The question in Fayetteville is: How high will the Hogs get now that Agnes has left school? Agnes is a natty boa constrictor, the backbone of last season's team, which went 7-4-1 for first-year coach Ken Hatfield. Unfortunately for Agnes, Hatfield loathes snakes, and when he found out that one six feet, six inches long had carte blanche in the players' dorm—suspending herself from lights, sunning on balconies and generally hanging around—he put the squeeze on "the overgrown worm." A modern-day St. Patrick, Hatfield ordered the snake driven from the land.
This came as traumatic news at Hog Headquarters. So much so that Agnes's caretakers, SWC Defensive Newcomer of the Year Tony Cherico and his roommate, running back J.R. Brown, threw her a farewell bash. Snacks were served—some mice, a few rats and a very nice rabbit. "It was kind of sad," remembers Cherico. "Everybody liked Agnes." (Except the snacks.)
And everyone in Arkansas seems to like Hatfield, who replaced the not-so-well-liked Lou Holtz. When Hatfield penciled a new weight room and a renovated athletic dorm onto his wish list, AD Frank Broyles gave it to him and threw in a lavish expansion of the stadium, complete with luxurious sky boxes—Hog Heaven—to boot. The whole enchilada will cost $12.8 million. All Hatfield has to do to stick around and enjoy it is win.
No problem, now that his Porkers are getting the hang of his very own flex-bone. Not the latest Jane Fonda video, the flexbone is a second cousin to the wishbone—only with dressing. It features split ends who actually serve a purpose (James Shibest, who led the SWC last year in receptions with 51, and in receiving yardage with 907, is back), and sometimes it even has a flanker.
Hatfield used the flexbone to make Air Force zoom, beating Notre Dame each of his last two years with the Falcons. "Nobody plays it in the East, so nobody's seen it," says Hatfield. Even if some teams have seen it, nobody runs it like Hatfield, who claims his creation was divinely inspired. "All I've ever learned has come from the Bible," he says. "The flexbone is in there, somewhere."
All he needs is a quarterback to run it. The leading candidates are sophomore Greg Thomas and senior Mark Calcagni. At the end of spring practice, Thomas's quickness and mobility—two vital ingredients for successfully quarterbacking the flexbone—gave him the edge over Calcagni, who has the stronger arm. All the top ground-gainers return, including 5'8", 191-pound fullback Marshall Foreman, who had 866 yards in '84. The defense is sound all around. Nine starters, led by the irrepressible Cherico at noseguard, return. Cherico, a sophomore who goes 6 feet and 231 pounds, is possibly the only interior lineman in the SWC who plays without padding on his arms or hands, even though he's routinely out-weighed by 30 to 40 pounds. "I figure I want to give those guys the smallest possible target to hit," he says.
If the Hog defense doesn't get you, DKB Kevin Wyatt might. What's a DKB? Designated Kick Blocker, of course, and Hatfield says Wyatt, a senior, is "the best I've ever seen." Wyatt, who was All-SWC in 1984 at cornerback with five interceptions, got the job because a) he's fast, b) he's sneaky, and c) he's not particularly averse to having his dental work redone by a size 12. Last year he blocked two field-goal tries.
Wyatt may not be from around this stratosphere, anyhow. He had his heart set on holding his Aug. 17 wedding on the 50-yard line until his betrothed convinced him otherwise. That's a darn shame. Agnes would have made a terrific flower girl.
Whoooo, snake! Sooey!