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July 25, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We are ready to begin with Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt.
COACH NUTT: Thank you very much. I want to start today with I want to talk about my brother a little bit.
I think number one thing is when you have your health, you're rich. A lot of y'all have been asking about Danny. I appreciate that. He had a scan and an MRI about two weeks ago. He's done very well. Very good report. No fresh bleeding there.
We knew this day was coming, but, boy, you didn't expect it to be this quick. Really wanted to get through this year because of the backfield he basically recruited, probably his best backfield maybe Arkansas has ever had. But very good guys. He has tremendous relationships with those guys. Excellent recruiter.
He had a real knack. I don't know if y'all realize, but we had very few backs transfer. That's unusual in today's world because everybody wants the ball. Did a great job of counseling and talking and encouraging. That's the one thing, I think because of his last name, I don't think he always got the credit he deserved. But, boy, just a tremendous loss for us. Appreciate your thoughts and prayers for him.
A lot of people have been asking about him. I really appreciate that more than you know. Hopefully we can get his life back to normal. He has another MRI scheduled in a couple weeks. I appreciate it.
University of Arkansas, the Razorbacks. I'm really proud of our football team. I'm proud of our off-season. I'm proud of how hard they've worked. I'm proud of their commitment. I'm proud of their attitude. Our guys have been through quite a bit during the off-season. I think we've become very, very close. I think we've become closer.
Our team, especially when you look at the off-season, it's voluntary. When you talk to Don Decker, our strength coach, who does a tremendous job, these guys are working and did a good job of working.
Also we've probably had the most campers we've ever had at our camp. I think it's the second highest, over a thousand. Just had the most seniors at a senior day camp. So there's a lot of good things going on.
I think the one thing that got overshadowed was our championship run. It's hard to get that, guys. It's really hard to get to Atlanta (showing the ring). You never pick us (smiling). That's okay. We probably won't be picked again this year to get there, and that's okay. Because that's why it's the greatest game in the world, you got to play it in between the white lines.
We've got a good group coming back. Starts with those runningbacks. Starts with Darren McFadden. Darren McFadden, I brought him today so you could talk to him. I brought Weston Dacus on the other side. Got a good group of guys coming back.
When you lose a Jamaal Anderson, a leading sack-getter, when you lose a Chris Houston, a cover corner who cuts down probably the best opponent's receiver every game, that's two tremendous losses. You lose a Keith Jackson, Sam Olajubutu. You lose quite a bit.
But we do have a lot of experience and heart coming back. I'm excited about them.
Matt Hewitt, Michael Grant are back. I'm excited about them.
Getting back to the offense, Darren McFadden, he's very, very special, as you know. If he walked in this room right now today, if you saw him live for the first time, the first thing you'd say, Boy, he's bigger than I thought; he's taller than I thought. Then if you got to see him live from a sideline, you'd say, Boy, he's faster than I thought. He's very, very tough. He doesn't mind running over you. He has a tremendous stiff arm.
Lot of people ask me to compare him. I had the privilege to be around Barry Sanders when I worked for Coach Pat Jones. When Bill coached Barry Sanders, the one thing Barry Sanders had was tremendous work ethic. The one thing I notice about Darren, he has tremendous work ethic, he's unselfish, great character, tremendous leader force. He goes to school.
You know, he could be a real pain right now, y'all, a real pain. Why do you say that? Because he's one of the top players. He's on every magazine. What if he didn't show up for a week of work or didn't go to school? But here's what he does that you don't get to read in the paper.
I get a call from a professor that says, I got to talk to you about two of your players. I'm like, Oh, no. Usually when a professor calls you, usually not good news. So I said, What's the problem? I want to talk to you about Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. I said, What is it? Well, they've gotten enough points in class where they didn't have to come this week of class because they'd already reached enough points in this class, and I told them they have a week off.
There's about five students that had a week off. And Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, lo and behold, came to class.
That's what it's about. That's the attitude. He loves to practice. He loves to go to school. He loves to go to the weight room. I don't know if he likes all the cameras, but he's doing a better job each and every time he gets in front of them. So I've been real proud of him.
We lost a few on my offensive line, so we got some guys that have to step up. We have Jonathan Luigs back, Robert Felton back. We have some very good guys back. There's some names that you won't know. What I'll do is I'll stop right there and we'll just go to questions and see where you want to go.
Q. Coach, would you talk about Darren and how he has progressed since you got him. He's always been an amazing talent, but what has he done to make himself better, and how has he made that progress?
COACH NUTT: That's a good question. The very first year when Darren broke out, he made the first run I remember, an 80-yard run against Alabama, stiff arms an All-American free safety, I think Harper. Boy, he had a great year.
I remember Danny calling him in after that first year and saying, Look, we've had a lot of good backs have a good first year, but then they disappear the second year. They disappear as a sophomore. It's that sophomore jinx. We don't want that. We want you to be the same guy.
The one thing, the reason why he improved so much is because he has tremendous work ethic. He's a little bit different. Has a tremendous attitude. He practices with a purpose to get better. I just love his unselfishness. He's very unselfish.
So each year, this is my third year to have him, we always would kid him, Hey, are you still Darren McFadden? You still that same guy we recruited, that hungry guy? To give you an example, the first time he set foot on campus in a camp he wanted to wait on the 40-yard dash. He wanted to see everybody run, and then he wanted to go run against the fastest guys, whether it be from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, wherever, Georgia. He wanted to wait.
That's the competitor that's inside of him. So he has that. He's a tremendous competitor. He's a winner. But the ingredients are this, real simple. I know I'm repeating myself, unselfishness, it's a character, it's an attitude, it's a fierce competitor, that's about almost 6'3", long, long arms. He runs 4.3 or less, and he can take it home each and every time.
We just want him to keep doing what he's been doing. That's really a tremendous work ethic.
Q. One of the things you went through this off-season was the release of your cell phone records. How difficult was that to deal with, and what was your reaction when you found out your records had been put out online?
COACH NUTT: This was really a different, totally different, off-season, something I've never experienced before in 26 years of coaching. To have someone get so personal, to have so many things written, starting in your home state, sending things to an editor, things that are starting to spread. It kept going and going.
You know, the toughest thing is your family. It's your family. One of the things, the reason you're able to go home at night, look your children in the eye, look your wife in the eye of almost 24 years, is because, see, they know. They know the truth. Our players know the truth. That's why I'm still here today. This is my 10th year.
You go back with the record number of campers. There's mamas still bringing their sons to me. So there's a reason for it.
I think if you ask Darren McFadden, he would say you attack Coach Nutt, you attack me. You ask Felix Jones or Marcus Monk, they'll say the same thing. You attack Coach Nutt, you attack his character, you're attacking me.
To answer your question, that part of it was difficult 'cause you're hurting two parties that you know nothing about and you're spreading gossip and you're spreading lies. You don't know these people. You don't know what they're talking about. But you think that you see two people talking, and that's not what FOI is about.
You think because you see two people talking, you think, Hmm, must be a soap opera, must be something going on, when you don't know. That's what my family, which has been so strong, Diana has been so strong, so good, understanding. They're very tough. And our players.
See, here's the thing. I get asked about it by reporters. If you went to our weight room you wouldn't hear one word of it. If you asked our players how it affected them, it hasn't. I think it's done this, though: It's made us get a lot closer. It's really -- our team has grown together. Our coaching staff is much, much closer. The immediate family and the Razorbacks family are much closer. That's what it's all about.
You appreciate the guys like Marcus Harrison and Marcus Monk. I can't tell you how many times they came to me, Can we have a press conference? Can we shoot back? Can we talk? Can we tell them the truth, what's really going on? They were feeling the frustration of they won 10 games.
Coach, we know your character. We know our coaches' character. We know what's going on. Let us tell them. I said, No, let's not do this. Let's not give them credibility. Let's keep doing our deal. That's kind of been our thought process of the whole thing.
Q. You mentioned Darren's shyness around the cameras, how he doesn't love to do it too much. How has he seemed to handle all the increased attention? Got to be a growing lack of privacy with him. How has he handled that?
COACH NUTT: You know, he's gotten better. He has really loosened up. I think some of y'all that really know him, had more than one conversation with him, he has a tremendous smile. He dresses up for Halloween, things like that. I mean, he's a fun-loving guy that has gotten better with each interview.
I think Kevin, and Josh, our people have done a really good job of trying to help him.
You mentioned one thing that I think really is a key. He can't go home to Little Rock, his hometown, and go to the mall without getting bombarded for three or four hours. He's the type of person, he won't tell anyone no. He won't tell one person no. That's what you love about him.
He's handled things -- I've been so proud of the way he's handled things. Everything changed the minute -- he won the Doak Walker. We've never had a University of Arkansas athlete win the Doak Walker award. We've never had one guy fly to New York. That's what upsets you a little bit with all the things that's been talked about. What about that guy? What about his unselfishness, what about the team?
I think this team is probably the only -- I think it's the ninth team that has won 10 games, and the only team to ever do it in the SEC. This is a hard, hard league, as you know.
I just love the way he's handling things, and he's getting better at it.
Q. Was there ever a time through this off-season that you said that this just isn't worth it anymore?
COACH NUTT: There was just maybe a short period of time we felt like that. But then you go to your family. Say, No, no, no, no way. You talk to your mom. You talk to your brother. You talk to the players. You talk to Darren McFadden. You talk to Felix. You talk to Weston Dacus, Marcus Harrison. You talk to your players. There's no way.
No, if they would have felt like some of the people felt, it would have been different. I've never had a poll done on me before. I didn't know we were into the age of now we're doing polls and different things like that. Even that, you know, showed in our favor.
So to answer your question, maybe a short period of time. Maybe a short, short period of time you thought about Here's the keys. But when you talk to your family, talk to your players, there's no way. Got too many good things going. You just won a championship.
You had Florida. We weren't picked to be there. It's LSU, Auburn. Y'all know who you picked. We were not picked to be there. We had Florida on the ropes, the national champion.
With Darren, Felix, the guys that we got at the University of Arkansas, you can't let go of that.
Q. Last year you ranked I think 108th nationally in passing, but you won the west. Does that even bother you?
COACH NUTT: You don't like to be last at anything. You know that. I'm a former quarterback who loves to throw. The stats don't show it. But you got to do what your players do best. Our players at the time, what we did best, if you came to practice, you'd say, Hmm, No. 5, you better give him the ball. That's what you would say. You'd say, You better give No. 25 the ball. You better find to way to give Peyton Hillis the ball.
You do what's best with your players to give them the best chance to win. We still hold the record for the passing. Clint Sternum. Still got the record. I predict he's going to win the most touchdowns, our receiver. Marcus Monk is going to break a record.
To answer your question, it don't bother me that much when we're winning 10. I do know we've got to improve that. I do know we've got to be better. I think we'll be better at it. I know they're going to overpopulate the line of scrimmage. I know every time we walk into a stadium they'll say, There is No. 5. Put a bullseye on his chest. There's No. 25. We have to keep teams from making us play left-handed, no question.
Q. Can you tell me how you first heard about the poll that was done on you, what your reaction was, and if when you look at something like that if there are times when you think the passion for football down here has gotten to be a little over the top?
COACH NUTT: The first thing is when you hit your 10th year, when I first stepped in the SEC coaches' meetings in 1998, I was one of the youngest. I didn't have one gray hair, not one. Now you fast forward 10 years later, I'm the second longest in tenure. It's my 10th year. So I know your words get a little older. Your comments are a little bit... I've heard that before.
There's been 25 to 26 changes in the SEC. I know the passion of this group of SEC, the passion of the fans. I understand that. But all I know is to do the best I can every single day, and do it with character, do it with integrity, do it the right way, care about a young man's life, try to make a difference in his life. That's why you're in it. So that's what we try to do.
You know, I think sometimes it does go too far, no question, but I know it's here. That's the world we're in. That's the world that we're in. And so, again, I go by our immediate family. Who is that? Our players. When the player comes to my office, like yesterday, and says, Hey, Coach Nutt, this is my five-year-old son and my three-year-old daughter, and I couldn't have made it without you. These four or five years right here at Arkansas, you made the difference in my life, and that's why I'm the father I am today. Don't listen.
That's what encourages you. It's not the other. So that's what I go by.
Q. What was the reception you got when you went out to the public in the off-season? Did you make any special effort this year that you hadn't made in past years?
COACH NUTT: You know, I had the exact same schedule I had the last nine years. What's amazing is when we went to our Razorback club meetings, the fire marshal would come in and say, You cannot put one more round table in here. That's it.
Everywhere we went it was sold out. Our ticket sales are higher than they've ever been. So the reception was very, very positive. But we did the same exact schedule, same golf outings. We didn't duck anyone. It was really, really positive.
What you don't hear is the minority or the ones that are quiet, the letters that I get, the emails that I get, the fans where we go reach out to, the Razorback clubs, it's, Boy, I'm thinking with Danny. I'm thinking about you. I'm thinking about your family. That has been so positive.
Then you see the contributions. You see the ticket sales. You see the commitments. You see the camp numbers. They're all up, up, up, up, the best we've ever had. So that's a good sign.
So to answer your question, the same schedule we always had, we kept it, just kept going, and it was really good.
Q. Where do you think Darren McFadden fits in the Heisman picture? What would that award mean to the University of Arkansas?
COACH NUTT: I tell you, that would be tremendous for Arkansas, to be able to put a Heisman Trophy in the Broyles complex. Coach Broyles' last year. There would be nothing like it. I think it would mean so much. It's hard to get.
You know he'll be at the top to start out. He came in second. So he's at the top. But as you and I both know, it's about winning, his teammates. I think he'll be the first to tell you, I need my teammates. I need everybody on our team: Coaches, players, to be at their best, and winning solves all. That will put him in the race.
But to answer your question, I think he's at the top, the front-runner. There's no question about it or he wouldn't be on every magazine. I think everybody knows that. Also they're going to be trying to stop him every single Saturday. Every team will be trying to stop Darren McFadden. You're in a fast, fast league. It's a difficult chore, no question.
Q. As you went through the trials and tribulations of the off-season, did you hear anything from other SEC coaches, anybody call you? You said so many coaches come in and out. Are you able to develop friendships with coaches in the league?
COACH NUTT: I do. I have a good group of friends in the SEC. I talk to a lot of 'em. They were calling me. I had a lot of professional coaches call me. The ones especially that knew me, they knew it was a lot of rumors, lies and gossip. They knew that.
The coaches in the SEC were very, very good about, Keep your head up. They were just very, very encouraging. I'm very appreciative.
Q. Do you think this off-season, the way it went, has any impact on Darren's Heisman run? Do you think it could hurt him, or do you think the attention the school got may have gotten his name out there a little more?
COACH NUTT: Well, his name's out there. His name is out there. I think it started when we went to New York. As soon as he went to New York he knew things were different.
His name's out there. I think this maybe added to it a little bit, maybe a few more interested, maybe a few more names in different publications. Arkansas, Darren McFadden, there's a connection there.
But the bottom line is, he's a frontrunner, guys. He's the real thing. Again, being around Barry Sanders, the only other Heisman I've had the privilege to be around, I put him in that category. He's just an unbelievable talent.
But I don't think the off-season -- I think it's earned on the field. He's a frontrunner because he came in second. He's a Doak Walker award winner, the first ever at Arkansas. You look at his runs, it's amazing, the runs that he's made throughout his career, starting when he was a baby as a freshman. He's continued each year. Done a good job.
Q. You talk about the lies and the rumors out there. Was it not possible just to ignore them, walk away, not deal with them at all?
COACH NUTT: We tried to do that. We tried to do that. But there was a tremendous, tremendous campaign, onslaught that didn't stop. You're talking about hurting some people, families on both sides. Then when it starts to get in just about every publication, it started in Arkansas, then it gets out to every publication, every radio.
There comes a point in time where for the first couple of months you're ignoring it because we don't want to give it credibility. We try to do exactly what you said: try to ignore, ignore, ignore. But then it's such a massive campaign. It doesn't stop. That's what made it tough, where you had to -- our university lawyers, councils, comes a point where you have to go address.
Sometimes you look back. I wanted to do it much earlier. I wanted to do it the first day it came out, the very first rumor. They wouldn't let me. You try to follow people that have been there and understand, trying to give you the best advice for your team and the university. You follow their lead.
Q. You're talking about your depth charts, strengths and weaknesses, instead you're talking about how your off-season was. Did you anticipate coming here that that's what you would face? Did this take away from your championship run? And two, could you describe your relationship with Coach Broyles.
COACH NUTT: I expected it a little bit. This is what's brought our team closer together, though. Again. You go by Razorback clubs, you go by campers, you go by commitments of players, mamas that are still dropping their sons off to this campus with me as the head coach. That's what you go by.
You go by people still coming and buying tickets. That's what you go by. Our fans are very passionate. They can't wait for the season. That's what I hear.
Our players are not going to sit around and say, I wonder what's happening about that rumor. They don't do that. They don't know anything about that. They're focused on this, and that's football, going to school this summer, weight room.
As far as the relationship with Coach Broyles, as he's been just a big-time athletic director, I think he's the best there is. The reason I say that is because he understands. He's been there. He's been there as a player. He's been there as a coach. He coached at the University of Arkansas. I could always go to him - always.
Guys, because of all this, he had to make a quicker decision to step down, and I think that's what gave a lot of people a lot of momentum. They thought they could come get me after that. That's what really hurts because I think he's an icon; he's a legend. What he's done with our facilities, without one tax dollar, without one student fee, it's unheard of. It's unheard of what he's done.
I can't tell you how many times players, former players, come back after their pro runs, they've been carrying that adidas bag on their shoulder all those years trying to make every league from Arena League to NFL, NBA. They come back. What do they need? They need a degree. What does he do? He goes and finds a way to get them a degree with tuition and fees paid for. He gets them a scholarship. He's been nothing but a helper.
I have a tremendous relationship with him. Gonna miss him. Gonna miss him big time. I'm gonna find out where they're going to put his office and I'm gonna go see him and try to see him on a regular basis.
Q. With the atmosphere off-season being what it is with the microscope on the program, how important do you feel the first three or four weeks of the season are setting a tone, saying this affected us or didn't affect us in the off-season?
COACH NUTT: Well, naturally, it's always about winning. You know that. Especially in this league. You always want to get off to a good start. But before we can do that, we had to get through this summer. We had to get through step one, step two. Step one, step two is recruiting.
You wouldn't think that after winning 10 games. You wouldn't think that winning a championship. You had to get through recruiting, which was very, very positive. Then it was Razorback clubs. Very positive. Then you're checking ticket sales, summer camp numbers. Up, up, everything's positive.
We're off to a great, great start. We've never had 14 commitments sitting here in July. We've never had that with the quality of players that are already committed. There's a lot of people still believing what we're doing. But it's very, very important we get off to a good start. There's no question.
And it starts at home the very first game against Troy University, who is a very good team. We've been criticized about our schedule.
I tell you, you better go check. I don't think you've watched Troy University play Florida State. I don't think you've seen they have tremendous athletes who can run. Sometimes those athletes who have been turned down by Alabama and Auburn, they play with a fierce passion. They're not going to be in awe of any stadium. Just because you have a 72,000-seat stadium, they've been there before.
Q. What sticks with you about the way the second half of the conference title game unfolded? If winning solves everything, as you say, do you think putting Florida away that day would have changed the negative parts of the off-season from unfolding the way they did?
COACH NUTT: The second half of the championship game?
Q. Against Florida.
COACH NUTT: Boy, I tell you, you can't ever forget it because there's a time looking across that sideline, looking at Urban Meyer's team, such great athletes, so well-coached. You felt like, This is our ballgame. We're going to win the SEC outright.
Boy, there was a time. Especially when Antoine Robinson intercepted the ball, the momentum switched. It got quiet. You could almost see on the other sideline there's a little bit of, even through their players or coaches, we got 'em now, got 'em on the ropes, just where we want them, and felt so good about it.
But, boy, when you turn it over, it didn't take but a couple of plays, the momentum switched back. And that's what sticks out. That's where our players are hungry. That's where they've tasted it. They tasted that championship game. They just about tasted victory. They want back in that ballgame with a chance to win it.
Q. You talk about you have 14 verbal commitments. What is your opinion on having an early signing period for college football?
COACH NUTT: You know, again, there's been a lot of discussion in that. I would want to know what time of month, what time of year you're talking about on early signing dates.
The only thing about early signing date, it draws everything out. It just extends recruiting. My brother can't coach today, and I think one of the reasons is because of recruiting, the intensity of it. After recruiting, after signing day, the regular coaches who hadn't had their skull opened up with brain surgery, they're exhausted. I'm exhausted.
So can you imagine what a guy with brain surgery, had his skull opened up, how tired he was? Carla said he'd come home and said he'd fall asleep immediately in the chair.
My question is, When? What I'm worried about is, okay, now you're going to have a visit in May. Now instead of just evaluations made, you're trying to see every play in May. To me it could open up to just about year-round recruiting. That's what I'm scared about.
It's just about to that point now where parents are bringing players up for an unofficial visit, but it's an official visit. Why? You have to show them the weight room, where they're going to eat, where they're going to live, you have to sit down with them.
It's already pretty early. So I don't know where you're going to put that. It's tough.
Q. You mentioned earlier you thought Marcus Miles could set a receiving touchdown record for you this year. Could you talk about why you think that and talk about the strength of the SEC.
COACH NUTT: Is he at 17? Where is he at? Eight more touchdown passes, right.
He needs eight more. I'm glad Kevin is in the room. I don't know the numbers exactly. He needs eight more. And I feel that way because he's the best cover catcher I've ever seen. What I mean by that, when he's covered, at 6'6", he's not covered, he can go up understand a get it. He has great hands. He's faster than you think. He's been our go-to guy. I just feel like in my heart with 12 games, he's going to get that record.
Q. You had a unique offense last year that really worked. How amazed were you it got so much criticism starting from one player and his mother?
COACH NUTT: I like that question right there (laughter). Me, too.
You know, this formation, what's amazing, we've ran this formation before, but we had the quarterback back there, so it wasn't that exciting.
Gus had used this formation a lot in his high school. But Danny had a great idea but moving Darren McFadden in that position at quarterback. And the reason was, he said, Hey, the guy you want there at the controls is Darren because Darren played this position in high school. He has ball skills. He can throw it. He can run it. He can hand it off. He can fake it. So he had those kind of ball skills.
It worked beautifully. We'll continue to use that. We've led the league in rushing four out of the last five years. The thing that everybody wants to see, everybody loves to see the pass. Hopefully we're going to get better at that.
But it's about what do your players do best, put them in the best position to win, and that's what we try to do.
Q. How have you and your staff changed the recruiting strategy in anticipation of the text message ban going into effect on August 1st?
COACH NUTT: That's a good question. I'm kind of excited about that. We'll really gang up in multiples of two, three. Our off day is Monday. So what we'll do is have a good study day on Monday, then Monday night what we'll do is we'll get in different rooms and we'll start getting on that phone with prospects, let the runningback coach talk to them, let the receiving coach talk to them, whatever position coach, besides the recruiting coach.
We'll try to really get involved with the family. We found out early in the week it's a little bit better, a little easier to get ahold of that young man earlier in the week than later in the week towards our ballgame. Really try to zero in. We always write cards and letters. We'll continue to do that, try to keep that relationship going.
It's full-time. It's constant. It will be more by phone.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH NUTT: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We have Darren McFadden in the room. We'll start with Arkansas runningback Darren McFadden.
Darren, if you could open up by talking about the upcoming season, expectations on yourself.
DARREN McFADDEN: Coming into this season we got a lot of things going on. Had a lot of things going on in the off-season. Right now we're just staying strong together, working out hard, trying to prepare for the season.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Darren.
Q. Coach Nutt told us you and some other players during the off-season had asked to have a press conference to talk about some of the issues. Can you remember when that was and what did you want to say?
DARREN McFADDEN: Yeah, it was around the time when they were making a lot of allegations about Coach Nutt and things like that. We just felt like it was our responsibility as players to step up and say something and let people know what was really going on inside of our program.
Q. What have you done to try and become more comfortable with the media attention, also the fact you can't go in public without getting mobbed, all the lack of growing privacy that you've got?
DARREN McFADDEN: With all the media attention, it's something I don't think you can prepare for. It's something you just have to get used to and just take it in stride as life goes on.
Q. How about when you go in public, can't be comfortable with people coming up to you?
DARREN McFADDEN: What I was thinking with that it's something you have to deal with, right, being a high-caliber player. It's something you just have to deal with in public.
Q. Coach Nutt tells us you dress up for Halloween. What were you for Halloween? Why do you enjoy the holiday? Do you eat a lot of candy?
DARREN McFADDEN: It's something that I just have a nice sense of humor, so I just like dressing up for Halloween, to put on a costume.
Q. What were you?
DARREN McFADDEN: A clown (smiling).
Q. What kind of clown?
DARREN McFADDEN: A big one (laughter).
Q. You appeared on the cover of a magazine with a helmet without a facemask. How do you think you looked in that picture? Do you consider yourself a throw-back player?
DARREN McFADDEN: You know, that was just a theme they was doing for the magazine so I just went along with it.
As far as me considering myself as a throw-back player, I don't think I wanted to play at the time they didn't have the facemasks.
Q. From a player standpoint, how would you describe how Coach Nutt handled the off-season adversity he went through?
DARREN McFADDEN: For me personally, I look up to Coach Nutt. I admire him for that. With all the allegations and things that was going on with him, all the things that he had going on in the off-season, those are the type of things that will make a person break. But Coach Nutt stood strong. He came through it.
Q. Coach Nutt said you had accumulated enough points in one of your classes to not have to attend the last week of the term, yet you decided to go anyway. What class was that? Why did you go when you didn't have to?
DARREN McFADDEN: It was one of my recreation classes for my major, kinesiology. I'm the type of person, I go to class, do the things I have to do. There's no point in not going to class and getting left behind.
So I felt like it was just my responsibility by me being a leader on the team just doing the right thing by going to class and things like that.
Q. What was your experience like in New York for the Heisman presentation? How do you feel this year when you hear your name mentioned among the frontrunners?
DARREN McFADDEN: You know, it was a great feeling going up there to New York, other trophy winners, meeting so many different people. This year, being a frontrunner, it's just a great feeling for me.
Q. Do you feel the negative publicity surrounding the school this year has taken away from anything you've done, might hurt your Heisman chances this year?
DARREN McFADDEN: I don't really pay attention to it like hurting my Heisman chance or anything like that. I feel like all the negative publicity we get, it brought us together closer as a team.
Q. How fun was it running the same offense last year that you did in high school?
DARREN McFADDEN: It was real fun for me because, you know, growing up I played quarterback a lot. By me being able to, uhm, get back to that position in college, it was just a great feeling for me.
Q. With all the negative stuff that you had to hear about in the off-season, was it frustrating that people weren't talking about the kind of good things that had happened?
DARREN McFADDEN: Yeah, uhm, when people just try to point out the bad things it's real frustrating. But it's something that didn't bother us as a team 'cause we knew what was going on inside our stadium.
Q. Coach Nutt says you have a hard time saying no. What is the toughest thing to say no to?
DARREN McFADDEN: It is, uhm, you know, with me, it's like being nice to people like, uhm, autographs, interviews, things like that. I'm not going to come up and tell somebody no because they come up asking for an autograph, things like that.
Q. Given what a marked man you're going to be this year, are you worried that you're not going to be as effective if Arkansas fails to develop a more balanced ball club?
DARREN McFADDEN: No, that's not something I worry about. I feel like our coaches are doing a great job, preparing us. I know I'm going to be a marked person. I'm doing a great job of preparing myself.
Q. In the midst of your Heisman campaign, hearing how good you are, all these accolades, what have you tried to work on and improve on through this whole ordeal?
DARREN McFADDEN: Well, with me, it's not just a certain area that I try to just narrow down and improve on. It's just going out there, working hard every day, just putting in my work and being accountable for my teammates.
Q. Lining up at quarterback this year as you did last year, do you feel any extra pressure to be able to perform, knowing people may know more about what you're going to do?
DARREN McFADDEN: No, it's not something, uhm, that I feel is going to be pressure on me to perform. Because, uhm, like I say, people know we gonna throw it (indiscernible), but it's gonna be the -- with the Wildcat, with me and Felix back there, it's going to be hard to just stop it because you have two great players back there running the ball, and you have great receivers you can throw the ball to like Marcus Monk.
Q. Would you talk about Casey Dick, the improvement he made in the spring, how he practiced in the spring?
DARREN McFADDEN: He came through this spring. Last spring he had a back injury. He was working at getting healthy and things like that. This spring he had Coach Lee come in and help him a lot. He's just been working on getting better. He hasn't been focused on getting healthy and back on the field, he's just been focused on football.
Q. Looking back, what benefit did you have playing as a true freshman two years ago?
DARREN McFADDEN: I feel like it, uhm, helped me gain experience and, uhm, get used to the SEC a whole lot faster.
Q. I'm sure you've been asked this, but how long or how much did you give thought to possibly turning pro? What factored into your decision to come back? Did Heisman factor at all? How are you approaching that decision at the end of this season?
DARREN McFADDEN: I couldn't have turned pro after last year. I'm just about to be a junior. That's something right there, uhm, me going into the NFL, I don't think about that right now. I'm trying to focus more on the upcoming season that we have.
Q. Your thoughts on the better your stats obviously the more awards you can get. In terms of balancing the offense, are you also wanting to see more passing, more balance there, or do you kind of like it the way it is?
DARREN McFADDEN: With the offense that we have, you know, I know we have a great running offense, but we also have a good passing offense. I know we didn't show it very much last year because Coach Lee came in this year and he helped us working on our passing thing a whole lot. I feel like our offense will be more balanced this year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Darren.
End of FastScripts