The Irony Of Ousley's Last Drop

FAYETTEVILLE - "I don't know what I would've done without football. It didn't make any sense to quit something that you love, something that you've been doing all your life.

"I just couldn't give it up."

That from Carlos Ousley to our Mike Capshaw last week.

We had a nice spread in Saturday's section dealing with the Arkansas junior flanker's frustrations with not getting the dang ball his first two seasons here. He thought about just hanging up the helmet after them.

But fellow Florida native and senior split end Steven Harris helped convince Ousley to tough it out despite catching only 5 passes for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore.

This season, Ousley had caught on as a starter.

So how ironic is this?

On Monday, the Arkansas staff rightly made 6-foot-6 freshman receiver Marcus Monk its starting split end.

And Harris was moved to Ousley's starting spot at flanker.

On Tuesday, the very day serious speculation began swirling that former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams (who just flat-out quit right before the season) wants to return to the NFL, Ousley told Louis Campbell, the Hogs' director of football operations, he was quitting the team.

As of Tuesday evening, Ousley, a 6-foot, 180-pounder who was more of a speed guy than a sure-handed one, hadn't bothered telling Arkansas coach Houston Nutt or, apparently, his teammates his decision.

After Tuesday's practice, Nutt took the high road.

"There's a little bit of selfishness there, but I won't get into it," Nutt said.

Think we've got an idea where Ousley's attitude comes from: Jacksonville, Fla. Our Robbie Neiswanger dialed that direction, speaking to Ousley's stepfather, Terry Taylor, on Tuesday and learned that Taylor talked to Arkansas receivers coach James Shibest on Monday night, complaining about Ousley being demoted on the heels of the serious-bad performance in Saturday's 45-30 loss at Florida (a game in which Monk was super impressive).

Ousley is 22 years old.

"In (Shibest's) exact words - 'He wasn't productive enough,'" Taylor said. "I said, 'Coach, from one game he's not productive enough?'

"I felt like they put the blame on him. They've got a freshman they want to start. Like I told (Shibest), 'That's not right. He's been there three years. You're not giving him a chance.'"

Actually, Nutt and Shibest are the exact ones who gave Ousley a big-time second chance. This isn't the first time for Ousley to quit on a team. He transferred from Wake Forest in the spring of 2000 because Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe wanted him to clip the dreadlocks that flowed under his helmet.

Ousley refused to be shorn and contacted Arkansas, which apparently has nothing against dreadlocks, and the rest -literally now - is history.

As for lack of production from Ousley, Shibest was exactly right. Ousley had just 9 receptions for 102 yards through five games this season.

After Saturday's game, Shibest's switcharoo was a no-brainer. Ousley, who had gathered 63 tickets for family and friends to watch him in The Swamp, mishandled a punt right to him, diving on it for a 5-yard loss. He had no receptions, but lost six yards on an early carry.

He was involved in the game's biggest play. With Arkansas trailing then-No. 16 Florida 38-30 with more than six minutes remaining, the Hogs faced a second-and-12 from their 42-yard line. Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones found Ousley on a crossing pattern, right to left. The short pass was behind Ousley, who got enough of his left hand on the ball to flick it into the belly of Florida linebacker Channing Crowder.

That's how Ousley will be remembered.

Meantime, Harris, Arkansas' leading receiver, had a field day at Florida with 6 receptions for 114 yards.

And Monk?

He used his height, athleticism and serious smarts to snag 5 passes for 52 yards, including the 7-yard TD reception with a Gator on his back. Monk also caught Jones' 2-point pass to make it 38-30.

On the season, he has 12 receptions for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Think Nutt has done a marvelous job with this young team that played with No. 5 Texas and No. 12 Florida and smacked around New Mexico State and Louisiana-Monroe and knocked off Alabama 27-10.

But like many of you, the thought in this corner was Monk needed to be on the field lots more often than not. He's polished for a freshman and, because of his height and abilities, garners the attention of opponents, usually forcing them into double coverage.

Now Monk is the man.

Hopefully, for his sake, Ousley will become a stronger one.

Ousley's remaining football options are down to sitting out the rest of this season before playing for some obscure Division I-AA or Division II program next season.

"He took (the Florida game) pretty hard," Harris told Neiswanger after Tuesday's practice. "Then for things to go the way they did at the beginning of the week, (that) probably made it hard on him and probably made up his mind for him.

"There's no telling."

No need to anymore.

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