UA Receivers: Block Or Don't Play

FAYETTEVILLE -- Receivers in Arkansas' offense know that if you don't block downfield, you won't play no matter how well you catch passes and run routes.

The Hogs led the Southeastern Conference in rushing the past two seasons. Their 5,067 total yards of offense last fall was a school record.

A healthy chunk of last year's yards came on long runs by quarterback Matt Jones, former tailback Cedric Cobbs and current tailback DeCori Birmingham.

"We take pride in it because it's such an integral part of our offense," said senior receiver Steven Harris, who leads all returnees with 19 receptions for 315 yards and a touchdown last season. "We can make the difference in a 20-yard run or a touchdown.

"And besides, if we don't block, we're not going to get in the game and make any catches."

Harris said the passing and rushing games work hand in hand.

"Anything we can do to help the running backs succeed, it's going to open up the passing game," Harris said.

Receivers coach James Shibest tells his players that blocking downfield is about 50 percent technique and the other half is the desire to want to do it.

There are two types of blocks for recivers: cut blocks, where they cut a defender's legs and stock blocks, where they stay on their feet to lock up a defender and try to them force away from the ball carrier.

"We know we like to run the ball here, but one thing I tell my guys is that blocking down field helps you with routes," Shibest said. "If you got DBs worried about you coming down and cutting them all the time, it'll help you get open on routes."

Shibest has seven receivers listed on the depth chart -- Harris, Carlos Ousley, Cedric Washington, Chris Baker, David Thompson and freshman Marcus Monk and Cedric Logan -- and he said the newcomers are starting to get a handle on how to block in the open field.

"They still don't have the right technique, but they're getting better," Shibest said. "They know that they better learn how to do it, because if they don't, they're not going to play here very much."

Being one of the most athletic players on the scout team last fall, walk-on Payne Hall got to simulate the likes of Texas receiver Roy Williams and Florida tight end Ben Troupe.

"It always seemed like I had a different colored jersey from week to week," Hall said.

But Hall didn't conserve his energy for practices. Instead, he spent hours in the weight room before and after workouts.

"I was lifting like four days a week last fall," Hall said. "Because I wasn't playing, I might as well get better for next year and I didn't want to wait until after the season to start getting stronger."

The 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman from Muldrow, Okla., has added 30 pounds of muscle since he arrived at Arkansas. During that time, Hall's maximum bench press improved from 325 to 415 pounds.

Exactly how much Hall will contribute Saturday remains uncertain, but tight ends coach Clifton Ealy said it could be a lot.

"When he got bigger, we decided tight end is his position," Ealy said. "He has such good hands. He's strong, he's smart and he's a guy that runs good routes, so it's all worked out."

Hall is just excited for the chance to play himself everyday in practice.

"I've just been taking it day by day and there's a lot of competition," Hall said. "When they call my name, I go out there and just get out there and do what I can."

After returning from a high ankle sprain last week, Logan limped through about three practices.

The Fayetteville native wasn't able to participate in much team work and even pulled himself out occasionally from individual drills.

But after talking with Ealy -- who coached at Fayetteville during Logan's sophomore and junior years -- the spring has returned in Logan's step.

"I'm still playing through pain," Logan said. "(Ealy) asked me if I was hurt or if I was injured. I told him that I was hurt and right then, I knew exactly what he meant.

"Now, I'm just getting treatment as much as I can and trying to play full speed like everybody else."

Ealy said he was just trying to spark something in Logan, who he said could be a special player for the Hogs.

"I'm not his position coach, but I still have a soft spot for Fayetteville High guys," Ealy said. "I was just trying to encourage him and remind him that, 'Hey, if Dean (Weber) gives you the OK, then you need to be out here playing through it and going full speed."

After visiting with Dr. James Andrews, reserve quarterback Landon Leach's injured shoulder may not be as serious as originally thought.

"That's what we understand going by the doctor's report," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "We've been talking to Landon and hoping he's going to be OK."

Andrews handled Leach's shoulder surgery last November in Birmingham, Ala. The sophomore reinjured his throwing arm while attempting a pass during a scrimmage two weeks ago.

According to Weber, Leach's options are either to have surgery to repair it or to rehabilitate it through physical therapy. His shoulder will be examined again in three to six weeks.

Former Arkansas kicker Lance Ellison has been named the honorary captain for Saturday's game against New Mexico State.

Ellison was paralyzed during a car wreck on his way to Oxford, Miss., for the 2001 Ole Miss game, which the Hogs won 58-56 in seven overtimes.

He lettered at Arkansas from 1991-94 and handled kickoff and field goal duties.

Morning News staff writer Robbie Neiswanger contributed to this report.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories