Scrimmage From Herring’s Perspective

The Morning News/Razorback Central
Posted Apr 17, 2005


FAYETTEVILLE – The heavenly warm, clear and sunny skies over and about Razorback Stadium for Arkansas’ spring-concluding scrimmage of sorts provided the perfect setting, and Saturday was a prime time to shadow new defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.

He casts an awful big one.

Even mammoth Tracy Rocker, the Hogs’ defensive line coach who was Mr. Everything during his days as a terror down at Auburn, refers to Herring as “sir.”

The serious-business Herring made his mark quickly here, shocking the Hogs with his demands and candor from the get-go of his Dec. 4 hiring on the heels of forming North Carolina State’s previously horrible defense into the best in the country.

Herring expects his players to go full-Boar, whether it’s during drills, taking the field, wrapping running backs, nailing quarterbacks, smothering receivers or even getting back up after tackles.

He made national waves, of course, when he passed out pink jerseys to those who loafed, the sort of thing that makes the 45-year-old man see red.

No pink on Saturday, except on some giant bunny costume. The band set up just outside the North end zone was called Oreo Blue, though. And its members were decked out in red Hogs jerseys and they played “Pretty Woman” during warm-ups.

Nothing girlie about the bald, tanned Herring, who sported a gray sweatshirt above the red shorts.

Nothing sissy about his schemes, either. Taking over for the fired Dave Wommack, who preferred more cushion, Herring has the Hogs on the edge of their seats and in an aggressive 4-3 alignment.

On Saturday, his first-stringers (for now) gave up just one first down and had a handful of sacks and two turnovers while playing about half of the 47-snap setup.

“This deal today, men, don’t got too carried away,” said Herring, whose noggin and sweatshirt were soaked. “We rotated our ones and twos in. There was a segment there when we had our threes and fours mixed in.”

And the ones were going against a depleted offensive line and lime-green quarterbacks named Robert Johnson, Alex Mortensen and Cole Barthel, not Chris Leak.

But it was a good showing, and Herring, unusually subdued toward the end because of the nature of this not-full scrimmage, still had plenty of fire as he sent in plays via animated hand signals to his no-huddling defenders.

Presnap and during plays, Herring directed traffic with his arms and considerable vocal cords.

Interestingly, a tall, young fellow wearing a visor stayed on the field near the defenders, charting plays, looking to Herring for guidance and giving loud instruction.

That was James Arthur, a graduate assistant Herring brought with him from the Wolfpack.

When Johnson completed a short slant pass early on, Herring bounded onto the Razorback Stadium turf, screaming and waving his right fist at freshman linebacker Donovan Johnson, who blew the coverage.

After a Peyton Hillis draw gobbled up about a dozen yards, junior lineman Keith Jackson started jogging toward his unit. From the corner of his eye, Herring busted him.

“You get in there!” he hollered. “Run it!”

Then he looked at the kids running the chains with disdain.

“Give ‘em a first down,” Herring barked.

It would be the only one his first teamers surrendered.

Junior safety Randy Kelly was too far back at one point.

“Get up there!” yelled Herring, as he stomped onto the field.

Next play, Kelly was slow to blitz during a Mortensen completion. Herring again ran toward him with verbal assaults.

When junior Desmond Sims, a former linebacker who is now a defensive end, sacked Mortensen, Herring did not react.

That says a lot: He expects them to do that sort of thing.

Same nonreaction when Sims and senior linebacker Michael Robinson hurried Mortensen with a painful “smack!”

Then freshman linebacker Desmond Williams drew Herring’s attention even after the wide-open Hillis dropped a short pass. Herring charged Williams. It looked like he wanted to hit him. Instead, he screamed into the right side of Williams’ helmet, chin up, drill-sergeant style.

“Way to go, Herring,” a fan yelled.

After Hillis ran through a group of reserves for a short TD, Herring met them on the way back to the sideline, where, by the way, none dared to sit throughout this.

“Ya’ll look scared out there!” Herring said. “Scared!”

Disgusted, he waved his ones back in. Next snap, Sims sacked Barthel. It was his third quarterback takedown of the short day.

“Very pleased with the ones today,” Herring said. “The second-team defense gave up the deep ball. Very disappointed.

“But overall, the ones and twos were very stingy today. Stepping in the right direction and not looking back.”

What’s his read at this point?

“Overall, I’d rather look at the big picture, where we were at the start of spring till now,” Herring said. “From Day 1 till now, there’s been some improvement – work habits, mental toughness, scheme-wise, they’ve come a long way.”

But his defenders, none of whom are safe in their positions, better not rest on any laurels.

“We’re not even close to where we need to be,” Herring said. “We’ve got to have a tremendous summer – working and running, more running and running more. We’ve got to be the best conditioned team in the country.

“We’ve got to be able to run all day.”

Wouldn’t bet against that.

Not with Herring driving them.


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