State of the Hogs: Patience
Dean Weber isn't on the field at Arkansas this season. He isn't the athletic trainer at Arkansas for the first time in 36 seasons.
That doesn't mean his Razorback blood isn't boiling as he hears grumbling about the state of the 2008 Arkansas football program.
The man who has wiped up more Razorback blood than anyone in history promises things are moving the right direction in the Ozarks. He sent an email to a group of former Razorback greats with some inside information and a call to action.
Weber may not be in a front-and-center spot these days, but he's still active behind the scenes as director of equipment operations. He knows the staff and players on the current team after working through the summer in his old spot as athletic trainer.
What he sees is a little doubt begin to creep in among former players, fans. From his view, there is no doubt about the direction of the program. Things are going to be fine.
With permission from Weber, here are some of the contents of his email letter, sent first to seniors of the 1979 Razorback team:
"It isn't about athletic director changes or coaching changes or strength coaching changes or even changing trainers," Weber wrote. "It's about having better players that ultimately play better than the other team's players. As an NFL buddy (actually a General Manager) of mine told me two weeks ago, ‘If my Johnny's and Joe's are better'n your Johnny's and Joe's, I'm gonna whup your tail just about every time.'"
Weber reminded the ‘79 players about their fabulous record of 30 victories in three seasons — and why.
"And, KNOW THIS: ALL of this is about RECRUITING," Weber wrote. "It certainly was about recruiting with y'all when we won (see how I put myself in there?) 30 games in 3 years. You suckers were pretty darn talented."
The preface to Weber's note told of how the Hogs got to where they are today. There was some homespun advice sprinkled throughout. He wrote:
"Now, I want to tell y'all something and I get to do this ‘cause I've been here for over 35 years and I'm older'n you are and this ain't my first rodeo and you have to listen ‘cause I said so: y'all tell all your friends that have nothing better to do but gripe about having lost three games and bitch about this program: it's going to be OK…..just be patient.
"There have been so many changes in the past year, not the least of which was the loss of a tremendous amount of talent. Remember, the probation we were on and losing two scholarships each year is really taking its toll beginning this year (in reality, we probably not only lost two players, but two or three other good ones [and were replaced by less talented ones] that other schools convinced not to come here because of the probation.
"Put that together with losing four pretty good players as JUNIORS the past 2 years and we're just down in numbers and talent. It's certainly not that we don't have talent, just not enough of it."
He's been watching Bobby Petrino coach this squad. He likes what he sees, but he doesn't think it's going to happen over night. Weber preached patience. He wrote:
"As Bobby has said, ‘We are what we are.' He has been as honest as he can be. Guys, tell your friends to deal with it and get a life. Tell them to worry on the economy and Iraq and gas prices, spend time with your family and tell your kids you love ‘em. However, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THIS PROGRAM. IT IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE. IT IS THE MOST RESILIENT THERE IS!!!"
There was more on not expecting miracles since God is in charge of those. He said he is hopeful miracles are reserved for something other than football. He praised the leadership of the program from top to bottom. He said no shortcuts were being taken in the education process of the student-athletes, for that he's grateful. He also wrote about the way the men's and women's programs have been combined as good, positive steps.
In closing, Weber provided a call of action a preacher would have loved. He asked former players and fans to climb back aboard the band wagon. He urged them to call, email and talk to as many fans as possible.
"Spread the word as much as possible to everyone in this state what I've said here," Weber wrote. "Folks respect former players and they will listen to you. We all need to stick together and help these coaches and players as much as we can."
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