Tubbs, Hogs getting ready

Arkansas football players are working every day in the weight room and in conditioning drills. Here's a look after HI.com publisher Clay Henry spent a morning with a large portion of the football team Friday.

Zac Tubbs sported a red T-shirt with the arms chopped off. Sweat soaked through the thick material to darken it to a deep red.

The big man smiled between sets under a bar sagging on both ends from a huge amount of weight. A weight room belt was pulled snug around his midsection and it was tight enough to tell that there was no gut anywhere to be seen.

Later, out of the weight room, Tubbs joined fellow line mate Stephen Parker and defensive tackle Marcus Shavers for some sprints on the practice field before joining the rest of the linemen to run the east bleachers in the stadium.

"Me and Parker being seniors and wanting to lead by example have asked Coach Deck to give me and him a little extra each day," Tubbs said, explaining the sprints he and Parker did ahead of the trip to the bleachers. "The best way to lead is by example. Coach Deck gives us a little extra each day."

Shavers is a sophomore and it's not clear why he joined the bigger offensive linemen for the extra running. Maybe it was to give them someone quicker and faster as a pacer.

Tubbs hasn't played much the last two years, spending time rehabbing two separate leg injuries. Those who haven't seen the massive 6-7 lineman of late will notice there is definitely less of him. He's in the best shape of his life ahead of a second try at his senior season.

"I'm so proud, so proud of Tubbs," said Don Decker, the Hogs' strength and conditioning coach. "Our entire team is doing fantastic. Outstanding. But to see Zac doing what he's done over the past few months, the way he's maintained his body and kept the weight off, the way he's improved his conditioning, his flexibility and gotten that ankle well. He doesn't even wear any braces anymore. He's ready to have a great senior year."

Tubbs may be the key to the Hogs' veteran offensive line. His return at right tackle has enabled Robert Felton to return to his natural guard slot. Tubbs still isn't a small man, but he's just a shell of his old self.

"I'm probably in the 330s right now, headed to the 320s," he said. "I'll play in the low 320s. I'll lose a few pounds in two-a-days, just normally. Right now, I'm right where I want to be and I feel great. I'm so much more comfortable. I don't have to worry about my weight anymore. I've maintained it for a long time right here.

"It's going great. I've asked Coach Deck to give me more every single day. I know he's got some more things planned for us next week, all of the offensive linemen. We're eager and ready to do anything and everything. We are doing more and more leg stuff, things to get us in shape for what's ahead this season."

What's ahead the O-linemen said is more of Gus Malzahn's no-huddle offense, something that stressed the big men up front in the spring.

"We are doing things to wear our legs down and get used to the no-huddle," Tubbs said. "A lot more leg stuff. We are gearing up for a tough next four weeks to be ready in August. We've done a lot of individual stuff on our own the last four weeks as far as individual pass sets. We will be ready for more one-on-one pass blocking in the fall.

"We had to make that transition in the spring to more man blocking. It was tough at first, but it's getting easier and easier. It's what we are geared up for now. We are all excited about how it's going and what our team is going to be like. I think things are going very well. This is the hardest I've ever seen a team work since I've been here."

It's not that Decker and his staff have made it tougher or demanded more. It's the attitude of the players that is different.

"I think losing the last two years gets you geared up to do more," Tubbs said. "We don't want to be like that anymore."

Decker sees it as leadership from within the core of the team.

"It usually happens like this when you have some great key seniors and more than just a few," he said. "We've got that on this team, a bunch of solid seniors. They are providing the discipline. It's so much better when it comes from within. You also see that the team is pulling together."

Is it the prospect of playing Southern Cal in the season opener?

"I'm sure that is on everyone's mind," Decker said. "We know who is first on the schedule. But I don't think that's the main thing. The focus among these players is that they want a good season, a great season. The goal centers on what we didn't do the last two years. When you have a losing record, it stays on your mind. We've been that way for two years and they don't want that again."

Decker has some new drills for the O-line to begin next week as the second semester of summer school hits high gear.

"We've added some things in our individual position drills designed for the things the O-line needs to prepare for in the no-huddle," Decker said. "We'll speed up the time between drills and add some things to engage the linemen a little, like a tug of war.

"The no-huddle is tougher on the linemen than the wide receivers. You can switch out the wideouts after they run a go route. The linemen spend the play engaged and fighting and that wears on you, then they have to get back in their position and do it again with a short turnaround. So what we've added will simulate that and get their body and conditioning ready for exactly what they will face in practice and during a game with our no huddle."

All of that sounds great to Tubbs.

"We want to be in the best shape we can be this year," he said. "I'm for it. I want to try to be a leader in these workouts and anything Coach Deck can give us extra is great. To me, the way to lead is by setting a great example and that's what we've done so far.

"I just know that I'm going to tell him every single day, 'Give us more, give us more.' We've worked after each day on pass sets, showing the younger guys what is coming and trying to improve ourselves."

Decker said Tubbs began his drive for this year when he began his rehab while last season was winding down.

"He'd come in each morning during the season and do extra running and lifting, then come back and do it again while the team was outside practicing," Decker said. "That was two workouts a day, every day. I was impressed. He made the commitment to get the flexibility back in that ankle. He had lost some strength while he was out and he got that back.

"We've worked this summer on regaining his natural bend in his body. That was something the coaches told us that he needed help with after spring. He'd been out for a time and wasn't as flexible at the hips. And, we got the flexibility and the bend back in the ankle that he'd hurt."

There has been a large number of Hogs on campus all summer. Usually, the first semester of summer school is not heavily attended, but the Hogs have had around 70 varsity squad members here all summer along with a handful of freshmen. The Springdale group was here last semester and they were joined with most of the other new signees this week.

"I'm not sure who is all here just yet," Decker said as far as the freshmen. "I know the Springdale guys are here and some others. We've still got some arriving and we'll probably know more on Monday."

There were five freshmen working out Friday in a separate group from the varsity of 32, split into two groups between backs and linemen. Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams and Andrew Norman were among the five freshmen. Per NCAA rules quoted by SID Kevin Trainor, none of the freshmen were allowed to visit with the media on Friday. They ran bleachers on the opposite side of the varsity on Friday and lifted weights in an area away from the varsity.

"We are going slower with them, and really monitoring the way they lift and what they do," Decker said. "We are teaching them our lifts and what we do. We are also going slow to monitor every lift, every move. We are trying to see what they have as far as shoulder stability and what players may need some things to strengthen those key areas of the shoulder. There are always some that may not have the stability in their muscles to do certain lifts. That's why we take it slow with them."

Decker said his staff has taken it slow with star tailback Darren McFadden, too. McFadden had minor problems with swelling in his knee, the one "scoped" over the winter.

"We went real slow with Darren in the first semester and allowed that knee to have some normal healing," Decker said. "We didn't want to push him too fast.

"That went well and the swelling subsided. We sat down with Darren to see where we were before the July 4th break and came up with a plan with a little more work and stress for the second semester. It's clear that what we did in the first semester has worked because he has had little or no swelling this week. It's just gone just right.

"We have tried to keep him from adding any weight. He came in at 209 last year. We decided that some normal weight for earlier this summer would be no more than 215. If you cut back just a little in your work rate, you will gain just a bit. He's at 210 right now. He's added some upper body strength, which he wanted. But we made sure we did not add any bulk.

"He is hitting on all cylinders right now. He has full range of motion in both knees, the same on both sides. He's able to jump the same off both. He looks very good right now. He's very flexible."

It's been a good summer all the way around.

"You talk to any pro camp, or any college conditioning coach and they all have players that are struggling with their weight," Decker said. "It's universal. There will be a few on every campus. I can hontestly say that we don't have one player that is not close right now -- even with almost four weeks left -- to their weight goal for the season. We may hae one or two that are five pounds low or maybe five high, but they are right on target to be there."

The three main players trying to gain weight are Randy Kelly, Jamaal Anderson, Anthony Brown and Freddie Fairchild, all front-line defenders.

"They are all doing very well," Decker said. "Fairchild came in here this time last year at 198. He was at 218 on Monday. We want him to be 225 in August. He's got four weeks to get here. A normal weight gain is two pounds a week so he'll be right there.

"Anthony Brown is one who has a hard time holding weight. He's at 231 right now. He's up and down, but doing well.

"Jamaal Anderson is another one who has a difficult time holding weight. He's at 265 and we'd like him at 270 in August. He'll lose some during August so we'd like a few pounds more before we start."

Kelly, a skinny strong safety, has taken care of some pressing academic requirements and can concentrate on adding pounds this semester.

"I got my grades in the spring and over the first semester of summer school," Kelly said. "I'm taking one course this semester just to get it out of the way for graduation, but the things I had to get done are all behind me. I'm good to go.

"I'm at 192 right now and want to get to 200, maybe 205 by the start of practice," Kelly said. "I need a little more size in this league and I'm getting there."

Kelly led the way in the stadium bleacher runs, pulling away from backs who may be a step faster on level ground. He did not lose to McFadden or other speedsters like Felix Jones and Joe Johnson, staying even with fast Michael Smith.

"I made it look easy? No way was it easy," Kelly said. "The way to make it look easy is to elevate your work rate. I think it may look like I'm faster if I just work really hard. That's my goal each and every day.

"This team is focused on getting bigger and faster and we are getting there. We are working hard and helping each other get better. It's been fun. Yeah, it's work, but you can make it fun if you smile and pull for each other."

The defense has been meeting after workouts to practice alignments, stunts and blitzes with a team member going through coordinator Reggie Herring's calls so as to be ready mentally for two-a-days.

"You do it when you are tired and then it helps you the most as far as concentration," Kelly said. "We are working on our schemes. Coaches can't be here, but that doesn't keep us from going through our schemes on our own. We want to be ready for Coach Herring. We've got some leaders that are making sure everyone is there."

What about the 7-on-7 passing drills?

"That's coming as far as offense versus defense," Kelly said. "I've heard we will start that next week, probably on Tuesday night. The offense has been throwing some, but we'll start working against them next week."

What's he seen of the newcomers?

"Every year, it's more and more," Kelly said. "Used to be, the newcomers couldn't come in on scholarship, but the last two years that changed with the new rules. So you have them here now.

"I like to work with Black Lights, you know, Damian Williams. He's going to be a good one. He's someone I have been around a little."

Black Lights?

"You know, his skin color," Kelly said. "He's so black that he just shines. He's very dark. And, he scored all of those touchdowns in high school, 42 I think. I started calling him Black Lights because he shines pretty bright on the field.

"I think it's great that Damian and all of those freshmen are already here. Never seen anything like that. It's a positive that they are all here and working like they are already. It can't do anything but help this team."


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