State of the Hogs: Linemen

Bobby Petrino can develop quarterbacks, but it's obvious he knows that the foundation is top-notch talent in the offensive and defensive lines.

There can be no comment from Arkansas coaches regarding the commitment of Brey Cook. They'll talk when they sign. Or in the case of Cook, when he enrolls at midterm in January 2011.

But make no mistake, the Arkansas coaches are jumping up and down happy with the announcement this week by Cook that he is a committed Razorback. It's extra sweet that he's just as good of a student as he is offensive tackle.

He'll be on hand next spring to get a running start with the off season program supervised by Jason Veltkamp. I promise the UA strength and conditioning coach is excited.

Veltkamp did not mention any names last month when we sat down to talk about developments in his summer program, but he did hint at the prospects of getting better line prospects when Byran Jones, one of the blue chips in the 2010 class, was mentioned.

"He fits in right now with our veteran players," Veltkamp said. "It's exciting to work with players like Byran. He came to campus with a strong background in lifting. When we tested him for the 225 bench repetition, his numbers fit in with the vets.

"I think what you are going to see is some more players like him coming in with our next recruiting class. It's exciting when you think about the frames and athletic ability in this next group that we are recruiting now."

Obviously, Cook fits in that group. He's 6-7, 310 and has great speed for a man that size. He plays with a nasty attitude, too. He'll be in Veltkamp's weight room starting in January. Line coach Chris Klenakis has to love all of that.

We all get excited about quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. There may be some who are starting to get the feel of what a highly skilled cornerback with blazing speed and change of direction (see the picture of Darius Winston in the dictionary next to cornerback) means to an SEC defense.

However, I fall back on the old coaching axiom that will always hold the truth: When quarterback play is equal, the team with the best four tackles will win.

I expect Arkansas quarterback play to equal to all rivals as long as Bobby Petrino is head coach in the Ozarks, but it's much tougher to manufacture tackles. Big, fast, quick bodies can be enhanced by a good strength and conditioning program, but there is no substitute for overall talent.

It was critical that Arkansas land Jones and Cook. It's not often that our state produces big, fast tackles. It's a small population so it tends to reason that there are going to be fewer large people.

I can think of only a few ultra talented big people that our state has produced. Shawn Andrews and Corliss Williamson come to mind first. I don't know that Cook fits in that select company yet, but he's got a chance. It's no accident that every top program in the nation was drooling for his commitment.

It's a good sign that the Hogs appear to be stockpiling offensive line talent this summer with several nice commitments already in the fold. Why? Because it's an indication that Klenakis, the new O-line coach with developmental background in The Pistol formation, can recruit. It stands to reason that Klenakis had a hand in all of these O-line commitments.

It should be fun for Klenakis. He's going to get to start from scratch with some really nice talents. In fact, there is good talent on hand for him to inherit on the current team. I expect the line play to take a step up with all the other pieces to the puzzle on hand, too.

What I see from Petrino's recruiting is the important ability to add star talent to the offensive and defensive lines. Defensive tackle DeQuinta "Dede" Jones was a natural SEC talent in the last class. Landing those kinds of players is the key to long-term success in the SEC. That's the right foundation.

Yes, Bobby Petrino can coach quarterbacks and cal plays, but his job is going to get much easier every time he lands a Brey Cook.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories