FAYETTEVILLE — If practice makes perfect then Arkansas’ Greg Brooks Jr. was well prepared for the K.J. Costello pass he picked off and took 69 yards for a touchdown just three minutes, 16 seconds into Saturday night’s game.’
“So basically all week in practice they ran that exact play, and I picked it off all week in practice,” Brooks said. “So I knew it was going to come. I just sunk deep and broke on the quarterback’s hand and made a play.”
Sam Pittman was excited to see Brooks execute it in a game like in practice.
“(Brooks’ pick) was such a big momentum change early in the game,” Pittman said. “They were driving a little bit. We talked about it all day. We said, ‘Hey, he’s going to get impatient and hopefully he’ll throw us some.’ And he did, and Brooks took it to the house.”
In two games, Brooks has seven tackles, including four solo, an interception, one pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. Brooks has gotten bigger this season. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 177-pounds on the depth chart.
“I put in a lot of work this offseason,” Brooks said. “I gained 15 pounds. At the end of last year I was, like, 169. I came in from quarantine at 188. So I tried to focus on that, because that’s a big part of the game.”
Brooks is part of a defense that appears to have improved dramatically over recent years. What has been the factor for the success?
“It’s Coach (Sam) Carter and Coach (Barry) Odom,” Brooks said. “They give us a good game plan and they give us that confidence that we’re going to win every single week and dominate every single week. So we just go out there and ball.”
Brooks talked about the difference in how this staff prepares the team compared to the recent ones.
“They’re just on us hard, and they make us go hard,” Brooks said. “They don’t accept nothing but great. So we just got to go out there and do what we do, and that’s a baaaad D (he’s smiling here and having fun).”
The tackling is better this year and when your last pick six before Saturday?
“I never had a pick six before,” Brooks said. “Ever. That was my first one ever. I never had one in high school or nothing.
“And tackling, during practice they emphasize that. Every single day. Even on Thursday we’ve got to thud up no matter what. So we’ve gotten a lot better at that.”
The head coach who recruited him to Arkansas and coached him for 20 games, Chad Morris, is now the offensive coordinator for Auburn. Knowledge of his offense any help to you on Saturday?
“I mean, we can’t go into it like that,” Brooks said. “We just have to go out there and read their keys from the last two games and know the plays every single time we got out there.”
Any extra motivation facing Morris?
“No extra emotions,” Brooks said. “We’re just going to go out there and treat it like it’s a regular team. Like he’s just a regular coordinator. We’ll just do our thing.”
Arkansas and Auburn will kickoff at 3 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.