Please don't get me wrong. I love college football. Love it. I somewhat knew it before I came to Fayetteville in the fall of 2011 as a freshman, but it doesn't get any better than Saturdays in the South. Throw in one of – if not – the top SEC campuses, too, and you'll never want those days to end.
There is so much to love about football in the fall at every level. The buildup and excitement during the week is excruciating and downright awesome all at the same time. Not much beats the nervous energy of Alabama Week, Auburn Week and LSU Week. Then there's the tailgating. And I'd be a fool to forget about the beautiful women in sundresses, cowboy boots and RayBans.
There's just so much to love about college football, and that's why – when it's over – people don't know what to do with themselves. They've drained nearly every ounce of themselves and tons of emotion into their teams for four to five months every year.
And then there's spring football. I
hate dislike it with a passion. I just really do. Along with really learning to soak up Saturday's in September and October, I've learned to really dislike spring football practice. And it's not just for one reason or another – it's a combination of a lot of things. And I'm here to lay them out:
1. Overreaction to the spring game
It happens every single spring. A Razorback that we've hardly heard of will go out and have a fantastic game against his teammates, and fans and the media will clammer over his performance only to hardly do anything productive in the fall, or – in Brandon Allen's case – do the opposite.
We all remember vividly Allen's first pass of last year's spring game. It was intercepted, which was the worst thing that could have happened for the sanity of Arkansas fans after a disastrous 2013.
BA went 12-21 passing for 108 yards, a touchdown pass and the interception in the spring game, and all people wanted to talk about was "is he really an SEC quarterback? Let's see what Austin can do!" This became a real life argument because Austin Allen went 11-17 for 139 yards and two scores with zero interceptions. The QB talk continued all summer amongst sports talk radio callers and into the season after Allen's INT at Auburn. He finished with only five interceptions all season, and Austin did not factor into Arkansas' plans one bit.
Want another example of spring game freakout? I've got a couple. Marquel Wade following the 2011 season was thought to be the next Joe Adams/Jarius Wright in a lot of people's minds following the Red-White game. But he didn't last the spring as he was arrested for stealing books from schoolmates and selling them. Deatrich Wise in last year's spring game had five sacks for the day. Granted it was basically two-hand touch, he still whooped offensive linemen all game. He had 13 tackles and two sacks in the fall.
Oh, and Korliss Marshall, too. 99 yards and two scores in the Red-White game started the 3-headed running back monster narrative. He was kicked off the team mid-season after rushing for just 119 yards. So, please, don't freakout when someone has a breakout day in the Red-White game April 25.
2. The post-practice press releases (mostly for fall camp)
Don't get me wrong, the press releases that are sent out after every practice are more than just for the media to gather information from. Fans far away from the program, say in south Arkansas, use these to find out what's going on on The Hill. I'm not knocking the releases – I'm just kind of poking fun at some of the information.
For one, they're all positive. Not a negative thing went on in practice in the spring or in fall camp. Nice catches were made, great blocks from fullbacks and offensive linemen and all of the quarterbacks exhibited great zip on their passes.
Going back through some of the fall camp releases, the verbiage used was fantastic. "Acrobatic pass breakups," a "terrific tip-toe grab on the sideline for a touchdown" from Cody Hollister. Brandon Allen standing tall as the pocket collapses, finding Hunter Henry as he makes a "leaping grab over a defender to convert 3rd and 6." And then there's my personal favorite – John Henson kicking 50 and 56-yard field goals "with room to spare," that brought on "oohs and ahhs" from teammates.
Here are a couple of the screen grabs hyping up Henson in fall camp. Remember Arkansas punted from the 30-35 several times this year instead of using its strong-footed place kicker.
The highlights of the releases is where all the magic is. Along with soundtrack-aided catches from tight ends. Seriously.
3. Coach/player speak
You know the phrases all too well. News consumers who find out what's happening around Arkansas football in the spring often get onto media for getting just coach/player speak answers. But often times media can't help it.
"We're just focused on trying to get better every day and play Arkansas football," is a common one year-round. "We're just taking it a day at a time," is another go-to line. And especially with spring ball about to enter week 2 on Monday, "It was fun getting back out there," is one we've all heard before.
Sebastian Tretola and Keon Hatcher, however, aren't afraid to step away from the generic answers. Lots of personality between those two guys.
4. The depth chart
Want to know what the fall depth chart won't look like? The spring depth chart. When it was released March 11, a lot of people had a ton of questions regarding where newcomers and players we thought may make a jump this season were.
You look over the depth chart and you notice there's no Will Gragg, Hjalte Forholdt, Randy Ramsey or Jojo Robinson. These are all guys we expected to see on it, but they aren't. I understand it's probably already changed several times since it was released, but I'm not going to pay much attention to the depth chart until fall, and you shouldn't either.
5. Player issues and transfers
It was more of an issue two to three years ago when Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith were directing things in Fayetteville, but this year – with Kendrick Edwards – it reared its head again. Player misconduct takes the wind out of a fan who thinks everything is going well with the program he follows.
Some may say losing Edwards isn't a big deal, but he was still a 6-foot-6, athletic receiver with pretty good hands. Add that to a receiving corps that needs all the help it can get, and it hurts.
Jojo Robinson – while still with the program – is having behavioral issues as well, Bielema said. That's also not good to see from a kid who's been on campus for over a year.
Marquel Wade, Andrew Peterson and Maudrecus Humphrey all got into trouble following the spring game for stealing and selling books. Also, speedster Nate Holmes, who we thought might get some action in the fall, transferred following a spring game in which he was showcased in the backfield.
There have been a number of Razorbacks who have transferred out after finding out they're not part of Bielema's plan with Arkansas. It sucks to see, but we – of course – wish them well wherever they may land.