Hogs In Need Of Senior Leadership
A year ago, the Razorbacks had seniors like offensive guard Stephen Parker and linebacker Sam Olajubutu, who commanded respect and had a way of keeping the underclassmen in line.
They called a team meeting the day after they were embarrassed 50-14 to Southern California in the nationally televised season opener. Their message: The season wasn't over, so don't pay attention to what was being said on Internet message boards and sports talk radio shows.
Arkansas could use that type of leadership right about now.
The Razorbacks have lost back-to-back games to fall to 1-2. They're getting booed. And Arkansas message boards are being bombarded with angry fans who demand answers — and change.
But Nutt admitted Sunday this year's team doesn't have the same senior leadership that helped turned things around last season.
"Last year, if you recall, I had 22, 23 seniors. That's a lot of seniors," Nutt said, still feeling the effects of Saturday night's 42-29 loss to then No. 21 Kentucky.
"I don't have the numbers this year. And the seniors, if you look at them, they've been hurt."
Senior wide receiver Marcus Monk has missed the first three games because of a right knee injury, and it's uncertain when he'll be able to return.
Meanwhile, senior defensive end Marcus Harrison was suspended for the season opener against Troy University following his arrest in late August on a felony drug charge.
It hasn't been the ideal situation. But the Razorbacks (1-2, 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference) desperately need a few more leaders to emerge, especially if they hope to turn the season around in a hurry.
"We've been here before in this particular situation. (The players) are saying the right things," Nutt said. "Nobody wants to win more than the players and the coaches — nobody.
"It really hurts."
Nutt said seniors like middle linebacker Weston Dacus and offensive tackle Nate Garner have tried stepping up and taking ownership of the team. Juniors like running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones have done the same.
But in Arkansas' locker room following Saturday's loss to Kentucky, several players referred to this being a time when some tough senior leadership was needed most.
"(The loss) is going to bring out the character of this team. The senior leaders of this team are going to have to make a point," Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said.
"A lot of teams have let go of the rope. We're trying not to let that happen, and turn the season around. We've got nine games (left).
"If we can go on a winning streak, that would be great. But the bottom line is we don't need to self-implode."
As if things couldn't get much worse, Arkansas backup running back Michael Smith was arrested Sunday afternoon on a felony charge of forgery and theft by receiving. He has been suspended indefinitely.
Still, Nutt said he's optimistic that the season — which has so far been filled with two losses and three player arrests — will improve in time.
"I just feel like it's going to turn. It's going to turn. It's our time to start making things turn," Nutt said. "Let's don't beat ourselves, that's the biggest thing."
Finding some strong leadership wouldn't hurt, either.
Alex Abrams' AP Top 25 Ballot
1. Southern Cal
5. West Virginia
6. Ohio State
11. Boston College
16. Virginia Tech
17. South Florida
20. South Carolina
21. Arizona State
22. Penn State
ALEX ABRAMS IS THE BEAT REPORTER FOR THE ARKANSAS FOOTBALL TEAM AND A VOTING MEMBER OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLL. HIS BALLOT APPEARS EACH MONDAY.
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