By Otis Kirk
Jarques McClellion started Arkansas’ last nine games last season and returns as the most experienced cornerback on the squad.
McClellion started the season behind sophomore Chevin Calloway and junior Britto Tutt. But Calloway left the team after the Colorado State game and then Tutt was injured. McClellion started the Auburn game and remained in that spot the rest of the season.
McClellion and the defense had another good day on Wednesday which was the seventh practice of the spring.
“We had four turnovers as a defense,” McClellion said. “We just played fundamentals, the way Coach (Chad) Morris always wants us, too. And Coach Chief (John Chavis) and Coach (Ron) Cooper always been telling us in meeting to strip the ball. Get that lawnmower right, try to get the ball every chance we get, try to get at least three turnovers in a practice. That’s how we got this belt right here.”
This is your second spring here. How does it feel to already be a vet?
“It’s amazing, it’s a dream and I am still trying to wake up,” McClellion said. “ It’s a blessing. I know now, in my point of view, as one of the captains in the secondary this year, I have to make sure the younger dudes behind me like Devin Bush, LaDarrius Bishop…know what to do at the same time. It is good thing and it is a lot of responsibility behind it.”
How have Devin Bush and Greg Brooks, both enrolled at midterm, looked so far this spring?
“Devin and Greg, those are two special DBs from New Orleans,” McClellion said. “Watching them play and knowing I have those two DBs behind me, it is just a blessing. We are now looking at it as we are trying to be DBU and we are trying to wake up a lot of people. Especially after last season, we have so much on our shoulders and so much to prove.
“With us coming back, me, Kamren Curl, [Montaric) Brown, Joe Foucha, Devin McClure, you just have got to know it’s just us. The freshmen are buying into the process and are not having no fight back with us, just buying into and knowing wherever we left off at that we have just got to keep building day-by-day like Coach Morris says.”
Bishop is a redshirt freshman from Ashdown. Is he progressing as well?
“He keeps elevating every day,” McClellion said. “He is getting his technique right. It is the little things and that is with all of us…He is trying to move up so if I go down, he is the next one up or maybe Devin Bush is the next one up.
“With him just learning every day and trying to be in the film room a little bit more, in the weight room to do a little technique work, he shows that he wants it just as bad a I do.”
Brooks at Nickel, who else?
“Simeon Blair is working at nickel,” McClellion said. “He is [someone] that everybody should know about. He is a walk on, but one day he is going to earn a scholarship, maybe this year. He can play safety, corner and nickel. He is just like a little swiss army knife that need to know about and he is not getting credit for.”
What changes did you make in the off-season?
“Changes I made in the off-season were becoming more vocal, making sure I was getting my voice out there more about what we need to do when the ball is lined up on a certain part of the field,” McClellion said, “how I need to line up if I press or play off.
“I just need to be that leader on the field. I need to be that dominant cornerback. Last year it was (Ryan) Pulley, I was behind him and had to pick up some ground as a freshman. Now I am in his spot and the best man, the best receiver, I have to go against them, locked them down and do what Coach Chavis and Coach Cooper need.”
What have you seen from Arkansas’ wide receivers?
“Right now, 1-on-1 and 7-on-7, it’s competition, really, that’s what I see, but at the end of the day when it comes to team, when it comes to my great defensive line, and first of all before I go anywhere I want to thank my defensive linemen and my linebackers because without them I’m nothing as a cornerback,” McClellion said. “I’m nothing without a secondary without them. When it comes to team, we just lock down. For some reason, DBs, we just turn it on, and you know it’s over with. We get down and dirty, and we just make sure we’re going to win the battle. That’s why we’ve got this belt. This belt, you’re going to see a lot this season.”
The staff gives a belt to the offense or defense each day depending on which unit wins that practice. Is the belt a point of pride for your side of the ball?
“Our whole point is if we can get the belt every day of spring, we’re going to to get the belt every day in spring. It’s competition,” McClellion said. “You’re not out here to play to lose. Our coach tells us that every day. We’re out here to win. We want to win. That’s what we’re doing. The defense is competing every day. We’re playing with our heart. All heart. That’s all we need for this game. All heart and just being smart on the field, as well.”
How many times out of seven has the defense won the belt?
“All of them,” McClellion said.
Does he hand it to different players also?
“He doesn’t hand it out to different…he doesn’t hand it out to players, but the people on the team that they feel like…you feel me…I didn’t earn it today,” McClellion said. “I feel like Brenden Young, our safety, he made a tremendous, nasty hit, so we feel like he deserved it because that capped off everything. We just had so much momentum on that side of the ball and then him making that big play. This is Brenden Young’s belt, but I’m just holding it just to show it to the world to let them know we’re here.”
The defense forced four turnovers on Wednesday so getting the belt was an easy decision for the coaches.
“I think all four were just strips and us getting on the ball, just making sure we’re doing our job,” McClellion said. “Our coach says, “Crank that lawnmower,” so all the time he’s making sure we’re cranking that lawnmower, and he’s putting us out on it. This is what happens. When we crank that lawnmower, we’re always going to leave with this belt, and this is something serious.
“For some reason, I feel like defense this year, we’re taking it personally. Last year, there was a lot of games where the points were just outrageous, and that wasn’t us. But this year, we’re coming in with a lot of things on our mind, and we’re taking it personal.”
Young has lettered two years on special teams after transferring in from Ouachita Baptist University. He is a senior from Little Rock. Blair is a redshirt freshman from Pine Bluff.