Keys To Victory

Posted: November 4, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Don’t call timeout to ice a kicker. For sure, don’t call three in a row.

That’s the advice from the best kicking coach I’ve known over the last 50 years.

Ken Turner offered that on Monday after the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame induction in Little Rock. Turner came to celebrate Steve Little’s induction. Turner was Little’s coach for his last three seasons at Arkansas (1975-77).

No family member could be found to accept Little’s award. Turner should have done the honors. He accepted the challenge afterward to find an appropriate place for Little’s medal.

It was perfect timing to set up a visit with Turner to talk about kicking. The first topic was whether or not timeouts are effective in icing the kicker.

“I really believe it’s better to just let them kick without calling timeout,” Turner said. “I think they are shakiest on that first kick. They will come nearer missing without icing them. The timeout allows them to settle down their nerves.”

Turner was right in pointing out that the first was the only try that was close to missing of the four Connor Limpert made at the end of the 38-37 victory over Ole Miss last week.

“I thought that first one was inside the upright by about 1 yard,” Turner said. “The next three were right down the middle. All Ole Miss did was just give him more practice and he got better each time.

“So I would advocate never calling a timeout. I don’t think they do any good.”

There is no disputing that Turner is a true kicking guru. He helped “a little” with Bill McClard as a graduate assistant in 1970, then a lot with Little. Both were All-Americans.

Other Arkansas kickers or punters to make either All-America or all-conference under Turner as a kicker or punter were Steve Cox, Greg Horne, Bruce Lahay, Ish Ordonez, Kendall Trainor, Todd Wright and Tommy Cheyne.

Turner’s magic continued in his four years as head coach at Henderson State in Arkadelphia. Punter Chris Carter was a four-time All-American. Turner still tutors in retirement.

Frank Broyles hired Turner as a grad assistant in 1970 from West Memphis, where Turner had been a high school head coach. He spent 19 years at Arkansas working for Broyles, Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield. He was the kicking coach (and worked with tight ends and the offensive line) for the last 17 seasons.

“I thought I could work for Coach Broyles, then get a high school job in Texas,” Turner said. “They paid better. I’d been a straight-on kicker in high school, so Coach Broyles told me to work with (assistant coach) Merv Johnson. He had the offensive line and the kickers.

“I’d stay after practice and help him with McClard. Sometimes it would be just me and Bill. I learned it. Then, we got Little. Merv left to coach the offensive line at Notre Dame for Dan Devine and I got the kickers after that.”

Turner said Little’s numbers weren’t as good as some of his later kickers.

“It was just because we let him try longer field goals,” Turner said. “The rules for Little were that any missed field goal was a touchback and the ball went to the 20. After he was done, they changed it to it went back to the line of scrimmage of the kick. So no one wanted to try those long ones like the kickers in Steve’s years. Everyone was trying them from 55 to 60. It was like a punt. The ball went to the 20.”

Turner had straight-on and soccer-style kickers at Arkansas. The soccer kickers were more consistent.

“You’ve got only the width of the toe of the shoe for straight-on,” Turner said. “Soccer style, you have a much wider area, the entire length of the foot almost.”

Turner was pleased to see the Hogs run a play to the left to set up Limpert on the left hash.

“He’d missed from the right hash and that’s the toughest spot for a left-footed kicker,” he said. “They think they need to hook it and they don’t get their aim perfect. So for him, they needed to be on the left hash. It’s easier.”

Turner likes Limpert’s form. He studies form almost every time he sees a kicker on TV. He can’t help it.

“There are some simple things to check,” he said. “I look to see what is happening with the plant foot. If they are hitting mostly on the toe, they aren’t going to be consistent. They need the entire length of the plant foot to hit on the ground, including the heel. That gives them much more balance.

“The plant foot controls everything. Where is it pointed? You can check that and whether the heel is getting down and that fixes most of it.”

Turner said the rest of it is just talent.

“I think what happened with us at Arkansas for all of those years with good kickers is that once you get a couple, it’s easier to get the next one,” he said. “I think there was really only one time we didn’t have one. We got a great one from California, and he went home after three days.”

That was 1982 when swimmer Martin Smith rescued the Hogs.

“He wasn’t great, but I was glad to get him,” Turner said. “I think he just heard we were without a kicker and he showed up at my office.”

Turner said there wasn’t a lot of time during practice to coach kickers.

“We mainly did it after practice,” he said. “I hear there aren’t a lot of coaches now to do that, but we didn’t have any more then than they do now.

“I just stayed 30 minutes afterward. I was the last coach to the dressing room.

“As far as practice, we had a five-minute specialty period. That’s it. I just tried to be as tough on them as I could. I tried to put pressure on them so the games would be easy. They all said I was tough on them.”

The games are tougher, Turner admits.

“Yes, when you have 70,000 screaming, it’s tougher,” Turner said. “The old collar gets tight.”

There won’t be 70,000 this week when the Hogs face Coastal Carolina at 3 p.m. in the final nonconference game of the season. Turner will be in place to watch. He makes sure to be ready for all the kicks.

GET THE VICTORY — That’s the No. 1 key. Hopefully, the Hogs don’t need a lot of Limpert field goals against Coastal Carolina. They should be able to score touchdowns and keep the celebrated Arkansas kicker on the sideline.

Limpert’s winning kick was the first for the Hogs at the end of regulation since Wright, recruited by Turner, did it against Tennessee in 1992. Other game-winners in Turner’s time were Ish Ordonez against TCU in 1979 and Kendall Trainor against Arizona State in the 1985 Holiday Bowl.

SUNDAY SUNDAES — That’s what happens with an Arkansas victory. It’s already been mentioned, just get the victory. When that happens, the Sunday dinners are special. It’s steak (or something else captains order) and homemade ice cream and cookies from Bizzy’s, the Sunday night catering company.

“It’s as good as we get,” said Michael Smith, wide receivers coach. “Our guys love that ice cream.”

Safety Josh Liddell said it was a fun Sunday night after the Ole Miss game. Limpert was rewarded.

“He got all the ice cream he wanted,” Liddell said. “We let him go to the front of the line, for both dinner and ice cream. He deserved it. He won the game for us and we wanted him to know we appreciated it.”

EMPTY THE BENCH — The goal is to get a victory. A 3-5 team can’t overlook anyone, but this would be a good one to get some backups some action.

That may include Austin Allen playing some at quarterback. He’s likely going to be the man against LSU in the next game, but he’s missed three games with a shoulder injury. He needs to knock some rust off with some playing time this week.

There are some others coming off the injury list now able to play. Linebackers Jamario Bell, Josh Harris and Jean Alexy-Baptiste all are coming off assorted injuries. They practiced this week with full clearance. Bret Bielema said in midweek that they could play.

MORE WORK FOR HAMMONDS — T. J. Hammonds led the Hogs in rushing against Ole Miss with 11 carries for 84 yards. However, he wasn’t in on any pass plays.

“I can tell you our self-scout already,” Bielema said in the postgame interviews. “T.J. wasn’t out there except when we gave him the ball. We’ve got to change that.”

To do it, Hammonds has to learn the pass protections. Coaches said Hammonds did well on that aspect this week.

“He’s a quick learner,” said Dan Enos, offensive coordinator. “I think he was alright with protections last week and is better now. We’ve got to break some tendencies and throw with him on the field.”

EMOTION — It’s hard to believe the Hogs will have a lot of it after the week they went through, especially Enos. The OC and quarterbacks coach flew home to Michigan after the game to attend the memorial service for his father.

The emotions were flowing in the final seconds of the game as Enos watched Limpert kick with quarterback Cole Kelley hanging on him. They hugged for a long time after the final horn.

“It was emotional for me and for him,” Enos said. “He knew what I was going through. Our entire quarterback room was there for me, all six of them. They know I care for them and they care for me.

“I got great support from this team and the staff. It’s a testament for the way Coach Bielema handles things here. I also want to say the community supported me in a great way and I don’t take that for granted.”

TURNOVERS — The recipe for an upset is turnovers. The Hogs should understand after three big turnovers helped them erase a 31-7 deficit at Ole Miss. All three came from what Liddell called the “safety room.” Santos Ramirez started with a strip and recovery on a long pass completion. Liddell added an interception just before halftime and Kevin Richardson had a scoop and score for the final UA touchdown.

“We count Kevin as a safety,” Liddell said. “A nickel back is a safety. So we got three. Kevin got a big touchdown. Any time we score on defense, it’s big.

“I was disappointed I didn’t score, too.”

Liddell returned his interception 54 yards before running back Jordan Wilkins caught him at the Ole Miss 21.

“I had made the cutback when I saw the quarterback and the offensive linemen on the sideline,” Liddell said. “But the running back got me. I did enjoy having the ball in my hands.”

Coastal Carolina is minus-six on turnovers this season. Arkansas is minus-one.

LIMIT BIG PLAYS — Arkansas was horrible at that to open the Ole Miss game. Counting the play in which Ramirez stripped away the fumble, the Hogs gave up seven plays of 25 yards or more in the first 22 minutes of the game. They cut down on those the rest of the game.

For the season, the Hogs allow 6.6 yards per play on defense. That’s under what they average on offense, just 5.3.

Coastal Carolina blitzes, but hasn’t been effective with sacks and has only 11. That’s the same number the Hogs have recorded, while giving up 28.

The key may be if the Hogs get Randy Ramsey going for the second straight week. Ramsey, an outside linebacker, had his best game against Ole Miss. He made nine tackles and was effective over the last three quarters.

When Ramsey is playing well, the Hogs don’t seem to allow so many big plays.

WIN FIRST DOWN — The Hogs have made that a big goal in recent weeks. When they win first down (on both sides of the ball), third down gets easier. The Hogs are converting 45 percent of their third downs, a healthy stat.

“What we try to do is get four yards or more on first down,” Enos said. “If you do that, chances are good that it’s going to be manageable on third down.”

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads has similar goals. He said it’s easier to call pressure on third-and-long.

“We began to win first down as the game progressed against Ole Miss,” he said. “That had been the problem in previous weeks.”

SPECIAL TEAMS — Obviously, a lot of that was covered at the top of this story. But the Hogs want to continue to improve on kickoff returns where De’Vion Warren has had impressive results in the last two weeks. He scored on a 100-yard return against Auburn, then added a 45-yard gallop against Ole Miss.

Harris had been one of the Hogs’ best special teams guy in past seasons, but has been injured over the first seven games. He was listed as a backup on several units last week, but should play against Coastal Carolina. He’s a vicious hitter on cover teams and a good blocker, too.

Warren also hopes he’s a factor in plays from scrimmage. He was on the field at wide receiver to end the Alabama game, but it’s been tough for the true freshman to find playing time on offense.

“We’ve got some plays for him,” Enos said. “To see what he has done on special teams shows us that we need to get the ball in his hands on some plays on offense.”

LINE PLAY — The Hogs had their best week with their line play against Ole Miss. Bijhon Jackson showed what he can do when there are no double teams. He made his first sack of the season.

“I was able to get penetration,” Jackson said. “There were not too many double teams and I had a fun day.”

On the other side of the ball, Enos said it was a solid day for the offensive line.

“They all did things to help us win throughout the offense,” he said. “I thought the offensive line came together and played physical football. I thought the tight ends were physical.”

Hjalte Froholdt said it was emotional without Frank Ragnow on the trip. The senior center is done for the season with an ankle injury.

“We talked to Frank in the locker room after the game,” Froholdt said. “He’s selfless. He was excited for us and that was his focus, what he could do for us, not about the idea that he couldn’t be on the trip.

“We weren’t perfect in this game in the offensive line. We all made mistakes, but we got better. We just wanted to all do something from one tackle to the other tackle to help us win.”