[Premium articles. Portions of this press conference can be found on the free site football skuttle-butt] Coach Sherrill and players Mario Haggan, Donald Lee and Kevin Fant talk about their upcoming game with Arkansas.


Injury situation:
"We have three players that will be difficult to play this weekend due to injuries. (Kenric) Fairchild has an ankle injury that he has been nursing all year. Hopefully, we can get him ready to play. I'm not sure if he will be ready this week but certainly next week. (Wayne) Madkin has a turf toe and will probably not be on the practice field all week. (Robert) Spivey has an MCL injury and will not be on the practice field this week. And of course we have the normal number of players who will have limited practice time this week."

Who will start if Fairchild can't?
"(Redshirt freshman) David Stewart will start in his place if he can't go. Are you asking me if he will make a mistake during the game? He is a freshman so that means he probably will. He will play very hard and give you everything that he has. David is very athletic and can run. You would like to have all your offensive linemen run as well as David can."

When did Wayne suffer his turf toe?
"Probably right before we took him out. We didn't know it and he probably didn't know it until it started swelling up. They are x-raying it (Tuesday) morning to see if it is broken."

About Arkansas:
"They started the season slow. The first game against UNLV they played four quarterbacks. They lost the next three, then settled on two quarterbacks. They have won five in a row since that time. They are probably the most improved football team (in the SEC).

"They have some very good players. They run the option with the freshman quarterback (Matt Jones) and they have excellent running backs in (Fred) Talley and (Cedric) Cobbs. Defensively, they have a team that will move anywhere. When you play them the most important thing that you need to do is put your hats on the right people.

Preparing for the option:
"We prepared for the option last week. They run four or five different options. They run out of the shotgun. Their offensive coach was at Rice so he is very familiar with the option game."

About the importance of the Arkansas game during the past few years:
"Going back to 1998, this game put us in the (SEC) championship (game). In 1999, we did not play well. Last year, we had a chance to win it (at home) and we didn't. This game is very similar to the Alabama game over a course of time. It is a game that hasn't been one-sided either way."

About their quarterbacks:
"Matt Jones is very lanky and tall. When he gets started, he is difficult to catch because he has 4.5 speed. When you watch him on film he does run away from people. With Zak Clark, they throw the football more. They run more play-action with him because he is a better thrower. The freshman (Jones) threw more late in the game against Mississippi and he made the right throws."

On playing at Arkansas:
"Arkansas is a very difficult place to play. They've had some success at home, and they have had the same success at home as some of the top teams in the country. Their fans are very vocal, and they just recently expanded their stadium to 72,000. They've won their last five games, and right now they have a lot of momentum and excitement."

Who will back up Kevin Fant?
"We have the freshman (Kyle) York. Hopefully, we will have Wayne (Madkin) for the game. If we have to use (Wayne), we will use him in the shotgun and do some other things with him. If he can't go, then we will back Kevin up with Kyle York."

About Kevin Fant getting his first start:
"Kevin will be ready with whatever you did with him. Kevin has some very good qualities. He is a very tough kid. He started in high school and won the state championship as a sophomore."

About how to handle quarterbacks:
"You don't throw a quarterback in there and say ok if you make a mistake you are going to be standing on the sideline. That is not how a quarterback can operate. Quarterbacks are going to make mistakes. There is not a quarterback in the game who doesn't make mistakes."

How would you use Wayne Madkin in the next three games if he is available?
"We can use him in a lot of different ways. He hasn't cut his feet and his arms off. He can still throw and run. You can't speculate on what situations you will use him. That is just a feeling that you have."

Are you pleased with the way Wayne has handled the situation his senior year?
"I am in very much in awe of Wayne and the way he has handled the situation. It is not easy for anyone, especially a young kid, to read and hear bad things about himself. How he has handled it shows me that Wayne will be successful (during his life). Football teaches you a lot about life."

How have the junior college transfers done so far this season?
"Quite a few of them have adjusted and played well. We started the season playing two groups (of defensive linemen). If we had been able to continue doing that, then they would have been further along than they are at this time. The three secondary guys (Banks, Ball and Wright) have played well. (Walter) Burdett has played well on special teams. We redshirted Corey Brown but he is going to be a good player."

Will (juco transfer) Dannie Snyder be redshirted?
"No, we will play him if he is medically able. If he doesn't play, then we will try to get a medical redshirt for him."


Talk about playing against the option again.
"Arkansas has a great quarterback who can run the option. He is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guy. For the past four or five games, he is the second leading rusher on the team behind Fred Talley. He has really lifted the offense lately in helping them to make their run in the SEC. It is going to be a tough task for us. We prepared for Alabama last week but it is going to be a little different option this week. It is going to be more of a straight-ahead, speed option instead of a counter option like Alabama ran.

"What we want to do against Arkansas is play hard four quarters. We need to make the big play, something that we haven't done this year. Just playing well is not going to get it done in this league or football in general."


What do you like about Kevin Fant's play when he is in the game?
"Kevin, when he is in the huddle, you see in his eyes that he is determined and very confident. When we are in the huddle, we see that. He is very aggressive with the ball. He has a strong arm and makes great decisions. His passes are fairly easy to catch. One thing that I like about him is he scans the entire field in about two seconds. We are very confident that Kevin will get the ball to the right guy.

"Kevin makes us proud because we feel we have an up and coming leader in him. During the Kentucky game we were on the 30-yard line, I believe. Kevin came to the huddle and was very aggressive and said, 'look guys, we really need to get into the endzone. I really want us to score. Nothing is going to stop us from getting into the endzone'. From then on, it was like the offensive line picked it up and we got into the endzone'."

Are you saying that even if you are the second or third pass option, you know you have to be ready because he may be throwing the ball to you?
"That is right. That has happened. Some plays I'm the fourth option and I know Kevin might come to. In fact, he has done that a couple of times."


How has Wayne Madkin helped you this year?
"He stays behind me. I know it is difficult for him being a senior, especially with the season that we are having after the expectations that we had. Wayne has matured since I have been here. He has gone on to become a really good football player since I have been here. I try to learn from him which is what a backup quarterback is supposed to do. The main thing that I have learned is to watch Coach (Sparky) Woods coach (Wayne's) mistakes. I try to learn from that. It would be easy for me, as a backup, to just not watch or listen but then I would make the same mistakes. That would not be good for the team or me. That is what I have really been trying to do the past couple of years."

Now that you know that you are starting this Saturday, how will that affect your practice this week?
"I really don't know how it will effect my practicing. I will probably start thinking more seriously about the game two nights before it, since I will be starting. In the backup roll, it is much easier."

Talk about Arkansas.
"What I have seen of Arkansas is they are a great football team. They always play us tough. I think that they are going to come out and play a great football game. They have a great defensive coordinator in John Thompson. They will be well-prepared for us."

Does it make it more difficult to prepare for a game when you know you have no chance for a winning season or a bowl game?
"Losing always makes it more difficult to prepare for a game. Little things don't bother you as much (when you are winning). When you are losing and you have injuries, it just makes it worse. When you are winning and your leg is hurt during a game, your adrenalin is flowing and you don't feel that pain. We just need to stay focused and try to end the season on a good note."

The last time we talked you said that you don't normally get in the faces of players in the huddle during a game. It looked like you went up to Fairchild and Watson during the game and said something to them. It didn't really look like you were getting in their faces but talking to them about something. How about talking about that.
"I didn't really say anything. We were just talking about running and passing the football. Everybody was getting frustrated at the time. I just said, 'look, if we run the ball, let's run it, if we throw it, let's do our best'. I wasn't trying to chew anybody out. I was trying to remain positive."

How are you and Wayne handling the quarterback situation right now?
"You can't help but hear what the fans are saying but you have to realize, as a backup, I realize how hard it is to be a starter. If I do start this weekend, I know how difficult it will be. I realize the pain that he is going through when he gets criticised. That is something a quarterback has to go through sometimes."

How much do you enjoy playing for Coach Woods?
"I really enjoy playing for him. Coach Woods is a really smart coach. He wants the best for this team. He really works hard at practice and watching film to try and prepare us. He is a great coach. He has a lot of great attributes as a coach and wants what is best for this team."

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