Razorbacks Picked Fourth In SEC Western Division

HOOVER, Ala. -- Arkansas was picked fourth in the Southeastern Conference Western Division in a preseason poll conducted by members of the media it was announced Friday.

The Razorbacks did not receive any first-place votes in the poll released on final day of the annual SEC Football Media Days in the Wynfrey Hotel.

LSU was picked to win the SEC West with 62 first-place votes. Auburn was voted second and Alabama third. Ole Miss was picked fifth and Mississippi State last.

Tennessee was picked to win the SEC Eastern Division with 49 first-place votes, followed by Florida (29) and Georgia (9). South Carolina was picked fourth, followed by Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

The Vols were the overwhelming favorites to win the SEC championship game in December with 37 first-place votes, followed by Florida (21) and LSU (16).

"That's probably the highest we've been picked, usually we're picked last," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "I never worry about that. We never end up last, we don't want to end up last. I don't worry about well we're fourth now, where we are going to stay.

"We want to be first. We're coming to practice, two-a-days, come ... try and get back to Atlanta (for the SEC championship game)."

Arkansas was 5-6 in 2004, including a 3-5 SEC record. It was the first losing season in seven years under Nutt. It, too, was the first time the Hogs didn't receive a bowl bid.

"A pick is a pick," said Razorbacks senior center Kyle Roper. "Until the end of the season where you see where everybody is by wins and losses that's all that matters."

Arkansas returns 18 starters, including seven on offense and nine on defense. It returns 50 lettermen.

The All-SEC teams also were released Friday. Tennessee had five players named to the first-team offensive and defensive All-SEC units.

Razorbacks offensive tackle Zac Tubbs, a 6-foot-6, 358-pound senior from Cullman, Ala., was named All-SEC second-team offense. He was the only Arkansas player honored in the balloting.

"I was surprised a little bit to see him that far up (on the All-SEC team), especially in preseason when he missed just about the whole year," Nutt said. "But the thing about Zac, when he did play he played and did some good things."

Nutt said sophomore Robert Johnson, who is slated as the first-team quarterback entering preseason camp, is about "80 percent" after undergoing hernia surgery this summer.

"I just think he has to be careful in an all-out sprint," said Nutt, who added that Johnson is able to lift weights, but can't squat. "Everything else, pretty much, I think he's OK."

Johnson, who is competing with Alex Mortensen and Cole Barthel for the starting job, was sidelined for a little more than a week this summer. Nutt said Johnson made a quick and unexpected return to the field shortly after surgery and added that his passing hasn't been affected.

Roper said Johnson's determination to work out this summer despite undergoing surgery has been impressive.

"He could still be milking (the injury) if he wanted to," Roper said. "It's definitely something that makes you realize he's actually ready to step up and take control.

"It's definitely something that you like to see from the guy that could be your starting quarterback."

Nutt said Friday sophomore D'Nerian Wrighter won't be rejoining the Razorbacks this season, but declined to provide specifics about the Marlin, Texas, native.

Wrighter, who earned playing time as a true freshman in 2004, isn't listed in Arkansas' 2005 media guide.

Wrighter was moved from safety to linebacker this spring and was listed as Arkansas' fourth-team weakside linebacker -- behind Sam Olajubutu, Freddie Fairchild and Michael Robinson -- after 15 practices.

It might've been SEC Media Days, but Nutt fielded plenty of questions about one of the Hogs' nonconference opponents, Southern Cal, on Friday.

In fact, Nutt inadvertently referred to the defending national champions as "world champions" during his time behind the podium.

"We're not going to worry about that game right now," Nutt said. "They are a great football team, defending world champions. I think the worst thing we can do is concentrate on that game."

Arkansas opens the season against Missouri State on Sept. 3 and then kicks off SEC play against Vanderbilt on Sept. 10. After that the Razorbacks travel to USC on Sept. 17.

There's no question why Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle wound up with the Crimson Tide.

Look no further than the family tree.

His father, John Croyle, played football for legendary 'Bama coach Paul Bryant and his sister, Reagan, was a basketball player for the Tide's women's team and Alabama's 2000 homecoming queen.

Some more family ties:

• Auburn linebacker Travis Williams is the cousin of Philadelphia Eagles running back Duce Staley.

• Arkansas strong safety Vickiel Vaughn is the son of Ezekiel Vaughn, who played football with Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt at Little Rock Central. His sisters, Rochelle and Brittney, play on the Lady Razorback basketball team.

Alabama defensive back Roman Harper on Brodie Croyle: "Brodie is Superman to me, and Superman cannot be taken down by anything."

Croyle on his knee problems: "I guess I was genetically blessed with bad knees, because it's happened to me two years in a row."

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks on team's attitude: "We have fewer guys on my bad list. I call it something else, but I can't say that in print or TV or radio or anything else."

Arkansas' Vaughn on instant replay: "The only thing about instant replay if it helps us, it helps us. If it hurts us, we hate it."

LSU defensive tackle Kyle Williams on preseason hype: "All the preseason predictions, rankings, all that jazz. It doesn't mean anything. It's where you end up. It's all about January."

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