Small Fish Making Big Impression

FAYETTEVILLE -- The wide receiver Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee refers to as the Razorbacks' best route-runner has one career catch in two seasons. He stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 156 pounds -- by far making him the smallest Razorback.



Yet, none of that has kept junior Reggie Fish from impressing Razorback coaches throughout preseason camp. In fact, Fish began the week with a distinction that no follower of Arkansas football could have predicted.

"Reggie right now is our first-team flanker," Lee said. "He is just the best at getting off the line of scrimmage and then getting to the top of his route and separating."

Even so, Lee knows Fish could turn into a more constant threat.

"If he would just consistently finish plays and catch the ball, we'd really have something complete in him," Lee said. "But I'm pleased with Reggie Fish right now. He's a guy that I trust to get open."

His uncanny knack to create space between him and his defender has vaulted Fish into unfamiliar territory. If today was Sept. 1, Fish would start against Troy opposite of whoever emerges from the competition to temporarily replace injured wideout Marcus Monk.

Fish has edged out senior Robert Johnson thus far in camp, offering promise that he might end up being known for something other than two plays from last season.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt did say Fish's height was a concern, but he also described why he admires Fish and has confidence in him.

"He's so athletic, so quick, and he does everything the right way," Nutt said. "He makes sure he runs every route perfect, and his competitive nature is always there."

Nutt said Fish earned a lot of respect after the second of those two plays from last season. The first play thrust Fish into the spotlight, in a positive way.

He was the player who snuck behind the offensive line at No. 2 Auburn and set up a key touchdown by running to the opposite side of the play's action for a 28-yard gain. His role in the trick play called "Woody" was by far his most impactful moment at Arkansas.

Until the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, that is.

In the fourth quarter, with Arkansas leading, Fish became known for impacting a game in a negative way. Fish muffed a punt near the goal-line, and Florida recovered for a touchdown. The Gators never gave up the lead.

That day, in the aftermath, Nutt saw a mature man accept responsibility.

"He stood up and faced it," Nutt said. "He faced it like a man. He took a bit of a beating from it from a lot of people, and he moved on.

"I wish you'd check some of the e-mails he got after that happened."

Fish put that past behind him by concentrating solely on his receiver skills in the offseason. Sure, he hit the weights hard, and he stayed in shape by running sprints. But he worked intently on his route-running, which Fish said would be awful without the initial teachings he got from tight ends coach James Shibest.

Actually, Fish has picked up a little bit from each of the three wide receivers coaches he's had since arriving in Fayetteville.

"Coach Shibest really taught me how to run routes in a way that I could get separation," Fish said. "Then, it was Coach (Gus) Malzahn. And now, it's Coach (Alex) Wood. They all have helped me out."

It's evident at Arkansas' practices. Fish is rarely covered tightly. He explodes off the line of scrimmage and chops his feet quickly when making a cut.

Usually, after that, his defender is nowhere near him.

"He's a natural that way," Wood said. "You can't make up for his inexperience. There's nothing like experience. There's no substitute. But he's going to get a lot of experience this year."



REGGIE FISH

Age: 20

Class: Junior

Height: 5-7

Weight: 156

Position: Flanker

Hometown: Mesquite, Texas

Notables: His 28-yard run at No. 2 Auburn last season, on the trick play called "Woody," earned national attention as ESPN SportsCenter's No. 2 play of the day. ... Ranked third his freshman season at Arkansas in punt returns with four returns for 26 yards. ... Dislocated his shoulder three games into his senior season at Mesquite High, prematurely ending his prep career after earning first-team all-district honors his junior season.

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