"Mr. Dependable" Gets Chance To Shine

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas comeback from 31 points down against Florida couldn't have happened without junior running back Kyle Dickerson.

With Arkansas trailing 38-7 at the Florida 26 and facing fourth-and-2 late in the third quarter, Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt called for the 5-foot-9, 210-pounder he calls "Mr. Dependable."

Dickerson, who was in the Razorbacks backfield because freshman Peyton Hillis suffered a lower back injury in the second quarter, rolled out into the right flat and looked back for the pass from quarterback Matt Jones.

The ball was a little behind him and he had to turn and run backward while Gators free safety Jarvis Herring closed the gap.

Dickerson hauled in the pass for the first down and two plays later the comeback was on after DeCori Birmingham took it in from 12 yards out to cut it to 38-14.

"I turned around and (Herring) was right there in my face," Dickerson said. "So I was just happy to get the first down and swing some momentum for us to put some points on the board after starting off kind of slow."

The comeback nearly stalled out again with Arkansas facing third-and-13 on its next drive from the Florida 39 after the defense forced a Gators three-and-out.

But again it was Dickerson who bailed out Jones by getting open along the sideline.

After Jones scrambled and looked desperately downfield, he went back to Dickerson, who scampered 14 yards with the help of a block from receiver Steven Harris to keep another touchdown drive alive.

"It felt real good," Dickerson said. "It felt like I was back in my high school days. It felt awesome. It felt like I hadn't done it in a while, but I was happy to be out there."

Dickerson hasn't seen a lot of playing time in his first three years at Arkansas after signing as a highly touted recruit from Memphis East High.

Dickerson was clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash as a prep and rushed for 72 touchdowns and 62 two-point conversions in his career, drawing interest from running back factories Auburn, Tennessee and West Virginia.

He amassed more than 7,000 yards in all-purpose yards at Memphis East but has never found a niche in the Arkansas offense behind a succession of tailbacks Cedric Cobbs, Fred Talley, Brandon Holmes, De'Arrius Howard, Dedrick Poole, Birmingham and fullbacks like Mark Pierce, Brandon Kennedy, Farod Jackson and Hillis.

"It's very hard to come from high school where I was the go-to guy," he said. "You have to be humble. Competing with these guys in front of me already makes you better as a person."

Since redshirting in 2001, Dickerson has had just 56 carries for 220 yards (3.9 per carry) and 2 touchdowns, both against New Mexico State.

He got his first start last year at Ole Miss when Cobbs and Howard went down with injuries, but logged only one carry for minus-2 yards before giving way to Holmes and Birmingham.

Still, the quiet and cool Dickerson has never uttered a complaint or thought of quitting like receiver Carlos Ousley did this week after getting demoted for freshman Marcus Monk on the depth chart.

"I'm real hungry, but you have to be patient," Dickerson said. "It's hard, but patience is a virtue. I kind of talk to my uncle, my parents and they keep my spirits up. I'm ready. Now is my time."

Birmingham said he deserves it.

"All he cares about is winning games," Birmingham said. "He's always known just to be patient and it will come to him. Now he has a chance to go out there and shine."

The contrast between Dickerson and Ousley is a stark one in Nutt's mind.

"(Dickerson) is the one that will make it and be so successful," Nutt said. "You can book it. You can put it in print now and in 10 years go back and do a study on both of them and you'll see what happens.

"He's so unselfish. And that's what is so disappointing about some young people that have to make these quick, irrational decisions when the wind changes."

It hasn't been easy for Dickerson to wait for his opportunity, but now he has it with Hillis out at least a month and maybe more with three fractured transverse processes in his lower back.

"Now he has a chance to show a lot of people what he's capable of doing," Birmingham said. "We've always known Kyle is a great running back. Now he's going to have a chance to go out there and basically shock the world and let them know he's for real."

Dickerson has an advantage because he knows both the fullback and tailback positions better than the freshman Hillis did.

"He's always filled a lot of roles for us and he'll continue to do that," said passing game coordinator Roy Wittke. "He's a guy whose versatility really pays dividends for us. He's a guy that's selfless and willing to do anything he can to make a contribution.

"There's no question he'll be a guy we'll look to help pick up the slack in Hillis' absence. We have a lot of faith in him. Reliability is his trademark."

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