Arkansas Getting A Kick Out Of Competition

John Henson

Arkansas fifth-year senior John Henson is in a battle with true freshman Cole Hedlund to see who will kick field goals, PAT and kickoff off for the Razorbacks.

No doubt most Razorback football fans figured that highly celebrated incoming freshmen kicker Cole Hedlund would seamlessly take over for Zach Hocker, whose Arkansas career vaulted him into a job for the NFL's Washington Redskins.

But fifth-year senior John Henson is not going down without a fight as was evidenced by the fact that he was awarded a scholarship by Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema on Sunday and is in a battle with Hedlund right now.

“I told my Mom and I couldn't hear for about 30 minutes,” Henson said of getting the scholarship. She let out a nice gasp and my dad was just pretty cool and collected about it.”

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema announced Sunday that Henson (5-11, 172) and tight end A.J. Derby had both been put on scholarship.

“This is my fifth season,” Henson said. “I've been around as long as Zach was around and just pushing him and working out here every summer, no breaks, just like the rest of the guys, and he (Bielema) announced me and (tight end) AJ Derby were put on yesterday and it was just a really cool thing.”

Henson, who was a standout for Southlake, Texas, Carroll, had his brightest moment in the 2012 season finale when he kicked a pair of field goals of 25 and 17 yards and a PAT against LSU.

He also got in an extra point against Louisiana last season while appearing in a trio of games while getting an opportunity to take over the full-time job.

“I don't really see it as waiting around,” Henson said. “I just see it as a great opportunity to come and learn on-field things and off-field things. Just having all sorts of coaching staffs, I think it was 3 head coaches and four different specialist coaches. I got a lot of good perspectives on all sorts of lessons on on the field and off the field stuff.”

Both kickers have apparently hit 23 of their 25 field goal attempts in competition and are also in a kickoff battle according to Hedlund (5-10, 170).

“It's good,” Henson said. “ We're really pushing each other. We're both performing well. At the end of the day I'm just worrying about myself. Can't control anything else.”

Hedlund comes in as USA Today's first-team All-American kicker from a year ago and also as the nation's career field goal leader with 56.

“It's going well so far,” Hedlund said. “We're pretty equal, I would say, right now. On field goals we've both missed two right now. So I would say the competition is pretty close. I guess we'll see within the next two weeks going forward how we do. My goal obviously is to try to start this year, so I'm going to do the best I can. I guess we'll see how the next two weeks go.”

Hedlund admits he was not under any impression he would just be handed the job.

“It's college level D-I,” Hedlund said. “You definitely have to earn your spot. I knew coming in I wasn't just going to be handed the job. It's definitely great having competition. John's done a really good job so far, so I guess we'll just see what happens.”

Henson has been working with the first-team holder and snapper with Hedlund working with the second unit.

“You just kind of have to get your timing down with your holder and snapper,” Hedlund said. “As far as the level of play, it definitely is a little faster. I mean, it's the SEC. Right now I'm just trying to get that timing down and everything, and we'll definitely get that down.”

There is certainly one big difference between the two kickers – Henson has a full head of hair and Hedlund has a buzz cut after having his head shaved by snapper Matt Emrich.

“It was cool and I wanted to do it after Zach got his shaved by the Redskins,” Hedlund said. “It's just one of those things that helps form a brotherhood among our specialists.”

Henson wanted it to be clear he had nothing to do with the head shaving.

“Hey, my hands are clean on that,” Hedlund said. “That was a funny little thing. We saw Zach's whole deal and that was really why Emrich took the -- he did all the shaving.”

Hedlund's head had an arrow of hair going down like the cartoon character Avatar.

“I think Matt actually has a pretty good career in hair cutting because he did a phenomenal job on that arrow,” Henson said.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema was not pleased at first.

“I had a heart attack when I saw him come out and I said ‘We don’t do hazing,’” Bielema said. “Cole’s like ‘Oh no, coach, I wanted to do it.’” It doesn't help him look any older according to Bielema.

“I love him to death,” Bielema said about his new kicker. “He’s extremely youthful looking and that haircut don’t help him. Should take some of that hair to his chin and let him have a beard for the first time.”

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