NCF Nation: Brey Cook

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HOOVER, Ala. -- In an effort to make communication inside Arkansas' football team easier, the Razorbacks have adopted a new language: Hoganese.

Foreign to everyone outside of the confines of the Razorbacks' football facility, Hoganese was created this spring by Bret Bielema and his coaching staff so players could use coded terminology on the field. It's used on offense and defense to inform Arkansas' players of what to do, what not to do and what should be coming.

Here's Bielema's definition:

“Hoganese is a language and a verbage and a way of communicating that’s unique to the Hogs."

Basically, it's a way for players to quickly talk to each other on the field in a "language" only understood by Razorbacks players. It's a way to disguise things for a team looking for every advantage it can find in 2014, as it attempts to grow and develop in the second year of the Bielema era.

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesAlong with its improved communication, Bret Bielema said Arkansas can make strides by getting physical.
"We felt we had to get better at certain things physically, but we really needed to have a more effective job communicating what we wanted to get across from coaches to players and then from players to players in a short amount of time," Bielema said. "Whether it be at the line of scrimmage and understand that, hey, we’re going to slip block this three technique. How are you going to say it? You can’t say, ‘Hey, let’s slip block this 3 technique,’ because they’re going to know what’s up.”

What was "sketchy" and "corny" to some players when it was first introduced during the spring morphed into a crystal clear dialect that has pulled a team that limped through an ugly 3-9 2013 season closer in the past few months. Searching for something to create some positive unity, the Hogs embraced their new way of speaking.

“It was a huge growing process for us," senior offensive lineman Brey Cook said. "It was going over the little things that you don’t always think about as a player in the summer. It’s been really huge for us this summer as far as growing as a team.

“You forget about those little things that you have to master, and that’s what Hoganese is for.”

While Hoganese has become an essential part to the Hogs' progression in 2014, Bielema knows it's going to take more than communication to improve upon last season. This team has to win the mental side, but it also has to get tougher physically, something Bielema's team struggled with at times in 2014.

“It’s not just words; it’s gotta be part of their DNA," he said. "They have to understand that we’re going to play physical football offensively and defensively. They have to understand that fourth-and-1 isn’t a question, it’s a task. A year ago, guys talked about, ‘We’re physical, we’re physical,’ but I don’t know if we lined up and did it.

“They can’t just preach it; they have to walk it.”
The big uglies up front on the offensive side are our focus today. There are some quality veterans out there, but teams all across the league are looking to replace some quality linemen in the trenches.

Here's how we see the league stacking up:

[+] EnlargeBarrett Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireBarrett Jones has been one of the mainstays of Alabama's offensive line the past two seasons.
1. Alabama: Four of Alabama’s five linemen from a year ago return, making this one of the team’s strongest units. The returners have combined for more than 70 starts at Alabama. Barrett Jones is the star of the show. The junior has been the Tide’s starting right guard each of the past two seasons, but took reps at left tackle and could be asked to move. William Vlachos is back at center and could be the best at his position in the league. Fellow starters D.J. Flucker and Chance Warmack are back and took reps at left tackle this spring.

2. Ole Miss: The Rebels’ offense isn’t getting much respect this offseason, but its offensive line returns All-SEC candidates in tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie. Seven of Ole Miss’ linemen started two or more games each on the offensive line in 2010. Last season, the Rebels were first in the league in sacks allowed, giving up just 14. Alex Washington should stay at left guard after starting eight games there and A.J. Hawkins will likely get the nod at center after playing eight games there as well. Arkansas transfer Matt Hall will compete for time at center.

3. LSU: Joseph Barksdale might be gone, but the Tigers have a very talented group of linemen returning. Tackle Alex Hurst seems primed to be a star in the league and senior Josh Dworaczky is arguably the Tigers’ top lineman with 25 career starts. Patrick Lonergan is solid at center, while T-Bob Hebert is valuable at both center and guard. Sophomore Chris Faulk has the tough assignment of replacing Barksdale, but made quite the impression on his coaches this spring.

4. Kentucky: The Wildcats return four starters on their line. Right guard Larry Warford headlines the group after gaining second-team All-SEC honors a year ago. Kentucky also returns two-year starter Stuart Hines at left guard and Matt Smith at center, who was solid in his first year there. Left tackle Chandler Burden missed spring practice, but is expected back by fall practice. Finding a suitable right tackle is the next step for Kentucky.

5. Tennessee: This group could be one of the most impressive units for the Volunteers this season. It’s deeper and more experienced in Derek Dooley’s second year and he was very pleased with its performance this spring. Junior Dallas Thomas is solid at left tackle, and sophomore Ja’Wuan James really came on strong in his first year and is one of the top linemen in the SEC. James Stone also returns at center. The surprise of the group was true freshman Marcus Jackson, who held down the left guard spot for most of the spring.

6. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs must replace All-American left tackle Derek Sherrod, but most of the line is somewhat on point. Center Quentin Saulsberry will anchor the line and is versatile enough to play just about every position on the line. Left guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Addison Lawrence return and the Bulldogs will have junior Tobias Smith lining up at right guard. Blaine Clausell and James Carmon, who moved from defensive tackle, will compete at left tackle.

7. Georgia: This was supposed to be one of the strongest offensive line units in the league, but the Bulldogs lost tackle Trinton Sturdivant to a season-ending knee injury this spring and fellow tackle A.J. Harmon transferred. Georgia’s most-reliable options are Cordy Glenn, who moved from guard to left tackle and Ben Jones at center. Kenarious Gates is at left guard, but he’s athletic enough to play tackle if needed. Former defensive lineman Justin Anderson will start off at right tackle. Right guard is the next area of business and the depth all around is a problem.

8. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have questions here, but there is talent across the line. Rokevious Watkins is one of the most talented guards in the league and he’ll be assisted by returning starter at center T.J. Johnson. Senior Kyle Nunn has made strides at left tackle and redshirt freshman A.J. Cann took over duties at left guard this spring. Still, the younger linemen will be counted on to contribute this fall.

9. Arkansas: The Razorbacks must replace three starters on the offensive line. Center Travis Swanson and left guard Alvin Bailey are the only returning starters. Just a sophomore, Bailey impressed his coaches last season and will be one of the top linemen in the league this fall. After that, the Hogs will have to turn to youth for help. True freshman Brey Cook could be thrust into the starting role at right tackle, while sophomore Anthony Oden could get the job at left tackle.

10. Florida: Florida’s offensive line struggled throughout the 2010 season -- and that was with a senior-laden group. This fall, the Gators will start over with a ton of inexperience. Right guard Jon Halapio and right tackle Xavier Nixon are the only returning starters. Halapio struggled at times last season and Nixon battled injuries. Florida’s line spent most of the spring in the infirmary, so little is known about the overall talent. Freshman Chaz Green left spring as the starter at left tackle, Jonotthan Harrison will battle former Notre Dame lineman Dan Wenger at center. He transferred in after spring, but has health concerns.

11. Auburn: The Tigers will go from having one of the top offensive line groups in the country to having a major work in progress in 2011. Senior Brandon Mosley is the lone returning starter, and while he was solid on Auburn’s line last season, he came from junior college as a defensive end/tight end. The good news is that tackle A.J. Greene should be fine this fall after sustaining a season-ending leg injury last year. The rest of Auburn’s linemen are very young and inexperienced. Don’t expect many redshirts from this group.

12. Vanderbilt: The Commodores might return all five starters, but this unit had trouble keeping things together last year. The offense needs this group to improve mightily. Wesley Johnson is Vanderbilt’s best option, despite only being a sophomore at left tackle. There will be size on the right side, with 300-plus pounders Kyle Fischer and Ryan Seymour over there. Simply put, this unit has the experience, but it requires a lot of improvement.

Exiting the spring: Arkansas

April, 15, 2011
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Spring game: 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN and ESPN3.com

Questions answered: Even before spring practice began, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino felt like this would be his best defense since arriving in Fayetteville in 2008. And while the true test will come next fall, neither Petrino nor defensive coordinator Willy Robinson saw anything this spring that would make them think otherwise. The Hogs have depth and size up front. They’ve greatly improved their speed and have more experience than they've ever had across the board on defense. This is also a team with strong leadership. Senior defensive end Jake Bequette, senior safety/linebacker Jerico Nelson, senior safety Tramain Thomas and senior receiver Jarius Wright were already key guys who’d taken on leadership roles, but others such as junior running back Knile Davis stepped up and answered that call this spring.

Questions unanswered: The Hogs will be breaking in a pair of new offensive tackles in the fall. True freshman Brey Cook is one of those, and while he’s light years ahead of where most guys who just turned 18 would be, there’s still the unknown of going to battle in this league with a first-year player at tackle. Petrino is also looking for junior quarterback Tyler Wilson to give everybody in the huddle “more of a calming effect” with his consistency. Wilson had a solid spring, although he’s still trying to shake loose from sophomore Brandon Mitchell and nail down the starting job. On defense, Robinson said the Hogs came up short at cornerback in the depth department and will need some young guys to come in and help next season.

Spring stars: Coaches and players alike were raving about the athleticism of 325-pound junior college newcomer Robert Thomas, who showed off what he could do at defensive tackle with projected starters Byran Jones and DeQuinta Jones sitting out the spring while recovering from injuries. The Hogs are already deep and talented at receiver, but might have found another playmaker in sophomore Julian Horton. And speaking of talented receivers, senior Joe Adams just gets a little more dynamic every time he steps onto the field. He caught 12 passes in last Saturday’s scrimmage, including touchdown passes of 59 and 35 yards.

Of note: Senior Bret Harris has been one of the surprises of the spring. He’s worked the last two weeks as the Hogs’ starting weak side linebacker, although junior Terrell Williams is also pushing for that spot. … Petrino said the job John L. Smith has done with with Arkansas’ special teams has been “awesome," in particular the way Smith has handled the Hogs’ place kicker (Zach Hocker) and punter (Dylan Breeding). … True freshman receiver Quinta Funderburk returned to the team this week after missing six practices for undisclosed reasons. Funderburk’s high school coach had told a newspaper that Funderburk was quitting football. … Strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp said this is the most team speed the Hogs have had under Petrino “by far.” ... Arkansas returns players that scored 48 of the team's 58 offensive touchdowns last season.

Noting the Hogs

April, 5, 2011
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A few notes, thoughts and observations after chatting with Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, a few of his coaches and some of the Hogs' players:

  • Junior running back Knile Davis is up to 228 pounds after playing around 218 last season. Davis told me he recently maxed out at 415 pounds on the bench-press and ran a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash. The big thing for Davis is that he’s finally healthy, the first spring he can say that. He broke his collarbone in last year’s spring game and broke his ankle two springs ago. “I think what Knile really needs to understand is that the harder and more physical he runs and the faster he plays, that’s how you stay healthy,” Petrino said. “That’s what he did when Dennis (Johnson) got hurt last year. He just said, ‘I’m going to make sure the coaches know that I’m going to be the guy by finishing every run in practice and being more focused.’ It jumped out. We’re watching video of practice, and there’s not one coach in the room who doesn’t say, ‘That’s a little different No. 7 right there now.’ ”
  • [+] EnlargeArkansas' Jake Bequette
    Matthew Emmons/US PRESSWIREJake Bequette finished with 7.5 sacks for Arkansas last season.
  • When you start listing the top returning defensive ends in the SEC next season, don’t forget about Arkansas senior Jake Bequette, who had 7.5 sacks last season. Arkansas defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell said there’s no ceiling for Bequette, and Caldwell knows a star defensive end when he sees one. At Tennessee, Caldwell coached the likes of Shaun Ellis, Leonard Little, Parys Haralson, Will Overstreet and Robert Ayers, all of whom played or are still playing in the NFL. “Jake has as much talent as anyone I’ve ever coached. We just have to get it all put together,” Caldwell said.
  • Speaking of the defensive line, the Hogs’ top two tackles are out this spring with injuries -- Byran Jones and DeQuinta Jones. That's meant a lot of quality reps for junior college newcomer Robert Thomas. “Man is he active and probably as good an athlete as we’ve had inside with the combination of size and power,” Petrino said. The other thing about Thomas is that he’s just a sophomore. He redshirted one year at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
  • A guy who’s really exploded in the Hogs’ strength and conditioning program is sophomore defensive end Chris Smith, who’s bulked up to 250 pounds and recently ran just a shade under 4.5 in the 40. Smith’s another guy the Hogs hope to turn loose rushing the passer next season.
  • You don’t see very many 17-year-old true freshman offensive tackles who look like Brey Cook, the Hogs’ top recruit in this class who enrolled early and is going through spring practice. The 6-7, 317-pound Cook is working with the first team in DeMarcus Love’s old quick tackle spot. Cook had his struggles last Saturday in the scrimmage going against junior defensive end Tenarius Wright, but Cook sure looks like one of those guys you can build around in the offensive line. Petrino says he’s not sure he’s ever played a true freshman offensive tackle. “That makes you nervous, but he’s a special young man,” Petrino said. “Sometimes when you’re out there at practice, you forget he’s 17 years old and should still be in high school. But I’ll tell you what: He’s very talented. He’s very strong. You very seldom get a young man who has that type of strength. He was very well-coached in high school and cares a lot, so competitive and a perfectionist. He’s in here studying, trying to get better, taking his lumps against those experienced defensive ends, but keeps coming back and keeps competing and is going to be real special before it’s over with.”
  • The Hogs have built enough depth that they’re not going to be counting on nearly as many first-year players coming in and playing right away next season. “The nice thing is that they’re really going to have to be good to come in and compete because we do have so much depth coming back,” Petrino said. That said, he thinks at least one of the defensive ends will have a chance to come in and play. Lonnie Gosha of Lake Butler, Fla., was one of the Hogs’ most prized signees. Petrino said junior college linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, Jr., has the kind of speed Arkansas is looking for at that position and is a strong candidate to play early. Highsmith is the son of former NFL running back Alonzo Highsmith, Sr., who played collegiately at Miami. Also, Petrino said it would be nice if one of the freshman cornerbacks (Tevin Mitchell and Kelvin Fisher, Jr.) could come in and be a part of the secondary rotation next season.
  • I asked Petrino if he's ever been around a more talented collection of pass-catchers than his top four of Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton. He smiled and said he's been around some good ones, mentioning the group with the Jacksonville Jaguars when Petrino was there as an assistant that included Jimmy Smith. He also mentioned his Louisville receiving corps, but I think it says something that he brings up an NFL receiving corps when offering up comparisons. Replacing tight end D.J. Williams won't be easy, but junior Chris Gragg has made his share of plays down the field and over the middle this spring. The bottom line is that it's difficult to imagine a deeper, more talented receiving corps in all of college football than what Arkansas will put on the field this fall.

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