Hogs Sending Message To Bledsoe

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coaches are sending a message to sophomore defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe. They just hope he's hearing it.

Bledsoe, a 6-foot-3, 300-pounder who spent time with the first team in the preseason, did not play a snap in last Saturday's 24-13 loss at Alabama. More evidence of his slide down the depth chart came last week when Bledsoe played in scrimmages that mostly involved redshirting freshmen and scout teamers.

"I hope he's getting the message," defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. "We can't keep petting him. You either want to do it or you don't want to do it.

"I think we've found some guys that have proved they want to do it and we're going to keep working with those guys."

Coaches believe Bledsoe has All-Southeastern Conference potential that remains untapped. He had five tackles in the first two games, but didn't record a stop in limited action during a 70-17 loss at Southern California.

"The thing with Fred is being consistent," Rocker said. "There's too many things off the field. It ain't football. We're more concern about him wanting to play football right now. All you've got to do is go to school and play football. That's all we ask."

With the team struggling to a 1-3 start, Rocker said this is the time when they find out who desires to help turn the season around. But Rocker questions Bledsoe's priorities. There's a strong chance he won't play again Saturday when the Razorbacks host Louisiana-Monroe in Bledsoe's hometown of Little Rock.

"Right now, I don't know where his focus is," Rocker said. "I just don't know what's important to him. 'What's your focal point? Does it bother you when things aren't going so good?' I'm trying to win a game and I feel like I've got about 10 guys (on the defensive line) who really care and that's where we are."

Bledsoe had 91 tackles as a senior at Little Rock Central, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and the AAAAA State Championship. He was named to the Associated Press' Super Team and was considered one of the top defensive linemen in the South by most recruiting services.

Bledsoe said he hears the message. In his mind, Bledsoe believes it means he needs to practice harder. He said it would be an embarrassment not to play Saturday in front of friends and family in War Memorial Stadium.

"I've got to take it to another level in practice if I ever want to see the field again," Bledsoe said. "I always play hard in the games, but I've got to learn to practice just as hard.

"This has been a big wake-up call for me.

"I know I can do better. I will do better."


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