Willy Robinson checked out East Carolina wide receiver Dwayne Harris at Monday night's bowl function. The Arkansas defensive coordinator thought the big-play Pirate was solid as a rock after he felt of his arm at the function.
That funny tidbit was among the many topics Robinson discussed at Wednesday's media briefing at the Embassy Suites, the daily press conference for coaches and players in advance of the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
The Hogs practiced about two hours indoor at Memphis University. Head coach Bobby Petrino and Robinson both said the practice was better than earlier this week, but still not crisp. They both expect to have a sharper workout Thursday. Petrino said the speed of the practice was much faster than earlier in the week and that bodes well for Saturday's game.
Petrino praised the leadership of quarterback Ryan Mallett after the workout, noting his play has been good in bowl practices. He said he expects Mallett's performance in the game to be top notch.
Opening Statement from Arkansas assistant coach Willy Robinson:
"It's exciting to be here," Robinson said. "It's been a long time coming. This is a process we started the Monday after our game a year ago with LSU. We're very proud of being a part of the Liberty Bowl. Every once in awhile we get to cross paths with these people, with East Carolina that we play. On Monday night, we had a dinner and we got to see and eyeball some of these people and compete in off-the-field situations, and see those young men that just left the room and you start to get kind of giddy and you can't wait until you get rolling on Saturday. We are all looking forward to it."
Can you give us thoughts on the East Carolina offense?
"They're explosive," Robinson said. "The fact that they have a really veteran football team stands out. I think the comment was made earlier that this was a team in the making from the first years when (Skip Holtz) and they've all become seniors, upper classmen.
"They're very talented skill wise and awfully large up front. to have a quarterback this youngster has with the experience really helps. It's not like we're going to show him anything he hasn't seen. They have some guys that do an outstanding job once they catch the ball. Their little dinks can explode and become long plays. And, they're solid in the run game. They have two really good tailbacks, that pound that football. Their offensive line is awfully impressive. They match up size wise as well as anybody in our conference."
How was practice Wednesday?
"I felt like they were a little tired today. I'm not sure what the reason was. It wasn't quite as focused as it had been. and we've been going high speed, full-tilt boogey, today we kind of took a lapse. It was kind of disappointing. But I know we'll respond to it tomorrow. I think they saw it and they felt it. They'll continue to hear about it but tomorrow they'll respond."
Give us your thoughts on East Carolina receiver and kick returner Dwayne Harris?
"He's special now. i got a chance to eyeball him on Monday. I wanted to see what he looked like. Because in pads he's really a special football player. I think he's very well-rounded. He does a great job of blocking downfield. he does a great job of setting up his double moves, his double plays off of certain plays that are basically his bread and butter plays. He's awfully strong after the catch. He can make the first guy miss or he can shed the first guy. he's really a solid football player and then the next thing you know he's sitting back there in the backfield, either as a running back, don't look now, but he's also the quarterback.
"He's a big, physical kid. not necessarily height wise, but he's a thick kid it appears and he's awfully strong. I happened to grab him by the arm just to check him out. They all wear these baggy clothes. I wanted to see what he was like and he's rock solid. He's kind of like you, when I grab you."
Give us your thoughts on ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney, their sixth-year senior starter?
"I think he's not unlike the other guys on that team. Sometimes the size is not so much the issue as the fact he's got great feet, he can escape, he can get under you, he can sit down there and dodge you. He knows where he wants to take the ball. I think they do a good job for him in putting everybody to the line of sight that he needs to read and like i said, all he needs to do is get it in their hand and after they catch it they created and they do a nice job of making people miss and they do a great job of blocking downfield. I think he's kind of an interesting guy because he's also a threat to run the football off their read zone. It's once in a blue moon. but when they do do it, it's kind of like a little more of a process. when they get down there in the redzone he's not going to create a mistake by making a bad decision. He's going to keep it in his hands. he's more willing to take the three or four yard gain and get onto the next play. This youngster doesn't make a lot of mistakes now. You look at his turnover ratio, you look at how many times he's been sacked, and it's not a huge number. so he knows that if it's not there he's going to get rid of it. he knows that if it's not there, he's not going to force it. You don't see him getting sacked a bunch because of how quick they get the ball out."
Your defense has given up a lot of big plays this year. Can you discuss that situation?
"You're right. We do. I think sometimes we become a feast or famine situation in the fact that we take chances. We ask our kids to be aggressive. And sometimes maybe it's my playcalling and I put them in bad situations. But the one thing we're not going to do is be passive. You've got to realize, ok, if that be the case, whether it be a man coverage. whatever that might be, whatever we have in our plan, you've got to execute. And sometimes it does make it a one-on-one situation. and what if. Well heck, you know what, you don't want to be tense and puckered because of that. You're going to sit down there and you're calling it because you're confident in the people you're playing with and the fact they understand what they've got to do. Sometimes it jumped up and it bit us. And sometimes it didn't. Sometimes you are good and sometimes you're not. But, yeah, it was the big play that created our issues for us.
"We had way too many of them. I think if there was a stat for that we'd probably be leading the country in defense because of how many big plays we gave up. But you don't dwell on it. You don't make a change in what you're doing. You just make sure they hav ea better undersanding. These four men here, they're not passive. These guys aren't preachers. These guys are warriors. If I took that approach and coaching this defense, they wouldn't want me to be here. I wouldn't think. Would you Big D? You wouldn't want me to be a passive guy do you? Am I passive? All right. So we go.
"That's our head coaches philsophy and that's ours too and if it happens it happens. Right Rudell? We put it behind us and go on to the next thing. Go to the next play. Don't look back."
How has this defense progressed?
"I think they've worked awfully hard. I'm very proud of them. today, like we said, we'll put that behind us and we'll learn from it today. But i think they've had a tremendous attitude and toleration and tolerance. Because it's not easy dealing with myself at times. But again as a coach you're tring to make these guys become the players they want to be so we can become the team we want to be. And if you take any other approach than that, then you're never going to succeed. I'm old school. so it's, we're goig to get after it. I'm awfully proud with how they've responded and i think we've been fortunistic with our turnovers.
"We create. We get there.I think it's the fact they've bought into running to the ball full speed and playing physical. we've had some very physical practices. We know what type of team we're going to face. We know what type of storm we've got to weather. So we're looking forward to getting able to play again. It's hard to keep hitting the same guys all the time. We're looking forward to playing ECU as much as they are looking forward to playing us."
How does not having defensive tackle D. D. Jones affect your defense?
"I think it's a huge loss. I think he's not unlike the way Zach Stadther developed towards the end of the year and not unlike the way Tank (Wright) has developed. I think the fact that this is a true freshman, the added experience, the added practice time, he's only going to continue to get better. It is a setback. But you know what? We've got depth and somebody else has got to step up."
Robinson: Harris Impressive
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