Co­ley tack­les his­tory of tar­get­ing head on

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - Read Wally Hall’s SPORTS BLOG Wal­ly­likeitis.com

He felt bad the first time and worse the sec­ond.

Arkansas Ra­zor­backs safety De’An­dre Co­ley was flagged twice last sea­son for tar­get­ing. He was ejected both times, and while by the let­ter of the rule he was wrong, nei­ther time was in­ten­tional.

Nei­ther time de­ter­mined the out­come of the game.

Then a ju­nior at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville, the Mi­ami na­tive’s big­gest mis­take was he didn’t play the ball. He never saw it.

Against Ole Miss when he slob­ber-knocked re­ceiver Van Jef­fer­son, the Ra­zor­backs went on to a 34-30 vic­tory.

On an in­com­plete pass against Texas A&M, Co­ley nailed re­ceiver Speedy Noil on a third and 7 to give the Ag­gies a first down, but they WALLY HALL

al­ready were on their way to a 45-24 vic­tory.

Co­ley, who is slated to start at one of the safety spots, has al­ways been a big hit­ter.

His hit on Alabama’s Joshua Ja­cobs forced a fum­ble last sea­son, but his reck­less aban­don and will­ing­ness to cre­ate havoc go back to when he was a kid.

“When I was younger, some of my team­mates would ask me not to hit so hard in prac­tice,” he said Sat­ur­day, sit­ting in front of his locker on the row re­served for se­niors.

Co­ley, who al­ready has grad­u­ated, was signed by then-lineback­ers coach Randy Shan­non, the former Mi­ami Hur­ri­canes head coach. He red­shirted his first sea­son and has made strides as a de­fen­sive back ever since.

He saw ac­tion in 11 games as a red­shirt fresh­man, all 13 games as a sopho­more, and last sea­son he started six. That to­tal might have been more, but those tar­get­ing penal­ties twice re­quired he sit out the first half of the next game.

He had 37 tack­les, forced 2 fum­bles and re­cov­ered 2 last sea­son, but he said he knows he’s re­mem­bered for the plays against the Rebels and the Ag­gies, which he’s not proud of.

“I hated it then and I hate it now,” he said. “Coach B [Bret Bielema] told me I have to play smarter. I’ve worked re­ally hard since last year to learn to play the ball bet­ter.

“I’ve watched hours of films. I can tell a dif­fer­ence on the prac­tice field now. It is easier for me to play the ball.”

Those hours in­cluded watch­ing the plays that drew the flags and un­der­stand­ing ex­actly what he did wrong, but Co­ley also has worked to keep the bal­ance he needs to re­main com­pet­i­tive.

“I can’t quit be­ing ag­gres­sive,” he said. “That’s just not in me.”

At 6-1 and 211 pounds, he has track speed. In high school he ran the sec­ond leg of the 400-me­ter re­lay. He was fast enough that TCU, which re­cruits speed at al­most every po­si­tion, of­fered him a schol­ar­ship.

Mi­ami North­west­ern, his high school, is a pow­er­house and has had sev­eral games tele­vised by ESPN.

Shan­non’s al­lure was enough to get him to Arkansas, and Co­ley has mostly done very well, but from a young age both of his par­ents — Matthew Spikes and Yvonne Co­ley — told him the same thing.

“They said on the field, I have no friends,” he said. “I was told that at an early age, and I do what my par­ents tell me. They also said when I leave the field to leave the ag­gres­sive play be­hind.”

Last sea­son, Co­ley was sup­posed to sit out the first half of the Auburn game, but he in­stead missed it when he hurt his an­kle walk­ing to prac­tice. He wasn’t pay­ing at­ten­tion to where he was walk­ing while talk­ing on his phone, and he stepped in a pot­hole.

He was talk­ing to his mother.

“A lot of peo­ple who saw those hits might think the wrong things about me, and I’m go­ing to prove those peo­ple were wrong,” he said.

Co­ley was un­com­fort­able talk­ing about the two plays that he’s re­mem­bered for last sea­son, but he didn’t dodge the bul­let, just as he doesn’t dodge any­thing or any­one on the field.

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