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Razorback Report: Facemasks for FB

How hard has Arkansas junior fullback Kiero Small been hitting defenders?

Kiero Small has no carries and only one catch this season, but the Hogs say he's a huge reason they're off to a 6-1 start.

Hard enough to destroy about eight facemasks on his helmet since he became a Razorback this season.

“I think it’s eight, something like that,” Small said Monday. “I don’t know the exact number. Every time I go and turn my helmet in, our equipment guy, Chuck (Hall), ‘Here’s another one.’ I think he’s got a tally sheet back there. I think it’s eight.”

Small, a junior college All-American last season at Hartnell (Calif.) Community College, has drawn praise from coaches, teammates and media members for his ability to block.

Coach Bobby Petrino said Monday that “the physicalness, the toughness, the energy” that Small displays has energized the Razorbacks’ offense.

“He’s a fun guy that when you watch the video – like today when our players come in, we’ll watch the video – and you see the hits and collisions and the number of times where he’s the hammer and not the nail show up," Petrino said. "It’s a lot of fun and really helps us as a football team.”

Small said he didn’t know if his eight warped face masks were a team-high, but “I don’t know too many guys breaking them all the time,” he said.

“I think I’m the only guy with a tally sheet. So I think right now I lead," Small said.

The facemasks aren’t broken, but they’re bent to the point that they must be replaced.

At first, he didn’t always notice the facemasks were messed up until the next day.

“But now, it’s kind of like I know when it happens because I can see it." Small said. "The first time, I really didn’t pay any attention. But now I can see it.”

And other people are starting to take notice of Small on the field.

Arkansas senior defensive end Jake Bequette said he has “absolutely, unfortunately” been hit by the 5-10, 255-pound Small in practice.

“That guy, he comes downhill and he’s not afraid to knock your block off man,” Bequette said. “Just look at those highlights against A&M and pretty much every team we played. I’m glad that he’s on our team.”

Stopping slow starts

Petrino was asked Monday if the Razorbacks would re-evaluate their pregame preparation after having another slow start in Saturday’s 29-24 victory over Ole Miss.

His response: The Razorbacks re-evaluate everything.

“I don’t think that they correlate together, the (Texas) A&M game and the Ole Miss game, because there’s a lot of differences in how we started,” Petrino said. “But we need to do a better job starting out. What I look at is the positives, the way we played, competed, the energy that guys gave us on the sideline when we are behind and we found a way to win.”

The Razorbacks came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat Ole Miss. They trailed Auburn 14-7 after one quarter before winning 38-14 on Oct. 8. And they were down 35-17 at halftime to Texas A&M on Oct. 1 before rallying to win 42-38.

Bequette said remedying the slow starts “really falls on the leaders of this team, including myself, to try to get the team, I guess, ready to play faster from the opening whistle.”

“I know we were ready to play on Saturday but for some reason on Saturday and the last three or four games we haven’t started very fast and really kind of dug ourselves into a hole, which is not good,” Bequette said. “We all prefer to get a big lead and keep a big lead. But football, it’s a game of adjustments and a game of momentum. We’ve been able to overcome some early deficits but we’ve got to figure out why we’re starting slow and we’ve got to correct it.”

SEC honor for Johnson

Arkansas junior running back Dennis Johnson was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after rushing for a career-high 160 yards on 15 carries, including a 52-yard touchdown, against Ole Miss.

Petrino said Johnson did a great job in the game and “showed his speed and quickness.”

“I thought it was the most decisive he’s been all year on his cuts,” Petrino said. “And that does take reps. The more carries you get, the more vision, the more things that you see, the better you’re going to make your cuts. And it really showed up the other day. Had a great game for us.”

Petrino said it was hard to say if Johnson is a guy like All-SEC junior running back Knile Davis who could 20 or 25 carries a game.

“But he certainly was the hot hand the other day and we fed him as much as we could and he did a great job,” Petrino said of Johnson.

Wilson an award semifinalist

Arkansas junior quarterback Tyler Wilson was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award on Monday.

Fans can help determine the three quarterbacks who will be finalists by voting as often as once a day at VoteObrien.org. Voting closes at noon on Nov. 20.

The winner of the award will be announced Dec. 8 in Orlando, Fla., during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

Injury update

Petrino was asked if Arkansas had any new injuries or would have any players return from injury this week, and said “not that I can think of.”

Arkansas is healthier than it has been in a while but is still missing junior defensive end Tenarius Wright, who has been sidelined since the Alabama game in Week 4.

True freshman cornerback Tevin Mitchel suffered an ankle injury last week in practice, but played on defense against Ole Miss. He was replaced on the kickoff coverage team, however, because of the injury.

Petrino was also asked about the status of Davis, who broke an ankle during fall camp, and repeated that he doesn’t “think there’s any chance he’s coming back at all” this season.

“Like I said, all I can go on is what I’ve been told,” Petrino added. “He was a season-ending injury. He is getting better. He keeps working hard. He’s running and changing directions. He helps us a lot with his leadership. He does a great job being positive on the sideline. That’s why I bring him on trips is because he’s earned the right to be there and help us win games.”

Hogs’ take on Rodgers

When Arkansas (6-1, 2-1 SEC) takes on Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3) on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., it will mark the second start for Commodores junior quarterback Jordan Rodgers, the brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Jordan Rodgers helped Vanderbilt beat Army 44-21 on Saturday, accounting for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He threw for 186 yards and a score, and ran for 96 yards and a TD.

“He’s a great athlete,” Petrino said. “He can really run. They utilize him in the run game. When I watch them throw, he’s got a quick release and a strong arm. Certainly a threat, a dual-threat that we have to do a good job of really understanding of what they’re trying to do with them. It’s going to be important for us to play fast and really run to the ball and tackle well right from the start.”

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