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calling_the_hogs Offline
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Northwest Arkansas Times Friday, July 05, 2002
A team as a whole is greater than sum of its parts
"Knock on Wood" by Terry J. Wood

Talent, versatility, cooperation and execution are key components to any successful collective endeavor, whether on the athletic field or elsewhere.

I had the opportunity to enjoy just such an endeavor Tuesday night elsewhere, when the Eagles performed at Alltel Arena while on their 30th anniversary tour.

While the Eagles did not pioneer the Southern California sound dubbed country rock, it could be argued they took it to its popular heights in the 1970s.

But labeling the Eagles as country rock band is a bit of misnomer.

Few if any American pop groups can lay claim to a songbook as sonically diverse or as lyrically poignant as the Eagles.

Don Henley's and Glenn Fry's lyrics not only described and to a degree championed the culture which made them stars but also critiqued and lamented it.

From the pure country of "Lyin' Eyes," the disco stylings of "One of These Nights," the submerged reggae back beat of "Hotel California," the white-boy soul of "The Long Run" and the hard-rocking edge of "Life in the Fast Lane," it's difficult to think of a pop music format the Eagles didn't tap.

Today their music is ubiquitous, known and enjoyed by 60-year-olds as well as teens from the looks of the diverse crowd which packed Alltel.

Their first greatest hits collection was the best-selling album of the 20th century and their music is so widely accepted that Muzak version of hits such as "Best of My Love" and "Desperado" equally annoy and amuse their fans in elevators across the nation.

More than one music critic has opined that the Eagles aren't really a band but rather a conglomerate of singer/song writers who back each other musically and harmonically.

That may be a valid and astute observation. Fry, Henley and Joe Walsh have all produced gold albums and a number of hits on their own, but none have experienced solo success of the magnitude they achieved together.

That's the value of teamwork, and it's of the same nature that leads to success in athletics, too.

Every athlete brings a degree of talent to their team, but quite often they are asked to use their talent in a way that is more beneficial to the team as a whole than to themselves individually.

That is what Houston Nutt will be asking Matt Jones to do this fall when he competes for the starting quarterback job.

Few collegiate players are talented enough to have an offensive or defensive scheme totally built around them, and generally when it happens, the reason behind it is to mask or counterbalance a weakness.

To some degree that happened with the Razorbacks' offense last season.

Though stacked with seniors on the offensive line, the Hogs only held their own -- if that -- in the trenches.

That and a month-long case of the dropsies by UA receivers hung Arkansas' quarterbacks and the offense out to dry for the season's first month.

However the maturation and the subsequent insertion of freshman phenom Matt Jones into the quarterback situation made a tremendous difference for a team which entered October with a 1-3 overall mark and an 0-3 SEC tally.

It catapulted the Hogs from what appeared to be a losing season to a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

For a month, UA opponents had no book on the long-legged but swift-moving Jones, and it seemed their defensive coordinators had the attitude that "just because he ran all over the previous opponent doesn't mean he would run over us."

But Jones did run all over Razorback opponents -- while Zak Clark passed the Hogs to success -- until the final game of the regular season against LSU.

Though Jones made some nice plays against the Bayou Bengals, LSU kept him in check most of the day by mirroring his moves with a safety.

In the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma used a similar tactic to even greater effect.

OU All-American safety Roy Williams had more contact with Jones on New Year's Day than he did with his girlfriend.

Shortly after the Cotton Bowl, Houston Nutt all but publicly acknowledged this weakness when he stated the Razorbacks would run one offense with preferably one quarterback playing the bulk of the minutes for the 2002 season.

A two-quarterback, two-offense system was what worked last season out of necessity, but Nutt and his offensive staff recognized the inherent weaknesses of it and figured SEC defensive coordinators would scheme for it just as LSU and Oklahoma did in the final two games.

Nutt and quarterbacks coach David Lee would like for one quarterback to emerge from the trio of Jones, Tarvaris Jackson and Ryan Sorahan who can execute the Razorbacks' entire offensive package, take hold of the reins and lead the team on the field.

Though Jackson had his moments in the spring and Sorahan may have the firmest grasp on the offense, most feel Jones' talent and experience will earn him the job.

That may be true, but for Jones to earn and keep the starting quarterback job, he must use his athletic ability within the confines of the Razorbacks' offense.

That will be an adjustment for Jones, who has lived off instincts and talent throughout his athletic career.

Last year Jones was at his best when freelancing on a broken play, but this lack of structure worked against him and the Razorbacks when playing LSU and Oklahoma.

Though Jones is an incredibly gifted athlete, the Hogs have too much talent surrounding him in the backfield and too much potential at wideout for the QB to be given a free hand.

Jones must mature enough as a quarterback to make his talent work within the offense rather than outside of it.

Should Jones be able to do that, his rushing stats might not be as gaudy as they were a year ago, but like the Eagles, he and the Razorbacks will experience more success together than apart.
07-05-2002 06:00 PM
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