Local Arkansas football standout Brey Cook has seen a lot, from recruiting death stares to picking up the whistle as a coach and two years of research in order to become a podcast host.
Cook’s connections with Northwest Arkansas predate his time as an offensive lineman for the Razorbacks from 2011-2014. A graduate of Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Cook remembers rooting on the Hogs from an early age.
“My grandpa and my uncle traveled to a lot of the big games,” Cook told Best of Arkansas Sports. “I was fortunate enough to tag along with them. I know we went to our memories of going to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl (in the 2006 season) and the SEC Championship in Atlanta… Just at the time, you know, never thought I would ever play for the Razorbacks or anything like that.”
Despite those early connections to the Razorbacks, Cook was actually dead set on going to Oklahoma after his state championship-winning high school career. When the atmosphere for the annual OU-Oklahoma State game, otherwise known as Bedlam, was nowhere near that of a Hog home game, though, his sights shifted to Fayetteville.
“At the time I was really high on going to Oklahoma,” Cook said. “What should have been the most intense or at least electric game of the season for them, for me kind of fell flat and that was just because of my love for Arkansas. So, it was at that moment, in Norman, that I decided that I was gonna be a Razorback.”
But not before Cook had an intriguing encounter with then-head coach Bobby Petrino. While on a recruiting visit at Florida against the Hogs, he never felt quite right about repping the blue and orange.
“When the Razorbacks went to Florida to play the Gators it was a big game,” Cook said. “(Tim) Tebow was their quarterback and (Ryan) Mallett was our quarterback. I went down there and got tickets through Florida as a Florida recruit.
“I was pulling for the Hogs and I brought my grandpa and my uncle because they had taken me to so many games growing up… We were on the sideline watching them all warm up and I remember Petrino looking across the field and seeing me over there wearing a little blue, orange Gator shirt, and the stare he gave me dang near ripped me in half.”
Brey Cook’s Arkansas Football Career
Whether it was Petrino’s death eyes that sealed the deal or the controversial nature of the loss, Cook knew he couldn’t play anywhere but the team that he and his whole family grew up rooting for.
Cook ended up being a mainstay on some of the most successful Razorback offensive lines in recent memory during his tenure. All told, Cook made 30 starts and helped anchor the 2014 offensive line that opened holes for two 1,000-yard rushers (Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams) under then-offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
Similar to this year’s offensive line, things did not start well. Cook still remembers the conversation after a 28-24 loss to Rutgers in 2013 when, as a junior, he had to stomach the news he was getting benched and switched from guard to tackle. The Razorbacks ultimately allowed only eight sacks that year and ranked third in the country with just 0.67 sacks allowed per game.
“(Pittman) brought me in after film on the following Sunday,” Cook recalled. “He sat me down and said, ‘Hey, it’s not working out. We’re gonna put you back at tackle. We’ll try that again. That’s where you’ve played before, but guard just isn’t quite it right now.’ … I went home pretty frustrated (and) bummed out, but I knew tackle.
“I knew all the assignments, so I was able to just jump back in there. Me being pretty fired up about it the rest of the week, I was able to earn my spot back by the next Saturday.”
Weighing In On the Current Arkansas Football Team
Having had so much success for an extended period of time at the position, Cook wonders if the current offensive linemen have a full grasp of everything that is happening in new offensive coordinator Dan Enos’ system.
Because of that, he believes a lot of the criticism toward head coach Sam Pittman and offensive line coach Cody Kennedy is unwarranted.
“There are so many things that go into it and it all starts with understanding the big picture and then you start to focus in on the little details,” Cook said. “If I’ve gotta sit here and think about, ‘We’re running this play because we want this to open up,’ then what I’m not thinking is ‘I’ve got to take a six-inch step on my right foot, I have eight eight-inch steps, my left hand with a vertical lift with my hips and my thumb and my elbow tight.’
“Coach Kennedy is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country… I know Coach Pittman and have seen him work. If there is anybody in the country that can right the O-Line, it’s those two.”
Adding to all of the moving parts is sliding Beaux Limmer back to center from right guard and the domino effect that has on the line. As someone who played all along the line, Brey Cook doesn’t think position switching should be an issue at this level.
If the Arkansas football staff “believes that he’s able to play center, then he absolutely should be able to,” Cook said. “Even if they don’t believe he can play it, he should be able to. In my opinion, you should be able to be multiple at the offensive line and be able to understand each different position (and) the techniques and the assignments that come with it. If you don’t, I would argue that you’re not prepared to have a lot of success in the SEC.”
Brey Cook as a High School Coach
Brey Cook’s playing days are long behind him, so don’t expect him to come save this offensive line. His game days have shifted to Friday, as he is now the head coach at Pea Ridge High School.
“I fell in love with the putting coaches and putting players in position to be successful,” Cook said. “It means finding ways to get these guys to build relationships with each other as players and to build them with our coaches.”
It should then come as no surprise that it took Cook just a few years to turn the program around. He inherited a one-win team and then won just one game in his first season in 2021, but the Blackhawks won three games last year and started this year 4-0 – their best start since 2018.
As if he wasn’t busy enough already, he also hosts the Coaches and The Mouth podcast with Siloam Springs head coach Jeff Williams and Brent Bender, who’s nicknamed “The Mouth” for his propensity for calling radio shows with intense opinions. The trio covers both Razorback and Arkansas high school football on their weekly show.
Brey Cook Arkansas Football Notes
Started all 13 games at right tackle… Participated in more than 850 snaps and tallied more than 40 knockdowns… Blocked for RBs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, who were the only FBS teammates to each rush for 1,000-plus yards in the 2014 season… Helped protect QB Brandon Allen as the offensive line led the SEC with 14 sacks allowed…at No. 6 Auburn (Aug. 30): Tallied five knockdowns and did not allow a sack in the season-opener… at Texas Tech (Sept. 13): Recorded a season-high six knockdowns while not allowing a sack and paving the way for Arkansas to rush for 438 yards and accrue 49 points in the non-conference road win… vs. No. 6 Alabama (Oct. 11): Registered five knockdowns and graded out at 81 percent.
Appeared in all 12 games and made 11 starts… Started the first four games at guard and moved to starting tackle for the final seven games… The offensive line blocked as running back Alex Collins became the 10th true freshman in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards… Collins and Jonathan Williams became the second Razorback duo to each reach at least 900 rushing yards in one season, joining Darren McFadden and Felix Jones from 2006 and 2007… The offensive line also broke the single-season school record by only allowing 8.0 sacks… Arkansas led the SEC and tied for second in the NCAA with an average of 0.67 sacks allowed per game… The Razorbacks’ average of one sack allowed for every 37.63 pass attempts was the best in the conference and seventh in the nation…
via Razorback Communications
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