Wommack's Firing Brings Strong Reaction

FAYETTEVILLE -- Sam Olajubutu can't believe it. Most of all, he doesn't understand why Dave Wommack was fired as Arkansas' defensive coordinator Wednesday.

"I'm hurt pretty bad by this," said Olajubutu, the Hogs junior linebacker who spent the past three seasons calling Wommack's plays on the field. "I just don't know why it had to happen like this. I mean, a lot of people picked us to win just two games and we won five.

"So how is that his fault?"

Wommack's firing comes on the heels of Arkansas' first season in which the Razorbacks failed to become bowl eligible under seventh-year coach Houston Nutt. The Hogs' defense took most of the blame for the 5-6 season as it allowed 397.2 yards per game, the second highest total in school history.

"Some of the games we weren't supposed to be in, we were in because of Wommack," Olajubutu said. "It was coach Wommack who came up with a good game plan that week and called good plays that kept us in it."

Olajubutu's comments mirrored those made by most of his teammates. Junior safety Vickiel Vaughn said he "feels bad" for Wommack.

"I don't think you can pin it on one man or whatever," Vaughn said. "Right now, he might be used as the scapegoat more or less. Players can't really do too much about it except accept it and move on. The decision that coach Nutt made, we will trust in coach Nutt's decision. He's looking out for the team and what's best for all of us and what's best for the program."

Through Wednesday night, the coaching staff hadn't addressed the situation with the players and some were unaware of the news.

"A few of us already knew it was going to come up, we just weren't sure when it was going to happen," said freshman defensive end Jamaal Anderson. "I just don't think you can ever blame one person. It might have been a lack of effort from some of us when we were in there or just the fact that we weren't getting in the right alignment. The coaches put us in the right spots, but a lot of times, we weren't in the spot we were told to be in.

"Everybody makes mistakes and I don't think you can just put the blame on him. It's a team game."

Junior cornerback Darius Vinnett agreed with Anderson, adding that he didn't see any problems in Wommack's schemes.

"If we would have done exactly what the team called for each time, we would have a good record and be going to a top bowl," Vinnett said. "I can't say that we executed everything every time. We can't point fingers at anybody. We were the ones that were out there playing in the game.

"If anything, I would put the blame on ourselves."

Others said the only thing they can do now is move on and try to turn the situation into a positive.

"I don't know if it was fair, but it's just a business when you get to this level," said freshman defensive end Fred Bledsoe. "We have to trust in coach Nutt and believe that this will be what's best for the team."

Vaughn said the hardest part will be figuring out how to handle a new defensive coordinator.

"You basically have to find out what the coach wants, what he doesn't want," Vaughn said. "You've got to adjust like you're almost a freshman again. You don't look forward to that. But in a sense, you look forward to a new start and say this is something new that we can take and help us to adapt and be better for next year.

"We're just trying to wash this all away and start brand new."

Olajubutu didn't want to speculate, or even think about, who would be Wommack's replacement. His only concern was for his former coach.

"Coach Wommack has his whole family up here, so I wish him and his family the best," Olajubutu said. "I know it ain't easy, having to pack up and move now and try to find another job.

"I just hope everything turns out good for him."

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