansas Practice Time is Great Preparation for Facing Kansas State Running Game

Arkansas knows that stopping the run is the first mission against Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl and that daily work against its own running game will serve them well Saturday.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Arkansas defensive end JaMichael Winston knows that Kansas State's offense doesn't look anything like what the Razorbacks run in a pro-style scheme. But it's still appropriate that there is daily work against the running game.

There are periods every day that focus on smashmouth running from the Arkansas offense, Winston told the media at the LIberty Bowl on Wednesday morning. It's perfect preparation for some of what Kansas State does in a downhill running game from multiple formations.

"I just think we love to face running teams and we are prepared for them," Winston said. "They have a downhill attack with their quarterbacks. They have some portions of their game that is heavy with downhill running."

Quarterback Joe Hubener leads the Wildcats with 807 rushing yards, not counting 194 subtracted for sacks to leave a net of 613. Tailback Charles Jones has a net of 673 yards. It's clear that the Hogs know that Hubener is the main focus.

"It's a quarterback running game," said Robb Smith, the Arkansas defensive coordinator. "The running back is effective, too, but it starts with the quarterback."

Stopping the run is part of the daily practice schedule as emphasized by head coach Bret Bielema.

"We are going to have a team run period every day," Smith said. "That's from Bret. We know that going against our offense and our style of downhill running gets us prepared for every team we face in some way. They all have an element of a running game."

Winston is a run stopper of a defensive end. That's his strength and it's that part of practice that he always looks forward to each day.

“I love it because he preaches the physical mentality and against our offensive line, we get after it everyday," Winston said. "We do a lot of inside run. I don’t think a lot of teams across the country do that anymore, but we still do. That’s why we’re so good at stopping the run I think.

"We play a lot of ball each day against our offensive line. It's how we are built. It's part of our strength and conditioning program to build us to stop the run. It's how we are trained and how we practice.

"It's our foundation, what Coach B believes in and what Coach Smith works towards and it all carries over to a game like this when we face a running team."

Defensive tackle DeMarcus Hodge said it's a good feeling when he sees the game plan and there is no need for an eight-man box against a running team.

"We play them with our regular stuff and stop the run," Hodge said. "If I see that we need more, then it's not a good reflection on what our coaches see in our defensive line. We should be able to play them with our front four and nothing else. We are prepared to play with our front against a good running team and this is a downhill running team. We shouldn't have to blitz to stop them."

The Wildcats use two quarterbacks. Hubener is the downhill runner. Kody Cook, a quick wide receiver, also steps in at quarrterback to give a more elusive look for the offense.

Smith said the offensive system has continuity within the rotation of the two quarterbacks, although the style of the two players is different.

“I think they try to run their offense," Smith said. "They have a strong identity of what they want to be offensively. I think their running styles are a little bit different, obviously.

"Their one quarterback is a little bit bigger than the other. I think they’re going to do what they do and they do it very well. It’s going to be important that we can disrupt the quarterback this week if we want to have success. I think both those guys are quality football players and have obviously helped them win and play well down the stretch.”

Interestingly, Smith was asked by a Kansas State beat writer to define the Wildcats on offense. The question was prefaced with the comment, "We have a hard time figuring out their identity. Can you help me?"

Smith provided a lengthy reply and emphasized that there is great variety to what the Wildcats do as far as formations and scheme. The only thing that's good about that, Smith said, the long bowl prep gave the Hogs time to digest the variety of the scheme.

“I think one of the things they want to do is make it hard for you to prepare for them," Smith said. "They’re either going to give you a variety of personnel groupings, they do things with two fullbacks in the game and they play multiple quarterbacks.

"But, I think at their essence, they want to be able to be physically tough and run the football. For us, defensively, that’s where it starts. We’ve got to be able to defend their run game. I think when their quarterback becomes a runner they do a really good job with run pass options throughout, whether there’s four receivers in the game or one receiver in the game.

"They really stress you there and make you play very detailed and disciplined football. Then, when they can lull you to sleep in the run game, they’ll take a shot up top and they’ve been very proficient at times throwing the deep ball. I think at their essence they want to run the football, but they do enough to keep you balanced.”

LIBERTY BOWL NOTES

Robb Smith is busy with preparations for the Liberty Bowl, but he couldn't help but glance on-line at some highlights at a potential star for the Razorbacks next season, defensive end McTelvin "Sosa" Agim. The 6-3, 276-pound Hope product is preparing for the Under Armour All-American game on Saturday. Agim has already signed with the Hogs and participated in developmental bowl practices with the Hogs last week.
"I saw Sosa's highlight tape yesterday," Smith said. "He went around the Florida State five-star tackle like he was standing still. He's impressive. We are excited about what he's already done in our practices. He's going to make quite an impact.
"I know he's still got a lot to learn, but I hope we don't mess him up. He's really got a burst. We saw him do some things last week against some of our tackles that was very impressive. He's just got a burst and he's just so big."
Teammates have been impressed.
"Sosa is my guy," JaMichael Winston said. "I think playing running back this year helped his skill and made him faster. That lets his athletic ability shine. We are hoping he does well this weekend in his game. I'm all about Sosa."
DeMarcus Hodge said Agim fits in already at Arkansas.
"We've really known him for quite some time," he said. "He's been one of our guys for a long time. We keep up with him. He's going to text us and keep us informed this week.
"What you see now is really good. He's amazing. But he's still going to get better. What happens to his body after a year with Coach (Ben) Herbert is going to help him. He still looks like a freshman in some ways and is just going to get better and better.
"Right now in workouts, he just lets his speed do things for him. He's got to learn fundamentals and technique and I know he will do that. We love him. We really do. He fits in our meeting. He has handled everything in a great way. I think he's going to be a really good player. He came in and began to soak everything up. We have tried to keep him engage, but that wasn't hard. He's going to be one of the good ones to play at Arkansas. There was no doubt from the first day he went out with us at practice that he was a prime defensive line player."
• • •
JaMichael Winston got a buzz cut Christmas Eve. The dreadlocks are gone. The Arkansas junior defensive end had plotted the hair cut for some time.

"I was talking with my girl friend and she was for it, too," Winston said. "I figured it might help my speed by a couple of tenths in the 40. Just kidding.

"Really, though, she said she would cut her locks, too. She said she did, but I can't tell that anything is gone. Looks the same to me.

"But I really like what I did. I like the look and it feels so good to be smooth up top. I'm glad I did it. And, who knows, maybe I'm a little faster.

"Obviously, I was serious about cutting my hair. She was not. That was fine. But she likes it and she knows I was plotting this for some time."
• • •
Robb Smith said his sons, Charlie and Jack, became bubble boys on Christmas and also took advantage of a trip to Bass Pro Shop for some more loot this week.

"They got plenty of stuff, but the big one was two inflated balls my wife ordered," Smith said. "They each got one. You roll around in them and you can go at each other as much as you want and no one gets hurt.

"That went on for a few days. It was impressive to watch. But one of them has a hole in it now and will have to be patched. They crashed into a few things."

There has been no major damage, but Smith is worried about the possibilities after the Bass Pro visit.

"The Smith boys came out of there with some archery gear, real bows and arrows," he said. "They are in the archery club at Vandergriff Elementary School. That's where this stuff needs to be used. We got a target and I'm hopeful that none of the arrows end up hitting me, just the target."
• • •
Robb Smith said the Arkansas staff didn't get a call from LSU ahead of the Texas Bowl. They would have helped the Tigers against Texas Tech.

"We are all about the SEC and would help any member of our league," Smith said Wednesday. "They did just fine. They had great pressure on the quarterback. What LSU did up front was very impressive. But, yes, we would have helped LSU with anything they asked."

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