Howard: Incoming Freshman Must Make Big Adjustment

FAYETTEVILLE -- Senior tailback De'Arrius Howard knows all about Arkansas' 2005 signing class, which includes a talented trio of running backs in Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Michael Smith.

After all, Arkansas sent a message to the returning Hogs by including 19 of the 24 incoming freshman on its post spring depth chart. The list didn't include any of the three freshmen, but Howard knows each one will get a chance to compete for the starting job he's expecting to win when preseason practices begin in August.

"I'm not worried about that," Howard said. "To be honest with you, my last concern is them incoming guys. I'm going to show them how to do it.

"They've got to learn from me because it's a big adjustment. It's a big turnaround."

Howard should know. The highly touted running back was named a All-American out of West Memphis High School and was considered the best Arkansas high school player in 2000. Howard ran for 2,746 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior, 2,215 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior and chose Arkansas over Tennessee.

Howard thought he could make an instant impact as a true freshman, much like tailback Cedric Cobbs in 1999.

It didn't take long before he realized there was plenty to learn about succeeding on the college field.

"I'm coming in on cloud nine," Howard said about his freshman year. "But the second day in pads, they brought me right back down. They didn't just bring me down to ground level, I was under the ground.

"(Former Arkansas defensive end) Carlos Hall, I'm like, how can a defensive lineman move that fast? It will blow your mind."

There's no way to tell which, if any, of the three incoming freshmen will make an impact next season. But coach Houston Nutt has proven he isn't afraid to set aside a redshirt and use a true freshman running back.

In addition to Cobbs, who rushed for 668 yards in 1999, Peyton Hillis contributed as a true freshman last season. Hillis compiled 465 all-purpose yards and scored eight touchdowns despite missing three games because of a back injury.

Nutt and running backs coach Danny Nutt expect all three freshmen to make a serious push for playing time when preseason practices begin in August. But both coaches agree with Howard. They believe the senior will be setting the example for Arkansas' backfield when the season begins.

"They'll look up to him," Danny Nutt said about the incoming freshmen. "I think it's good to have competition. It makes De'Arrius work harder. But being a senior, (Howard's) going to get all the chances he wants first. He's going to be the man."

Poll-ing Out

The Associated Press told the Bowl Championship Series it no longer wanted its top 25 poll to be part of the national championship equation last December.

Now, ESPN has decided to withdraw its name from the top 25 coaches' poll.

The cable sports network became the second major news organization to disassociate itse

from the BCS after college coaches voted against revealing their weekly ballots next season. The coaches agreed to release their final top 25 polls at the end of the season, but ESPN said the decision wasn't good enough to maintain its sponsorship and opted out for ethical purposes.

"Coaches have the perfect right to conduct their voting the way they see fit," Vince Doria, ESPN's vice president and director of news, told The Associated Press last week. "We just feel, in our best interests here, we couldn't reconcile having our name on the poll and being able to cover any controversy that might arise."

ESPN, along with USA Today, had sponsored the coaches' poll since 1997. The poll was one of two major polls, joining the AP Top 25, used in the BCS rankings.

"There will still be a coaches' poll, and it will be used by the BCS, but we don't have a comment on ESPN's decision," said Bob Burda, spokesman for BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg told The Associated Press last week.

Countdown To Kickoff

With Arkansas' baseball team bowing out of the NCAA Regional Tournament in Austin, Texas, last week and the track program wrapping up its run at the NCAA Championship meet today, the quietest and, perhaps, most depressing time for Razorbacks' fans has just begun.

The good news is that the summer doldrums won't last long.

The Southeastern Conference will meet at its annual football media days -- the unofficial kickoff for football season -- in 46 days (July 28). After that, Arkansas players report to campus for preseason camp in 56 days. Fall practices begin in 57 days and Arkansas' season opener against Missouri State is in 83 days.

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