Three former Arkansas coaches – interim coach John L. Smith, defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino — told the Sporting News recently that they felt some Arkansas players quit on the team during 2012’s disastrous 4-8 season. The comments mirrored what Hogs quarterback Tyler Wilson said about his team early in the season following a 52-0 loss to Alabama, in which Wilson did not play because of a concussion.
No one from Arkansas — players nor athletic director Jeff Long — commented for the story. But one former player, running back Knile Davis, has now responded to it via his Twitter account.
Here’s what Davis had to say (via ArkansasNews.com):
“The same guys who sacrificed their time and freedom. The same guys who gave their blood sweat and tears for that hog on the side of that helmet. The same guys who skipped an opportunity of a life time by not entering the draft and came back knowing the risk. The same guys that battled to get a win in the liberty bowl in the freezing cold. The same guys that battled to get the schools first BCS birth in the Sugar Bowl. The same guys that fought and won the Cotton Bowl. These same guys quit on one of the most anticipated seasons in Arkansas history?! I don’t think so. Not these guys. Not my guys. #HAWG 4 LIFE”
The SN piece did not name specific players who “quit.” Also, it would be incorrect to assume all players did (not that the ex-coaches are assuming that). And there were injuries. Lots of ’em. Davis missed a couple of games with a hamstring injury; tight end Chris Gragg missed more than half the year with a leg injury; and linebackers Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith had season-ending injuries.
This has amounted to a he said/he said story. Did Arkansas look defeated this past season? At times, absolutely. Was that the only issue Arkansas had in 2012? No way. The 10-month contract for Smith turned out to be a disaster, and Smith was never the guy the Razorbacks needed to maintain the success built by Bobby Petrino.
Say what you will about Petrino — I have numerous times — but one thing he does successfully is get his players to perform with an edge. An edge based on fear. That edge was noticeably absent last season.
So, too, was good coaching. That deserves blame as well. The Razorbacks’ pass defense was among the worst in college football and opposing teams were scoring an average of 30 points a game. And if we’re on the topic of quitting, Smith looked like he had mailed it in a season-ending loss to LSU.
The former coaches claiming certain players quit on the team only scratches the surface of what went wrong for Arkansas in 2012, even though it scratches the right spot. That scratch has removed the scab from the wound of what could have been for the Razorbacks.
A serious medical event has caused a shakeup on Derek Mason‘s Vanderbilt coaching staff.
The football program revealed in an article posted to its official website Tuesday night that outside linebackers coach Osia Lewis is battling cholangiocarcinoma, a form of liver cancer. The 54-year-old coach was diagnosed in mid-January after undergoing a battery of tests the last couple of months.
Lewis, who is married with two children, has already started chemotherapy, although the school writes that, “[f]or now, the tumor is inoperable due to its location, but doctors are hopeful treatment will make an impact.”
As Lewis continues to battle, he will move from his on-field role to what the program describes as the chief consultant to the head coach and senior defensive assistant. “But as soon as I’m ready to go, I’ll be back,” the coach said.
“Osia is family,” Mason said. “Some people run from these things, but we’ve chosen to run to it. I believe Osia and Darlene, with what they’ve poured into this program, their journey is a testament to what it means to be family. They’ve given everything they have to this program, moving from San Diego to Nashville because I asked them to. I truly believe it’s important for us to take the journey with them.
“That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
An NFL team has once again cost a Power Five program an assistant coach.
Tennessee announced in a press release Wednesday that Zach Azzanni has stepped down from his job with the Volunteers in order to take the job as wide receivers coach with the Chicago Bears. Azzanni had spent the past four seasons as UT’s receivers coach.
He also carried the title of passing-game coordinator the last two years.
“We are really excited for Zach and his family,” said head coach Butch Jones in a statement. “I have known Zach for a long time and this is a path he has wanted to pursue for some time. We can’t thank him enough for his loyalty, dedication and hard work over the past four years to our football program.
“We will begin the process of filling this position immediately. It’s a position we want to fill as quickly as we can, but we also want to go through the detailed process, which we will.”
This will mark Azzanni’s first job in the NFL as his previous 18 years in the profession have come at the collegiate level.
Not long after Scott Pagano decided to transfer from Clemson, three dozen or so teams expressed interest in the defensive tackle. A short time later, that list had been whittled down to seven by the lineman.
Just a couple of days later, Pagano has a list of teams he will officially visit. From Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.com:
Pagano… said he will officially visit Notre Dame March 24, Oklahoma March 31 and Arkansas April 7.
Pagano has completed his official visit plan by lining up a trip to Texas for April 14 and Oregon April 21.
The graduate transfer also listed Cal and Nebraska as two of his seven finalists. He could still “unofficially” visit those programs, or any others for that matter, even as they are not part of his current official visits schedule.
Pagano is expected to make a final decision that would allow him to enroll in his new school in May.
Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.
The reports of a couple of weeks ago have indeed come to fruition.
Earlier this month, speculation had Devin Asiasi considering a transfer from Michigan back closer to his home on the West Coast. Tuesday night, the tight end’s head coach confirmed the transfer part of the equation.
“Yeah, he’s moving on, transferring,” Jim Harbaugh said according to mlive.com. “He leaves in great status. He was doing great in school, doing great in football, really popular and well-liked by his teammates.
“We wish him well.”
USC and UCLA are currently rumored to be among Asiasi’s potential landing spots. One of Asiasi’s former high school teammates, Boss Tagaloa, plays defensive tackle for the Bruins and the two players had talked of going to the same school when they were recruits. The Trojans were a finalist before Asiasi opted for the Wolverines as well.
As a 6-3, 287-pound true freshman last season, Asiasi played in all 13 games. He caught two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
A four-star recruit in last year’s class coming out of high school at Concord De La Salle High School, Asiasi was rated as the No. 3 tight end in the country and the No. 12 player at any position in the state of California. In addition to UM, USC and UCLA, Asiasi held offers from, among others, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.