Razorback Q&A: Fred Talley
Please forgive the Auburn Tigers if they consider Fred Talley to be a rude houseguest. The last two times that the Hogs' 5-9 188-pound fire-fly has been invited to play in the Tigers' backyard, he has not been the most pleasant company. In 2000, the senior from Longview, Texas made his first collegiate start in Jordan-Hare Stadium and promptly ripped Auburn for 161 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving.
Last Saturday, Talley returned for an encore and served the Tigers a second helping of humble pie. Fred decimated the Auburn defense for 241 yards on just 21 carries, including an 80-yard romp near the end of the first half to turn the game around for the Razorbacks. For his efforts, Talley was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. After the breakout performance, Fred now leads the team with 364 rushing yards and is averaging a blistering 7.7 yards per tote.
Talley has earned the praise of coaches and fans for his hard-nosed running, hitting the hole with authority and squeezing out every last inch of real-estate. Once Fred passes the line of scrimmage he becomes a very dangerous man. Talley is lightening-quick, and with more moves than John Travolta, he has posterized countless defenders, leaving them grasping nothing but air and watching helplessly as Fred sprints towards the end zone.
Just as soon as defenders get back on their heels waiting for Talley to make a move, that's when he ducks his shoulder and plows into his unsuspecting victim. Injuries have sidelined Talley on several occasions, preventing him from breaking loose for an extended time, but Fred always bounces back. Unfortunately, for Arkansas' opponents, Talley is currently in great shape and is playing each game like it might be his last. I spoke with him for a few minutes to find out what Ferrari Fred has under the Hood.
Nathan Striegler: How can you describe a performance like you had last Saturday against Auburn?
Fred Talley: It's a great feeling. It's like everything is hitting on all cylinders. You can see linemen going up and getting linebackers and holding of the d-linemen. You basically can just pick your hole and hit it in stride.
NS: How difficult is it when you see the hole opening up, to stay patient and let the linemen set up their blocks?
FT: They (Arkansas' linemen) made it a lot easier. The first play they came out and set the tone. There was a big hole on the first play of the game so I had confidence in them from that point on. Sometimes I was trying to make a move, and it might be the wrong move at first, but they would hold them off so I could choose two or three moves. It was a lot easier than it looked.
NS: Did you really tell coaches prior to the 80-yard touchdown, that if they called that play, there might not be another one following it?
FT: Yah. I was really feeling it. I wanted to try to use everything that I possibly had, because Keith Turner had just got carted off and me and him are really close. I went and put 97 (Turner's number) on my left wrist band. I just kinda envisioned it. Coach called 26 and he said we were gonna run the draw right after that. I said "If you call 26, we won't run the draw after that." It was a great team effort. The offensive linemen and receivers all got their man and just focused on doing their job.
NS: How tough was it for you to see Keith go down like that?
FT: It hurt me. I kinda had a feeling that they would score on the next play because everybody on the team felt basically the same way. I had an injury to my knee two years ago and it tore me apart watching just watching them finish the game without me. I'm pretty sure that's what he's going through. I talked to him and he said it was hard for him to even watch the game or the replay.
NS: It seems like every time you get on a roll, you catch a bad break and end up hampered by injuries. How frustrating is that?
FT: It's been real frustrating. With the depth that we have at this position, if you have a bum knee or a shoulder or anything like that, there's a guy next to you that can do basically the same thing that you were doing. You have to fall to the wayside and just wait for your opportunity. I guess after my first year it kinda hit me to be patient.
NS: You were a cornerback as a freshman. Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you had stayed there?
FT: I think about it. It was my decision. I was an eighteen year-old freshman coming up here and I was used to being the man in high school. I expected it to be the same way when I got here but they had a long line of running backs at that time too and I didn't feel like waiting. I probably should have redshirted, but things work out for a reason.
NS: How much of a challenge is it having this much competition just for one position?
FT: I guess I've adapted to it. You've got to be mentally tough. It can get at you. When you're number is called you can be thinking, "If I fumble on this play then I'm coming out." You can't be like that. You've got to just block everything out and play your game.
NS: How much fun is it to have a game like last week where you do so well yourself, and get to cheer and watch the other guys excel also?
FT: It's an unbelievable feeling, especially after the heartbreaking loss that we had the week before. Nobody is thinking about that loss right now. We might think about that at the end of the season, but we're just looking forward right now. It couldn't have come at a better time.
NS: You've got a reputation as a guy who sticks his nose in there and hits the hole hard. Where did that mentality come from?
FT: I don't know. Basically ever since I started playing football I've been fearless. I'm a little bit smaller than everybody and they kind of expect me to be making moves all the time and to shy away from contact. I guess it's just my mentality to be physical.
NS: Do you feel a little more excited when you run over somebody than when you make them miss?
FT: Oh definitely. It looks good when you make somebody miss but when a small guy runs over somebody it puts that much more emphasis on it. Last week some of my teammates were kinda talking about me running over a few guys.
NS: What did you want to be when you grew up?
FT: The first thing is play football and then it was track because I was faster than most guys my age. That's basically it. I want to rap. I'm working on my album right now but it's being stalled because of football. Hopefully I'll have it done by the end of the season.
NS: Can I get a sample?
FT: Nope. I can't. You gotta wait for it in stores.
NS: What running back have you tried to imitate the most?
FT: Barry Sanders was my idol growing up. That's why I wear number 20. Our styles are kinda similar. I'm not as big as him but I always loved the way he hit the holes.
NS: After you finish, will you look back and wonder how good you could have done without the injuries?
FT: I talk about it all the time. What would happen if I was healthy all season and touched the ball twenty times a game? I'm not big on individual stats. I'm not gonna look back and say, I did this or I did that. I'm just big on wins.
NS: Can you believe that you're already a senior?
FT: I'm going to miss this place when I'm gone but I'm still going to try to play football. Hopefully that will work out.