|Back to football at Arkansas; Nutt tries to shift focus|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 06 August 2007 11:21|
The Razorbacks' offseason was as turbulent as any in the country, but with his players back on the field, Nutt insists the team is moving forward.
``For the last month, I hadn't really thought about it,'' Nutt said of the upheaval. ``It's been no factor. That's not what we talk about here.''
Arkansas went 10-4 last season, but Nutt came under fire after the departures of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and quarterback Mitch Mustain. One fan filed a taxpayer lawsuit over a nasty e-mail sent to Mustain by a booster who was a friend of Nutt's family. Fans also used the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act to investigate Nutt's cell phone records.
Against the backdrop of that drama, the Razorbacks have high hopes this season. Several key starters return, including Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden, a reliable source of pride for the Arkansas program.
McFadden rushed for 1,647 yards last season. He also occasionally lined up at quarterback - he was 7-of-9 for 69 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Arkansas went to the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta but lost to Florida.
Last year, McFadden hurt his toe just before the start of fall practice in a fight outside a Little Rock club. He then returned to produce perhaps the most spectacular season ever by a Razorback.
Nutt said he's spoken with his team about McFadden's Heisman chances.
``We told Darren to continue to be Darren McFadden, because to sit here and put this kind of pressure of having to score an 80-yard touchdown and being prime time will not work,'' Nutt said. ``Just worry about getting those four yards and getting your assignments. He has to worry about being Darren McFadden.''
McFadden shrugged off the Heisman talk.
``I feel like if you go out there and put in the hard work and do what you have to do to go out there and win ballgames - you'll put yourself out there,'' McFadden said.
This August, McFadden's health isn't a concern, and neither is quarterback Casey Dick's. Dick hurt his back in the spring of 2006 and had a hard time recovering. He didn't take over as the starter last season until November.
``Casey Dick's healthy. Darren's healthy,'' Nutt said. ``Just want to keep them in that form right there.''
Defensively, Arkansas must replace defensive end Jamaal Anderson and cornerback Chris Houston, who were picked in the first and second rounds of April's NFL draft. Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, in his third season with the Razorbacks, leads a unit that improved quickly after a 70-17 loss at Southern California early in his tenure.
``We've gone from the most embarrassing loss that I've ever been faced with in my life - to Atlanta,'' Herring said. ``That's how far this program has come, I know defensively, in two years.''
Arkansas opens the season Sept. 1 against Troy.