Thursday Grid Update, 9/8

UA starting cornerback Michael Coe analyzes what the Razorback defense - who has a new defensive tackle depth chart featuring true freshmen - will have to do to handle Vanderbilt's offense when the pair meet Saturday night.

If not for a questionable call last week in a 49-17 rout of Missouri State, University of Arkansas junior cornerback Michael Coe's stat line would have been even more impressive than it already was.

Coe (6-1, 190) had four tackles, one interception he took back 16 yards and even forced a fumble -one of the five he and his secondary mates had a direct result in creating or recovering.

"He really gave us some leadership out there last week and I am sure he is going to do that the whole year," UA head coach Houston Nutt said. He also threw in 4 punt returns for 61 yards, a nice 15.2 average on his first night on the job in that role - one that he was working at again Thursday afternoon as the Razorbacks completed their on-field preparations for Saturday nights SEC opener with visiting Vanderbilt at 6 p.m.

Arkansas got in a lot of kicking game action on Thursday, which also was a day that Nutt named Marcus Harrison and Keith Jackson as the starting defensive tackles.

They will be backed up by true freshman Marcus Shavers and redshirt freshman Michael Tate and true freshman Cord Gray may play as well.

"We're taking it (the redshirt) off of Shavers,"Nutt said. "The time is right now. It is easy when he practices as hard as he practices."

Nutt also said he suspects injured defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell will see some action along with Fred Bledsoe, but that Bledsoe had been demoted.

"Bledsoe has all the talent in the world, but he has got to come to work everyday," Nutt said. "Right now he is given us out of four plays, about two plays right now. We have got to have more from him. We are expecting more from him starting this week."

Sort of like he is getting from Coe, who had a second interception - actually what should have been his first - early on in the game that was wiped out because he was called for holding.

"I was real surprised and didnt know what happened," Coe said. "I was coming off the field celebrating and then everybody was like what happened. They said it was holding on me and I was like huh? It kind of caught me off guard because theres no way I held him."

That was clear when the replay was shown several times on the UAs Jumbotron.

"We went back and looked at it on our film and Coach (Reggie Herring) had already told me from the press box that it was a bad call," Coe said. "I had outside press (coverage) on him and he tried to stutter step me and I hinged. He tried to reroute, but I saw the ball and cut in front of him and got it. Like Coach said, I had him boxed out like it was a rebound in basketball. But sometimes you have to deal with a bad call and just come back and thats what I did."

Dealing with things is something that Coe has gotten used to in his time at Arkansas, where it appeared coming out of the spring that he was going to split his time between wideout and cornerback - and maybe not play much at either spot.

He was a wideout his freshman year while redshirting, then bounced to cornerback and played in all 13 games as a back-up. He then started the first six games of his sophomore season before an injury caused him to miss two games and he ended the season as a reserve.

"I had two interceptions in four games and was second on the team in tackles before I got hurt," Coe said. "And then I just couldnt get fully healthy."

Then came the spring and he was getting snaps at both wideout and cornerback and not necessarily flourishing at either.

"I got my mind refocused over the summer," Coe said. "I have bounced around so much here that it kind of gets frustrating. "You can't really sit in a spot and get comfortable if you are doing both. I think a lot of people dont recognize how hard it is to play cornerback. It's not just physical capabilities. There is a lot to it mentally as well and I mature over the summer."

Arkansas gave up 338 yards total offense to Missouri State last Saturday, 160 of that coming through the air.

What galled Coe, his teammates and coaches most was an 86-yard run right up the middle by P.J. Ikner for a score.

"I don't think - as a whole - that we were satisfied with our effort last week," Coe said. That's from the top down from Coach Herring and Coach (Bobby) Allen and the rest of the defensive coaches to all the players.

"If your eyes are in the right spot, there should be no big plays," Coe said. "Everybody has a man, everybody has a gap, everybody has a responsibility and when they are all taken care of and you stay disciplined, there are no big plays. Everything will work out perfect for the defense if that is the case."

"There sure shouldn't be no 80-yard gains and you have to take that to heart - that's like the worst thing that could happen," Coe said. "You have to take that personal."

Coe knows the Razorbacks will face a versatile threat this week in Vanderbilt senior quarterback Jay Cutler, who passed for 276 yards and ran for another 89 last week.

"We are facing a great quarterback in Jay Cutler," Coe said. "He has a great arm and some nice sized receivers - a 6-2 one and a couple of 6-4 ones. They like to stretch the fi"eld some and Cutler likes to both run it himself and also scramble and then throw it up and let them catch it."

He expects the defense to play much better this week even if it is against a better foe.

"I think preparations have gone a lot better this week," Coe said. "We got our feet wet that first game and began to prepare us for what we will see with Vanderbilt. I have no doubt that we are going to get better each week."

"You would think we have been doing it now for six months and it should come easy, but its just different once you get in a game situation," Coe said. "A lot of guys get better after that first taste of it when they know what to expect."

Coe take his punt return job as both fun and a big responsibility.

"That kind of sums it up right there," Coe said. "I'm not much of kick return guy, but I love returning punts. I did both in high school. You are free to be an athlete, catch the ball and make plays. That's the taste of offense that I get now."

Coe said he openly campaigned for the job.

"I told Coach Nutt that I have the best hands out here," Coe said. "You've got to be sure-handed, youve got to be able to catch the ball in traffic. I think it is a honor and a measure of how much the coaches trust me. They wouldnt put anybody back there they didnt trust."

o o o

Nutt also noted that tight end Wes Murphy would be healthy enough to play some, but that wideout Chris Baker was out this weekend.

"Chris Baker is going to have an MRI Saturday," Nutt said. "They are going to check his knee. There are still some problems there."


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