Reggie Herring Unplugged

University of Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was as as upset as the fans in some missed tackles last week and has gone to work this week to make sure his unit doesn't make the same mistakes when Alabama comes to Fayetteville on Saturday.

When it came time for University of Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring to talk to the media on his designated day of Wednesday, he didn't need much prodding.

Instead the first question was asked and away he went for about 10 minutes, ready to talk about his unit's effort in a 21-19 road win over Vanderbilt last Saturday and this week's challenge in Alabama.

He is well aware that his crew didn't tackle well against the Commodores and must against the Crimson Tide.

"It was a game that was disappointing in the way we played overall, the tackling, the long runs - it's not our personality, it's not something that we can't correct and it is something that won't be tolerated," Herring said. "We have stressed that this week and if they don't come out and play better against Alabama , we are going to get embarrassed. Our players realize that.

"They (the Razorbacks) won the game and that's the ultimate goal," Herring continued, "but we are not even close to being satisfied."

Herring stressed on Wednesday that his team focuses on tackling in every practice, but has gotten after it even more this week.

"We work on tackling probably harder than anybody in America," Herring said. "There is a designated period every day - even in shorts - that we work on tackling. So that's why you have got to be disappointed about our tackling because we emphasize it so much.

"I don't think it has been a glaring thing until Vanderbilt," Herring continued. "But the one thing that we better do is get it corrected in a hurry because this week against Alabama, they are run dead at us and they are going to challenge our tackling skills. It is going to be a very, very physical game and we can't afford to even duplicate the tackling we did this past week."

It wasn't all bad according to Herring.

"We tackled well at times," Herring said. "We made them punt the ball 10 out of 13 (actually 7 out of 11) possessions, but it was the critical times that when the bad tackling took place and that is why it hurt so much...That hurt moreso than just the fact they missed the tackles.

"It is something that we obviously don't want to be a habit around here," Herring continued. "We are working on it hard, we are stressing it, but there is no hiding this week. We can't afford to tackle poorly this week or we will get shredded."

He does feel like it was not a lack of effort, but a lack of execution and something that can be corrected.

"I don't think there is anything we did that is not correctable," Herring said. "That is the one thing that you have got to look at as a coach. As a fan looking at it, there is no doubt that I was as frustrated as anybody watching the game on how we tackled and some of the long runs that you haven't seen the first two games.

"Every run was a missed assignment or somebody not getting it done," Herring added. "It was busted assignments. We opened up the holes. They didn't.

"I am not taking anything away from them, I love Vanderbilt and I love Bobby Johnson - they do as good a job as coaches as anybody in America and they play the game the way it is supposed to be played and I told them so after the game," Herring said. "But going back and looking at the film, we could have played a lot better defense, we busted assignments, we weren't where we were supposed to be and that's why you saw the runs to split through there. There was nobody that was more surprised at that than us and I think it caught the players off guard.

"I think we finally settled down in the second half for the most part and did our job, except for one drive," Herring said. "It goes back to we didn't play as well as we could have, but we won the game."

Herring certainly has a lot of respect for Alabama.

"They have got an incredible running game and their fullback is as good as anybody in the country blocking," Herring said. "He'll tell you so. That's the crazy thing. He is a good player and he can back it up.

"(Alabama tailback Kenneth) Darby, you've seen him over the years," Herring added. "Last year we hung in there and hung in there and then all of a sudden there was that one drive in the third quarter where he just started to get stronger and stronger.

"That to me is going to be critical - how we handle that for four quarters, somebody coming dead at you. Who is the strongest in the end? That is the one thing they will hang their hat on and that is running the football. That is the one thing that they know they do well. And if the running game does get going, it opens their passing game.

"That is why they lead this league in timed possession, that is why they are 3-0 - not playing great, but winning - because they are going with what they know and what they do best. That is a concern for us defensively.

"If we don't do our part and bring our hardhat, it is going to be a long night," Herring said.

"That is the challenge - their run game, their backs and their line has an attitude, they've got quality receivers and they've got a good young quarterback in Wilson, but the bottom line is - and it's not going to take a genius to figure this one out - they know we know, we know its coming and after watching Vanderbilt they are probably licking their chops a little bit harder than they were before. But that's why we play the game."

Herring think he might have a good one in new starting LB Matt Hewitt, the back-up free safety who is now a starting linebacker.

"I was really proud," Herring said. "Guy, let me tell you something, this is a guy who has played safety all his life and never played linebacker. He has played linebacker for two days here and every step he gets more and more natural.

"He is not ready yet, but the kid is not afraid," Herring continued. "He made some hits out here today that some of the starting linebackers haven't made today. He is a project, but he is talented kid that wants to help this team and he is totally unselfish.

"It is going to be interesting this Saturday when we talk about him after the game. He is going to start. He is learning, but he doesn't bust many assignments. After two days of practice and we have thrown a lot at him, he's held his own. If we can just get him lined up in the right place and let him not make too many mistakes, we are going to be okay.

"I'd say after two days, it is promising. Now let's go see. We got one more day."

Senior Anthony Brown arrived as wideout, moved to defensive end and started last season, was moved back to wideout after the season opener and now is a linebacker.

"I'll say this - we'll try anybody and that's the bottom line," Herring said. "A.B. is coming over there with a good attitude and we have got some things, a package for him that you will see Saturday. Hopefully it will work and we will be talking about it.

"We have got some certain things for A.B. - him and Matt Hewitt both - that is going to help this football team to use their athleticism and a way to get more pressure and more athleticism on the field. I don't want to reveal that right now, but he is blending in and he is trying. He actually put his face on somebody for the first time in awhile.

"We are encouraged by him, too, but we will see Saturday."

Finally he addressed how his team is the only Division I squad without a takeaway and how Bama is proned to giving them up – although they did have three against Vanderbilt.

For a defensive team that needs a turnover desperately, they are not the ones to be playing because they have four turnovers in three games. That's pretty stingy. That is something that goes back to their personality. They are a run, play-action, protect the ball, hard-nosed and they find a way to win the close ones.

"We have had opportunities to get turnovers in the first three games, just haven't got it done," Herring said. "If it keeps going, it will get embarrasing. The bottom line is we stress turnovers, the players know it, they are aware of it, we get turnovers in practice, but we are not coverting it to the field.

"You have seen the first three games, you have seen us drop balls right in our hands that should be turnovers. We had one against turnovers against Vanderbilt that should have been a touchdown. You saw us do get one and we don't stay in bounds. We cause a fumble against Southern Cal and we get on it, but we roll out of bounds and lose possession.

"I have never gone without turnovers very long in my life and it is a very eerie thing," Herring said. "After awhile we are all going to start wondering. This is a week that surely we need some. It would be critical for this game and it would be a tremdendous help in coming close to winning the game.

"I expect it to be a close game," Herring continued on. "I don't know why. I just do. I expect it to be slugfest and it is going to come down to who doesn't turn the ball over and who makes plays and who can grind it out the longest.

"Their team is very stingy with the ball, but somehow we have got to knock the ball loose and we have got to start catching interceptions and we have got to start producing. I can talk until I am blue in the face, but we haven't had a turnover in three games and it is getting a little bit old to be honest with you."

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