Hogs' Poole Just Happy To Be On Field Again

FAYETTEVILLE -- Dedrick Poole was having his best-ever rushing game for Arkansas last fall against Auburn -- 44 yards on seven carries -- when he suffered a career-threatening hamstring injury to his right leg during the third quarter.

Hogs coach Houston Nutt felt bad enough about his team's 38-20 loss that day, but then he got a grim doctor's report on Poole.

"No way did we think he could come back the way he has," Nutt said Tuesday.

Danny Nutt, Arkansas' running backs coach, said, "It's unbelievable. Dedrick's hamstring muscle was off the bone. The doctor said there was a 50-50 chance he could play again. But he's done it with a lot of want-to."

Poole made it through most of Monday's practice, before suffering stomach cramps in the heat.

"Nutrition is a big thing," Poole said Tuesday at Media Day, between bites of a breakfast biscuit. "I tried to eat light the first day, but I just didn't have enough food in me. But my hamstring is fine."

Danny Nutt credited UA trainer Dean Weber and his staff with making sure Poole did the rehabilitation he needed to get back on the field.

"I've been blessed," said Poole, a senior tailback from Little Rock. "I knew it was 50-50 if I'd play again. Dean didn't want to tell me, but he broke it to me. He and Don Decker made sure I got the rehab. Counting ice treatments, I probably rehabbed five hours a day, six days a week."

Poole missed Arkansas' final five games of 2004, then underwent surgery in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Nov 29 -- three days after the last game.

"I said, 'Doc, can you fix me?'" Poole recalled. "He said, 'I'll be honest -- I'll put everything back like it was, but it's up to God to give you all your speed back.'"

Poole, who at one time ran a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash, hasn't been timed in the 40 this year, but based on a series of 20-yard dashes he believes his quickness has returned.

"The hamstring still gets tight, but for the most part I'm 110 percent ready," he said. "A couple of my teammates say I'm even a little faster now."

Poole arrived at Arkansas from Little Rock Central with two state Super Team awards and a national pedigree, having been named the No. 8 skill athlete in the country by SuperPrep.

"Dedrick has unbelievable ball skills," said UA receivers coach James Shibest. "We move him around a lot, so I do get to help him. He made a big (50-yard) catch on a screen pass against Texas. We're just glad to have him back out. Don't think we don't appreciate a guy who rehabbed like that."

Though Poole played in all 14 games as a freshman, he perhaps chafed about carrying the ball just five times.

"All freshmen want the ball," Shibest said. "But Dedrick has turned into a team player."

Danny Nutt affirmed, "He's going to help us a lot. We'll play him out wide some, like we're doing with Peyton Hillis. Dedrick has great vision and he can catch the ball. We're trying to throw a little more to the tailbacks, because defenses lose them out there sometimes."

Houston Nutt said, "Dedrick has had a tremendous summer. We can use him on screens, draws and delays. Hopefully, we can keep him on the field."

Poole seems fine with his role.

"I'm kinda like a utility person," he said. "Peyton is like Waldo -- where is he? -- lining up everywhere, and I'll be like that, too."

Poole, 22, is an honor roll student in kinesiology who is on track to graduate. But before that, he wants to make his final go-round at Arkansas the best one.

"All the preseason predictions don't matter," he said. "They can pick us last if they want to. Postseason is what matters. Yeah, we were 5-6 last year, but we were four or five plays from being way over .500. The breaks of the game didn't go our way. Our mindset is we know how hard we've worked to improve."

Just to get on the field, Poole may have worked hardest of all.

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