Dacus' Career Began In Backyard

LITTLE ROCK — Playing football in the wide-open backyard of a neighbor, Weston Dacus was never going to be the all-time quarterback.

In that regular after-school game, the player doing the throwing for both teams usually volunteered so he could avoid contact, and Dacus was the tag-along runt, hand-picked for hitting by friends of his brother. Besides, he loved the collisions. Now, older brother Joe — a former linebacker at Harding University — and father Robert watch, critique and encourage Weston, the middle linebacker at Arkansas. Sometimes, working his way through the red-clad crowd on his way to the stadium, Dacus will spot some of those guys who picked on him and gladly share a handshake with them. Growing up, getting pounded was just a rite of passage. Father and son talk after every game, and the linebacker knew that a first-quarter play would be part of the LSU rehash. Facing second-and-21 at midfield, JaMarcus Russell threw a tunnel screen to Dwayne Bowe who smacked down Dacus on his way to a 22-yard gain. "It was pretty embarrassing for me," Dacus said. "I thought I was going to catch him not looking at me. It looked worst than it was." Dad mentioned the missed tackle. "That was probably good for me," son said. "It keeps me humble. He usually tells me I played a great game and I usually tell him I could have played better." On the first play after the pass, Keiland Williams scored easily over the right side when the Razorbacks failed to get him turned to the inside. "Like coach (Reggie) Herring told us, ‘We gave that one to them,'" Dacus said. For the game, Dacus and acknowledged leader Sam Olajubutu were each in on a total of eight tackles. Olajubutu had seven solo, including a couple that finally convinced the Tigers to stop trying to throw into the flat. Dacus made six tackles by himself. For the season, they are one-two on the tackle chart. Both will be busy on Saturday, trying to stop Florida in the SEC championship game. The Gators are second in the league in total offense at 398 yards per game and third in rushing, even though they do not have an individual rusher in the Top 10. Dallas Baker and Andrew Caldwell have each caught more than 50 passes. Early in the week, Dacus' knowledge of the Gators was only what he had gleaned from occasional TV games and from bumping into Florida while watching film on Arkansas' opponents. Although Olajubutu is superb and Chris Houston is a good cover guy, the Razorback defense is more about playing together. Sometimes, Dacus' family contends that he is over-running the ball. "They don't understand," he said. "I'm supposed to overrun and turn it into other players." LSU, still leading the league at 404 yards per game, made 328 against Arkansas. His dad consoled him with, "You can't win ‘em all." True, he said, but sometimes it's more difficult to swallow a close loss like 31-26 to LSU than it is a rout. "We were two or three plays away," Dacus said. "We played with a lot of heart. Everybody understands that we have to put that behind us. This is a big game. We have new goals set up." For instance, a victory over the Gators would put Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, one of five games in the Bowl Championship Series. A year ago, Dacus played all three linebacker positions. Since the Vanderbilt game in late September, he has pretty much stayed at middle linebacker, a position where he is comfortable because of repeated practice time. "I know where my fits are now, how to train my eyes ...," he said. As a youngster, Dacus probably saw more of the Memphis Tigers than he did the Razorbacks because his mother lived in Memphis and her husband was a big fan of the Tigers. Dacus was contacted by the Tigers but brother Joe, now 23, told him to go where he was most comfortable. ---- Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.

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