Some of the best college football players around the nation have some unique nicknames.
If there is an NCAA record for the number of broken facemasks in a career than Arkansas’ Kiero Small would top former West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt for the most in his college career in Fayetteville.
The 5-foot-1o, 245-pound redshirt senior fullback has established his legacy in the SEC, with his painful, jaw-breaking blocks thrown on defenders and the number of facemasks he has destroyed since becoming a Hog in 2011. Arkansas’ equipment staff estimates the number being more than 20, with about 10 of those being Small’s very own. The facemasks are bent so bad that they have to be replaced.
Small, a former junior college All-American at Hartnell (CA) Community College has drawn praise from SEC media members and coaches as being one of the top fullbacks in the country coming into this season. Small’s blue collar hard-nosed blocking impact that he brings to a running game is unmatched this day in age, with the height of college football’s spread offenses.
Nobody understands his impact more than the Razorbacks themselves. Last season, the Baltimore native missed the final 11 games due to a non-contact foot injury he sustained in practice. The ground game with Knile Davis, Ronnie Wingo Jr., Dennis Johnson, Jonathan Williams and Nate Holmes struggled without Small paving the way like he did in 2011. Small’s lost was crucial in a 4-8 season ravaged with numerous injuries under John L. Smith.
Small is healthy again after being granted a medical redshirt after last season and he’s motivated to bring the wood this season in first-year head coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney‘s smash-mouth power running offense. Small looks eager for more of a prominent role as a lead blocker in the Chaney attack. Small’s ability to punch people in the mouth in the running game at fullback perfectly fits into Bielema’s Big 10 identity of “normal American football,” running the football excessively and melting the clock. He’s also bought into rebuilding his body the right way with the help of new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert after losing 20 pounds this offseason. Small is motivated more than ever to become a household name in college football.
The Arkansas fullback will dictate whether or not Arkansas can successfully run the football in Bielema’s first season on the Hill.
Bielema sees a possible strong transition for him this season with the best center in college football, Travis Swanson and Small paving the way up the middle for Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and company setting up the running game.
He could be a factor against stopping Arkansas’ pounding running game in 2013.
There’s no question that the facemask-bending fullback is a “match made in heaven” to what the Razorbacks want to build for going into the future at his position.
But the question is who wins in practice between him and Razorback junior linebacker Martrell Spaight? That would be priceless to watch.