Tuesday Grid Update, 11/20

Cobi Hamilton

It's the final go round for Arkansas seniors and probably for coaches as LSU comes to town Friday. Here's the update after Tuesday's practice.

With a short week, everything was combined Tuesday night for the media covering the Arkansas football team. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and defensive coordinator Paul Haynes were joined by a few seniors in their post-practice interviews in advance of Friday's game with LSU.

There will be post-game interviews Friday for most of the same players and coaches, but many took time to say thanks for their time as Razorback players and coaches. Obviously, the seniors were at their last Tuesday practice. And it is likely the last time for Petrino and Haynes to meet with the Arkansas media during a game week. They all know change is coming.

"It's emotional because with everything it's out last time with these seniors," Haynes said. "They've worked the same all year. They've worked hard.

"You know their work ethic is awesome. They prepare like crazy. When you sit there and watch us practice you wouldn't think it is what it is with the way they work and their enthusiasm and attitude. They are running to the ball like crazy. They are trying to get the ball out - still trying to do the things you are asking them to do. It's a plus.

"As coaches, you know (that change) is part of it. It's unfortunate, but I've been through it before. You go to work and then put the rest in God's hands. Some of this I've been through, but in some ways it's different. Maybe you are prepared a little bit, but at the same time it's different every time in this profession.

"What you want to do is be there for the kids and mentor for them and then put it in God's hands."

Haynes went through something similar last year at Ohio State when the head coach was fired in the offseason then the staff played a season with an interim head coach. Petrino was part of a staff that was fired last year at Illinois. He said it comes with the territory when asked what it has been like this year.

"You just go to work," he said. "As a staff, you are there for each other. You work 16 to 18 hours a day. That's what you do, work. But at the same time, you are there for each other. It's a part of the profession.

"You work as hard as you can where you are at. The next day if you are somewhere else, you work as hard as you can there. That's all you can do.

"We've continued to work as a staff. I'm proud of the staff. I think we've tried all the way through it. You see some times, things have worked. Other times, things haven't worked. There are times I've thought the game plan was great, but we didn't execute it or there were turnovers.

"I guess getting knocked down is part of life. You get knocked down, you get up and keep swinging."

Both coaches were thankful for the work ethic of the players in a tough season. The Hogs take a 4-7 record into the LSU game, set for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff for CBS on Friday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"We had a good, intense practice today," Petrino said. "Guys were flying around and trying to execute. It was a good day of practice."

Later, Petrino said it's much like most of the practices this year with good effort. Haynes said that's one of the things he'll remember as a positive about this disappointing year.

"Practice was good, as was yesterday's," Haynes said. "There was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement."

Senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton said it's about trying to finish out the year with something that has eluded the team all year, a big victory.

"We want to make this game something we can remember, a big victory," Hamilton said. "I think our coaches are excited. I know Coach Petrino is excited. We want to have a good game to finish things out. It's an emotional week as it winds down. We want to embrace it and enjoy it and have fun in this last week."

All mentioned the memories that they've made this year and even the last four with John L. Smith, perhaps making his last appearance as a head coach.

"John L. has been around us for a while," Hamilton said. "I'm just trying to enjoy this week with him and the players.

"John L. means a lot to us. He's the same guy that everyone was cheering before the start of the season. I think he has the same passion and he's the guy that I told myself last summer that I wanted to play my butt off for this season. I've tried to do that every week.

"I think people are being hard on him now, maybe the same people that were cheering him in the summer. They were all for it then. I am still behind him."

Hamilton said it's the same as with quarterback Tyler Wilson. Hamilton seemed a bit stunned when someone suggested he'd catch his last Wilson pass Friday.

"That hadn't hit me yet," Hamilton said. "I guess that's right. Wow."

Wilson has had an up and down year. The Hogs have often struggled in the critical zone and been plagued by turnovers and penalties. There have been 15 interceptions and 14 lost fumbles on the season. Wilson has been praised and blamed at times.

"He's still my guy," Hamilton said. "He's our leader. He comes to work every day. He's the guy encouraging the rest of us, tapped us on the butt when someone needs it. He's taken all of the negativity and kept working. He's the same high character guy as always.

"I couldn't be prouder of Tyler Wilson. I know it's about to end. I have thought about a lot of stuff that is about to end. I was telling my trainer, Matt Summers, he's about to tape my ankles for the last time in a few days. He's been the same guy to tape my ankles the last three years and it's about over.

"I guess it's kind of like a bittersweet. Your days are coming to an end in Fayetteville. Just being around these guys, I'm trying to have a smile on my face at all times. I know I'm going to be missing these days. It may be next week. It may be two years from now. You just have to have a smile on your face and enjoy these guys."

Hamilton said it's a big game because all of the nation will be watching.

"That's what stands out to me, that everyone watches this one," he said. "It's a chance to go out with a win, your last one on the hill and everyone is going to see it. There's a good team coming in here and we have a chance to go out with a win. That's why the energy is there and the excitement is up."

And all know it's the finale for Smith. Petrino said he's appreciative of the time spent with John L. Smith.

"John L. means a lot to me," he said. "He gave me my first chance. I've always thought the world of him. There's not a thing I wouldn't do for him."

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