Arkansas' defensive players that attended the Cotton Bowl's daily media briefing all affirmed that they are ready to play Tuesday morning, but admitted that they will need to be ready for changes in the Oklahoma offense.
"We know they've had incredibly wide splits in their offensive line all year, but we don't know if that's how they will line up against us," said Arkansas end Carlos Hall. "I hope they keep those splits because it makes it hard to double team and I've seen a lot of double teams."
Oklahoma changed offensive line coaches two weeks ago, and the new man said he would eliminate those splits in his first move.
"Can you do that in two weeks?" said John Thompson, Arkansas' defensive coordinator. "Probably. What does it mean? Probably that they are going to try to run the ball a little more."
Either way is fine with Hall.
"I'd say they would want to run it more if they take away the splits," Hall said. "That's not as tiring as chasing the passer 60-70 times in a game ... playing the run I mean. We know we have to stop the run. That's our number one goal."
Tony Bua would welcome narrow splits.
"With the wide splits, it means 12 yards for me to get to the quarterback coming from the outside," Bua said. "If they take them away, it's about 7 yards. It's a little easier. Man, when I saw those splits, I was surprised. No way does anyone have splits like that in the SEC or any other team we've seen. It's different, and you don't have enough time to get to the quarterback as quick as they get rid of it."
Thompson said he's not sure what to expect, but noted that the Hogs have worked against everything in practice.
"We won't take long to adjust either way," he said. "We've been reading that they are chaning some people in the offensive line, that they've gotten a couple of guys well. We expect some new people from the ones we saw on film late in the season. We've covered it all."
The Hogs had another spirited practice Saturday, according to nose tackle Curt Davis.
"I thought it was just like we've had the last half of the season, a great workout," Davis said. "You can't believe how well we've practiced down here. It was good at home before Christmas, but the four down here have been incredible. We'll play well."
Davis said Cedric Cobbs had a little bounce to his step in practice Saturday, but isn't going to worry if the sophomore tailback can't play Tuesday.
"Cedric is a great player and we want to have him ready, and I think he'll be ready from what I saw today ... but, if you ask me, the weather they are talking about might be Brandon Holmes type weather," Davis said. "He's been looking strong in practice. We've worked against the offense a lot lately, and Brandon is running hard and tough. We'll be just fine at tailback either way. I don't think you'll see that hold us back, no matter who plays in the game."
Bua said the Hogs have heard plenty of talk from the Sooners about playing the Razorbacks.
"I've read where the Oklahoma fans think we are a third tier team," Bua said. "Whatever they think, that's fine. I've read some comments about playing in this game from some Oklahoma players. Do they want to be here? I don't know. Maybe they felt they were real close to playing in the Big 12 title game. Well, maybe we feel we were real close to playing in the SEC championship game ... maybe 3 points close.
"We are the underdogs, and that's fine with me. Oklahoma is favored by 13, right? That's fine. Might as well be big underdogs. I'm looking forward to this. Let's get to the game and get it on. We'll see if we are third tier. Whatever. It will be decided on the field and I can't hardly wait."
That seemed to be the sentiment among the rest of the Hogs, but John Thompson cautioned that the Sooners would be extremely prepared and tough.
"I've seen film of both their offense and their defense," Thompson said. "They are talented with great athletes and they are well coached.
"Offensively, they make it tough on you by spreading you out, and getting you matched in the open field with talented backs. We have three keys for this game ... tackle well, make big plays and stop the run. You must stop the run first. If you don't do that, everything else will fall apart. And, they make it hard to tackle, because they have great athletes.
"They do one thing that really concerns me, and that's the way their big wide receives block when you try to jump into press coverage. They are big, and they knock you back. Our corners are small. We've emphasized that you can't just walk up there and bump them. They are going to hit you hard if you try to do that, and then you are in trouble.
"And, we are concered about Trent Smith, their tight end. They put him out wide and get him in mismatches with smaller defenders. And, he'll knock you around inside, too. He can knock you off balance, then turn away from you, and they do a great job of finding him. He's athletic at 250 pounds. He'll be tough for us to cover."
John Thompson meets with the Cotton Bowl press.
Curt Davis thinks the Hogs have enjoyed awesome workouts.
Carlos Hall expects some changes from the Sooners.
Tony Bua is ready for action against the Sooners.
Photos by Tom Ewart