Arkansas head coach John L. Smith noted that this football season has been perfect – a perfect storm that it is.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs," Smith said "It's been one of those years. Again, you kind of look at it as little bit of a perfect storm this year. The thing about it is it's been great coming to work every day and our guys work hard. The great thing about every day is you get to work with these guys, you get to go to the field with them and we get to grow.
"It's been one of those years we lost a lot of guys (to injuries) so it's a rewarding year from the standpoint of going to the field and watching freshmen grow by leaps and bounds," Smith added. "So, it's been a good year. It's been a year I'm thankful I've had and I'm thankful I'm around these guys and with these guys. I just wish it could have been better. Hopefully we can make it good with these last couple of games."
Those two games start this Saturday with a trip by Arkansas (4-6, 2-4) to Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3), who has lost its last trio of games against Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU.
"We're excited and taking pride in getting ready to go against Mississippi State," Smith said. " We have to go there and play well. We know they're an awful good football team. I also understand that Mississippi State is honoring Nick Bell, who is one of their former players who had died, and we relate to that because we've had our own person.… in Garrett Uekman. Garrett passed away a while back, so we can relate to what they're going through and honoring Nick. We think that's a great deal as well."
Smith believes there has been some hard lessons learned this season.
"The lessons learned are not only for myself and for the staff, but for the players," Smith said. "We try to express that to them weekly. Football is a game of life and these are the lessons of life we are learning. The great thing, again, about these guys is they have not hung their head, they have not disbanded by any means. They have hung in there and they are hanging in there together. They have fought through adversity since a spring ago...They're going to continue to do the right things. They're class young men. They're going to grow and be better people because of it and I hope we all do. I know, certainly, I will."
One Razorback who has always had big games against the Bulldogs is wideout Cobi Hamilton, who has been named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
"Three finalists are going to be named next week, and we definitely think he should be in that category," Smith said. "He's leading the SEC and has broken several records here. He's definitely a high quality young man, plus he's going to be a top draft pick. He's kind of a combination of the three receivers that we lost a year ago. We think he's a special young man, and we think he deserves this, and hopefully he'll be at least a finalist if not the winner. We would like to see him maybe win that award. That'd be awesome."
Smith noted that Kaelon Kellybrew will return kickoffs and punts this week in place of freshman Nate Holmes, who is out with a concussion suffered last week.
Holmes was filling in for UA school-record Dennis Johnson, who has been concentrating solely on his tailback duties.
"Kelleybrew will probably be the guy back there," Smith said. "Dennis) can still do kickoffs as well, as you know. We've been working mainly with Kelleybrew as the punt guy, as well as some kick returns we'll work on today."
Arkansas junior kicker Zach Hocker – who originally brought in as a punter – hopes to do that job next year.
"He's very capable of doing it," Smith said. "That's why, as you look at the recruiting board, you say OK, now we've got to go get a punter, which would be nice. It's not like it's a necessity because he can step up and do the punting. He does a great job, gets hang time on the ball and with more work would become more consistent at it.
"Normally the kickers I've had in the past you don't give them both responsibilities until, let's say, they are a senior," Smith added. "I think he's very capable of doing that this next year and he would be great at it."