Smith Coming Back Into Form

It didn't take long for Michael Smith's frustrations to boil over. On just the fourth day of preseason camp, Arkansas' redshirt freshman running back felt his hamstring pop during practice, and slammed his fist to the ground.

On just the fourth day of preseason camp, Arkansas' redshirt freshman running back felt his hamstring pop during practice, and slammed his fist to the ground.

Briefly, he thought it might be only a cramp. But when he stood up and tried to stretch, he realized it was more.

"I couldn't bend over so I knew it was going to take me awhile," Smith said. "But I did it in five or six days. You're not supposed to do that. You don't come back that fast from hamstring injuries."

But six days after his injury, Smith was back at practice. Getting back to full speed is another thing entirely though.

"He's at 65-70 percent right now," Arkansas running backs coach Danny Nutt said after Saturday's mock scrimmage. "He hasn't really taken off but you see signs of quickness."

For the second consecutive season, Smith entered preseason camp with hopes of contributing early for the Razorbacks.

Last season, Smith was in a heads-up battle for the starting tailback job with fellow freshmen Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Smith was even leading the race, until he pulled his hamstring.

McFadden and Jones went on to stellar freshman seasons while Smith sat through a redshirt year.

When McFadden suffered an open dislocation of his left big toe just before camp opened this year, Smith had another chance to contribute.

Today, McFadden will have the pin removed from his toe, and he worries that his chance to contribute has past him by.

"The coaches want somebody they can count on," Smith said. "With this chronic hamstring and with it going back and forth, they got it in their minds that they couldn't' depend on me because they didn't know when my hamstring was going to give out.

"Right now, all I'm really trying to do is just get that back in their heads that I can be depended on and when it's time for me to go, I can go."

Danny Nutt sees signs Smith is rounding back into form.

"If he can stay healthy, he is a great back," Nutt said. "You can see it a little bit (Saturday); he'd shoot through that hole. You can tell he's getting back."

To keep healthy, Smith has taken to making the training room a second home. He goes in for massages, varying from light to deep-tissue, approximately four or five times per day depending on the Razorbacks' practice schedule. Before leaving for the night, he wraps his hamstrings to keep the tissue loose while he sleeps.

Massages aren't all though.

"Lots of stretching, lot of warming up, extended ice, extended heat, ultrasound, lasers," Smith said, running down everything he and the training staff have tried to help him heal. "A lot of things I'm not accustomed to."

He also has to hold something back during practice, not working his legs at full-speed to try to stave off another injury.

"As a competitor, I think that's my biggest challenge because when you're out there, you want to go," Smith said. "You want to go and you've got to give it your all.

"It's a learning process to learn how to restrain and take care of your body but if it's for the betterment of the team, I guess I can do it."

Despite being hampered with injuries for the last four years Smith remains optimistic that he can be a factor in the Razorbacks' backfield.

"I do a lot of soul searching," Smith said. "I go home thinking about it all the time. It's just something I'm going to have to get past, not dwell on it and when I get to 100 percent, I guess it was worth it — waiting on it — then I'll be ready to go."

On just the fourth day of preseason camp, Arkansas' redshirt freshman running back felt his hamstring pop during practice, and slammed his fist to the ground.

Briefly, he thought it might be only a cramp. But when he stood up and tried to stretch, he realized it was more.

"I couldn't bend over so I knew it was going to take me awhile," Smith said. "But I did it in five or six days. You're not supposed to do that. You don't come back that fast from hamstring injuries."

But six days after his injury, Smith was back at practice. Getting back to full speed is another thing entirely though. "He's at 65-70 percent right now," Arkansas running backs coach Danny Nutt said after Saturday's mock scrimmage. "He hasn't really taken off but you see signs of quickness."

For the second consecutive season, Smith entered preseason camp with hopes of contributing early for the Razorbacks. Last season, Smith was in a heads-up battle for the starting tailback job with fellow freshmen Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Smith was even leading the race, until he pulled his hamstring.

McFadden and Jones went on to stellar freshman seasons while Smith sat through a redshirt year.

When McFadden suffered an open dislocation of his left big toe just before camp opened this year, Smith had another chance to contribute.

Today, McFadden will have the pin removed from his toe, and he worries that his chance to contribute has past him by. "The coaches want somebody they can count on," Smith said. "With this chronic hamstring and with it going back and forth, they got it in their minds that they couldn't' depend on me because they didn't know when my hamstring was going to give out.

"Right now, all I'm really trying to do is just get that back in their heads that I can be depended on and when it's time for me to go, I can go."

Danny Nutt sees signs Smith is rounding back into form. "If he can stay healthy, he is a great back," Nutt said. "You can see it a little bit (Saturday); he'd shoot through that hole. You can tell he's getting back."

To keep healthy, Smith has taken to making the training room a second home. He goes in for massages, varying from light to deep-tissue, approximately four or five times per day depending on the Razorbacks' practice schedule. Before leaving for the night, he wraps his hamstrings to keep the tissue loose while he sleeps.

Massages aren't all though.

"Lots of stretching, lot of warming up, extended ice, extended heat, ultrasound, lasers," Smith said, running down everything he and the training staff have tried to help him heal. "A lot of things I'm not accustomed to."

He also has to hold something back during practice, not working his legs at full-speed to try to stave off another injury.

"As a competitor, I think that's my biggest challenge because when you're out there, you want to go," Smith said. "You want to go and you've got to give it your all.

"It's a learning process to learn how to restrain and take care of your body but if it's for the betterment of the team, I guess I can do it."

Despite being hampered with injuries for the last four years Smith remains optimistic that he can be a factor in the Razorbacks' backfield.

"I do a lot of soul searching," Smith said. "I go home thinking about it all the time. It's just something I'm going to have to get past, not dwell on it and when I get to 100 percent, I guess it was worth it — waiting on it — then I'll be ready to go."


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