New Coach Turns Over Same Leaf

By Jeff Lippman - October 24, 2007

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Arkansas didn't have a lot of turnover last season. The Razorbacks bring back six seniors and will be by far the deepest team in the SEC next season.

But there was one bit of turnover to speak of. Coach Stan Heath was fired after failing to get out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.

The question for a team picked to win the SEC West division is whether or not new coach John Pelphrey will be able to pick up where Heath left off and take Arkansas even further.

"Anytime there is change, there is a learning curve," Pelphrey said. "I do have a sense of urgency from the standpoint that I have six seniors. I had a special senior year and I want to give those guys a special senior year."

Arkansas is a special team in that they have avoided the one-and-done superstar recruits that are littering rosters across the country. You can't teach experience, Pelphrey says, you can try, but they have a saying for that, "I told you so."

"The more experience you've got, the better off you are," Pelphrey said. "I was much better my fifth year than I was my first. It is a huge difference. It's something I am excited about and glad to have."

One of those seniors, forward Charles Thomas was at SEC Media Day with his teammate sophomore and SEC Newcomer of the Year Patrick Beverley, and while they both respect Stan Heath enough not to say they prefer coach Pelphrey, they do recognize what he will bring to the team.

"I really feel like with this type of offense, we are going to be a better team," Beverley said. "If people saw us last year, I think we got easy points and we're better in the running offense and that is what he [Pelphrey] has to offer. I'm really excited and the rest of the team is too for this upcoming season."

Thomas said the team has had 10 practices thus far and has gone on a trip to Cancun, allowing the team to gel with its new coach.

"The honeymoon period is over right now," Thomas said. "We know what coach Pelphrey wants, we know what he expects. And I am looking forward to the season."

Picked to win the SEC West and with the Florida Gators down, Kentucky having lost a lot of talent and Tennessee being new to this whole basketball thing, the Razorbacks have a shot to leapfrog the pack and win an SEC title this year. A fitting tribute to a team that has come a long way.

But while Thomas says this is Arkansas' year to overachieve, Beverley stays grounded.

"I really feel like we have a lot of work that has to be done," Beverley admits. "It is kinda early to be talking about who is going to win the conference. The type of league that the SEC is, anyone can win the league at any time. Who knows? We'd love to win a championship, but right now we have to take it game by game."

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 02:00 PM on October 24, 2007

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