At one time or another this season, almost each University of Arkansas secondary member has found himself watching either his guy score or at least celebrate a big play.
That includes Razorback sophomore safety Randy Kelly, a junior college transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, who watched a pass fly over the top of his head for a touchdown against Florida.
But Florida native Kelly says he is determined to take these last three or possibly four games of the UA season and make sure it does not happen again while trying to lock a starting spot down for next season.
"I let my eyes get too big that first game against Florida and didn't have good technique," Kelly said. "But I feel like I'm coming into my own now and getting comfortable on this level."
Kelly - likely to be a starter in Saturday's 11:30 a.m. game with visiting Ole Miss - was among the defenders who came up with plays that stood out in Wednesday's Razorback practice.
He and the other safeties got in some work after practice and also had a motivational meeting among themselves, something several of the positions did after they were released by UA head coach Houston Nutt for the day.
"It was a just a business meeting," Kelly said. "Everybody feels the same about one another and we are going to be there for each other and get this turned around."
Arkansas' workout on Wednesday featured more of a businesslike atmosphere than a rah-rah one. It's clear that the team is trying to put last week's 35-32 loss at South Carolina behind and save the season with three straight wins to close the season and a trip to the bowl.
Nutt says it's more about actions than words right now.
"I've been real proud first of all of our seniors," Nutt said. "The seniors that we have have done a great job of leading our football team. You need leadership and need guys to step up. Anybody can lead when you are 8-0 or 9-0 - those are great times - but it takes a real man to step up when things aren't going just right. We have had some really step up. They come with a great attitude and come to work."
After a fourth straight loss, this Wednesday's practice was one that featured more team scrimmaging and more physicality than in previous midweek sessions.
"We did a lot of work together today for the speed of the game," Nutt said. "We do a lot of things similar offensively and defensively that Ole Miss does."
It would be accurate to say that the defense gave up some big plays in the practice, but also correct to say that there was more sure tackling going on than in previous games and practices.
That is one facet of the game that Kelly excels in and one reason he is getting a chance this week.
"My strengths are just attacking the ball and saying I'm a man," Kelly said. "There are some things that people on this team can do, but I can do better. I'm not saying I am better than anybody, but I do think I bring a lot to the table."
Kelly, certainly among the hardest-hitting Razorbacks in practice, openly wonders how things would have been different for him if he hadn't missed a lot of early practices because of an academic snafu with his transcript.
""It set me back and was disappointing," Kelly said. "I feel like if I had been here early, I would have been either the top one or one of the top two back there as a starter. Instead I had to get in line, learn the coverages and wait for chance and number to be called. But hey, you roll with the punches and it's just time to get it done now."
Ironically Kelly, who has dread locks, started the season wearing 38 but changed his number to 6 when fellow dread-locked Razorback Carlos Ousley quit the team.
"Although I wanted to switch, it's not about the number on your back, but the numbers you take care of with your business on the field," Kelly said.
One player who did take a nasty spill during the workout was wideout Cedric Washington, who came tumbling down after being hit in the air.
"I think he just fell on his back awkward and got a little bit of a bruise," Nutt said.
Jared Hicks, the banged up tight end, also was limited but should play on Saturday.
"I know some people are down on us and we knows as a defense we could and should play better," Kelly said. "But it does no good to look behind, only to move forward and get it done."
UA Wednesday Grid Report, 11-10
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