Fairchild Hoping To Erase Memories Of First S

FAYETTEVILLE — He was lost.Arkansas linebacker Freddie Fairchild never expected to earn his first collegiate start this early in his career, on this big of a stage.

A year ago, Fairchild was thrust into the starting lineup prior to Arkansas' game at Southern California when Pierre Brown went down with a knee injury the week before in a loss against Vanderbilt.

When he found out Brown would miss the game, then first-year Razorbacks defensive coordinator Reggie Herring admitted that Fairchild wasn't ready to start yet, but that he had little choice but to throw the freshman out there.

It didn't take long for Fairchild to prove Herring right.

"The first play, from the first call, I lined up on the wrong side of the field right beside Sam Olajubutu," Fairchild said. "It was just that one play. I just had to get it out of my system. It was bound to happen. I'm glad it happened that first play and not later on when it counted."

On that first play, USC quarterback Matt Leinart hit David Kirtman for an 18-yard gain. Two plays later, Southern California was up 7-0, en route to a 70-17 blowout.

Herring said it took Fairchild a little longer than one play to settle in.

"He lined up wrong the first three plays, and the first play, they had a back in the flat wide-open," Herring said. "That was his.

"The bottom line, and I'll say it again, it's just something you've got to live with and you hope that there is a minimal amount of damage done."

Fairchild bounced back from his initial struggles, starting the rest of the way. The Sporting News named him the SEC's Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. ESPN.com, CollegeFootballNews.com and Rivals.com named him to their freshman All-America teams. Scout.com and The Sporting News named him to their second teams.

Now, he's ready for another shot at the Trojans.

"I'm a lot more prepared this year," Fairchild said. "Basically, because I've got a year under my belt, I've got the scheme of the defense down, I know what I'm supposed to do as well as what everybody else is supposed to do around me.

"We're all clicking and on the same page and getting things done."

Fairchild insists, though, that Saturday's season opener isn't about getting back at the Trojans for the embarrassment of last year's performance in Los Angeles.

"We prepare for them like we prepare for everybody else," Fairchild said. "We don't look at it as revenge. We look at it as another game on the schedule."

In the offseason, the sophomore bulked up, gaining about 20 pounds, saying he felt the need because he was getting pushed around the offensive linemen significantly larger than his sub 200-pound frame.

There wasn't a big secret to his weight gain.

"Basically, I just sat around and ate a lot," Fairchild said during spring practice. "It wasn't any kind of diet. It was just basically feed your face."

Even in the spring, Fairchild noticed a difference with the added weight.

"I've been able to take on blockers better and hold my ground a little bit better," he said.

In the Razorbacks' final scrimmage Aug. 19, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt didn't allow tackling, deciding to guard against injuries.

That didn't stop Fairchild, though, from laying out running back Hezekiah Smith early in the event.

"We're ready to play," Fairchild said.

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