Preseason Mags Motivating Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE — Preseason prognosticators haven't placed much faith in Arkansas as it begins life without running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones this fall.

In fact, the Southeastern Conference Western Division cellar has been the most popular spot for the Hogs in magazines and Web site previews with preseason practice still a month away. But Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp said last week he used the low expectations as motivation to kick off the summer.

Veltkamp said he bought a preseason magazine for his 4-year-old son. After studying the various projections himself, Veltkamp told the Hogs before their first workout.

"I bought it and took it home and looked at it and saw (we're picked) 11th, 11th, 11th, 12th (in) position rankings and stuff like that," Veltkamp said. "I brought it up one time, the first day of summer and then we put it behind us because that stuff — no offense to (the media) — but it doesn't matter. We've got our own goals and they're definitely not going to show up in the magazines."

The Razorbacks, who kick off their first season under Bobby Petrino on Aug. 30, took the message to heart.

Tight end D.J. Williams echoed Veltkamp's opinion by saying preseason magazines don't mean much. But he also added the unflattering words have motivated Arkansas during the long, grueling summer workouts.

So he's hoping it will be noticeable when the Razorbacks step on the field this fall.

"I know we're not ranked too high in the SEC," Williams said. "But that doesn't matter. Any team, any given moment, if they put in the work it will pay off. I think we're putting in that work and it will pay off in the long run."

Playboy Snub?

Arkansas senior Jonathan Luigs isn't big on personal accolades. But when the 2007 Rimington Trophy winner learned last spring he didn't make the prestigious, 2008 Playboy All-American team, Luigs said he was disappointed.

The honor went to California center Alex Mack, who was a Rimington Trophy finalist last season. Luigs said he wouldn't let the Playboy snub bother him, though.

"When you throw a Playboy team together in February or March when the season is in August through January, it doesn't mean anything," Luigs said. "It's preseason, so if that's what they want to do in the early season, I'll take that national championship out here with my team instead of all those lists on a piece of paper."

Cleveland Progressing

The lengthy rehabilitation for tight end Ben Cleveland, who was sidelined by neck and toe injuries last season, is continuing this summer.

Veltkamp was asked about the sophomore last Friday and he said the former Springdale High standout "looks really good right now" after struggling in spring practice.

"He did not look very explosive this summer at all and steadily has improved," Veltkamp said. "I'd say he's probably now a little bit beyond strength wise and power wise where he probably was before. (That's) not knowing where he was before, but talking to him.

"So I think he might be able to go out and help us here."

Nutt Chatter

Arkansas players may have two months until the season opener against Western Illinois, but it's not keeping some of them from thinking about the reunion with with Houston Nutt when the Razorbacks play Ole Miss on October 25.

Williams, who was so close to the previous staff he nearly transferred to Ole Miss, said he can't wait for the game.

"It will be fun," Williams said. "(Former assistant) coach (James) Shibest is over there too. That was my coach. So he knows all about us. He'll go for our knees because he knows that we hate that. It will be pretty interesting.

"I'm sure the fans will get a kick out of it too."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories