FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt senior defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols and redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Paul have been key members of the No. 10 Arkansas’ start to season.
Isaiah Nichols has been at Arkansas for what is now his fifth football season, but growing up in Arkansas he was very familiar with Bobby Petrino who was 34-17 in four seasons with the Hogs. Following Tuesday’s practice, Nichols talked about now facing Petrino and Missouri State.
“Most definitely,” Nichols said. “Growing up in this state, living in Arkansas and growing up in Arkansas, everybody looks up to Arkansas football. Growing up on Saturdays watching the Hogs, I was around 10 or 11 around those years, and growing up watching that kind of makes you want to play football. That’s part of the reason why I fell in love with football just seeing them play and play hard having those two seasons with 22 wins in those seasons. I remember growing up watching the Cotton Bowl and stuff like that. I would say most definitely growing up here and looking up to those guys and seeing the brand of football they played, I enjoy keeping up that tradition of Arkansas football.”
Paul said the fact Petrino was very successful at Arkansas came up when he was being recruited by Sam Pittman.
“Yes, definitely,” Paul said. “Throughout my whole recruitment process with Coach Pittman and Arkansas, all he talked about was those past years. We kind of fell off a little bit, but Coach Pittman wanted to work us back to the winning program that we are. That was definitely every visit, every phone call, every time he could bring it up, he would.”
Paul played well against South Carolina. With Bumper Pool and Drew Sanders at linebacker Paul is still getting extensive action.
“I just take it one day at a time,” Paul said. “I take it as a way to get better. I’ve got two great guys in front of me in Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool, and I just feed off their energy and learn as much as I can from the two vets that have played in the SEC and things like that. Like I said, I just take it one day at a time and get better.”
Deke Adams has rotated his defensive line and that is something pleasing to Nichols. Even with a night game on Saturday the temperatures are starting to creep up again in Northwest Arkansas.
“It’s great,” Nichols said. “There was a point in the game, I think it was maybe towards the end of the first quarter, and Coach Adams said, ‘Nobody that’s played so far has gotten over eight snaps.’ I that really helps us being able to give 100% every play throughout the whole game. Having a coach like Coach Adams, he’s a seasoned veteran. He knows what he’s doing. He knows the game of football and he knows what it takes to have a successful D-line.
“So I think it’s great. Especially being a defensive lineman, you have to be able to give everything you’ve got and play on the offensive side on the line of scrimmage. So being able to rotate and knowing you have guys going in that can get the job done just as good as you can. Everybody has their own thing they bring to the game. I really enjoy not having the weight of the whole game on myself or any of the other guys by themselves. It’s good knowing we have depth and guys that can go in and get the job done.”
In the offseason, Arkansas brought in defensive tackle Terry Hampton (Arkansas State) and ends Jordan Domineck (Georgia Tech) and Landon Jackson (LSU). They have impressed Nichols.
“I think bringing new guys in, it’s not a thing where I feel threatened,” Nichols said. “I don’t feel threatened in the sense where, ‘Aw, they don’t believe in me, and this and this and that.’ It’s like, if we need help, we need help. If I start or don’t play and those guys are ahead of me and they’re playing more than me, then that’s on me.
“I have to go out and put the work in. I have to show Coach that he can trust me to be in the game and do my job and do it efficiently, at the highest level possible. So I’m all for bringing more guys in, because obviously we wouldn’t bring people in if we didn’t need them. All the new guys we brought in, we have a good brotherhood in the D-line room. We all get along together well. We all feed off each other. I think they all play a very vital, key role in this defense.”
Arkansas (2-0) will play host to Missouri State (2-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 on ESPN+/SECN+.