As most all of you are aware, the Arkansas Razorbacks opened their spring practices this week. The Hogs are two days into the 15 allotted spring practices in their third spring under "Head Hog" Bobby Petrino.
So far, from year one to year two, the improvement has been evident. Coaches, fans, and players are looking for the Razorbacks largest improvements yet to come this spring.
Day one and day two both were non-pads (just helmets), but several Razorbacks had comments following practice about how hard and physical the practices were regardless.
Veteran defensive end Jake Bequette pointed to red marks and scrapes all over his shoulders, and made a comment about his eagerness to get on pads following day two.
There were many note worthy items from both day one and two; here is a breakdown of each day and the biggest news to come from each practice.
- The Razorbacks were sloppy offensively on day one with a number of passes off the mark and a high number of drops by the wide receivers.
- QB Tyler Wilson had a few exchange problems under center, but coach Petrino said Wilson did a good job for day one being a leader on the field.
- Isaac Madison was impressive on his first day back on the field after missing 2009 due to an injury during two-a-days. Madison is sporting a new number, he chose to get rid of his "bad luck 24" and is now sporting No. 6.
- New assistants Steve Caldwell, Kris Cinkovich, and Chris Klenakis, all made their Arkansas coaching debuts. Petrino joked that he heard a few of them asking assistant coach John L. Smith to make sure they did not get lost out there, and Petrino said he heard Smith say, "that's like the blind leading the blind."
- The Arkansas Razorbacks have a strong competition at running back with four talented backs vying for carries. In day one, Arkansas was seen working with the "pistol" or "shot" formation, and parts of it looked like a triple-option look.
- Ryan Mallett was on the sideline and no longer "riding dirty". He was on his feet (but in a boot) and throwing the ball around on the sideline.
- Quarterbacks Tyler Wilson, Brandon Mitchell, and Jacoby Walker, struggled on day one in their efforts to fill the void for Mallett while he is out for the spring. The Razorbacks dealt with high winds on day one, but Petrino said that was no excuse and they have to come out and execute better.
- Another player injured for the 2009 season that made his return to the field, was Chris Gragg. Gragg was primed for a breakout year in 2009 by all accounts before suffering a season ending injury. He is bigger and stronger than ever and coach Petrino seems excited to get Gragg back out there. He made a comment that they need to put Gragg in situations where he can be successful early.
- Watch our for Lance Ray. Current starting safety Anthony Leon and head coach Petrino both pointed to Ray as a player that is strong and ready to make an impact this season after redshirting in 2009.
- Coach Petrino made a point of emphasis in his post-practice press conference to talk about the auditions being held for the punt return job. The Razorbacks need to greatly improve on their low average from a year ago and Petrino flat out said "we will be better at returning punts this year." On day one, six players were seen fielding puntsand Lance Ray was impressive.
- A few bodies missing or limited in the second day of practice were Andru Stewart (out with an undisclosed injury) and David Gordon who is limited this spring after undergoing surgery during the off-season.
- Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson addressed the media following practice and the top thing he spoke about, that everyone wants to hear, is that the Razorbacks are going to stop allowing the big play in 2010. A year ago, the Razorbacks were the worst in the SEC in giving up big plays and the Hogs would have had a much better season had they been able to contain.
- Robinson also talked about how much bigger and faster the defense appears this spring, but said "We won't know enough until the pads are on Friday". Robinson said competition is strong, and that even budding star Jake Bequette could feel the competition from his fellow teammates.
- Two players the coaches are looking to solidify themselves on the first team defense are safety Anthony Leon and Jermaine Love. The coaches said Love's attitude is much better, and that his off-season work has earned him a shot at winning the first team job. Leon said he was "on another planet" after transferring to Arkansas late from JUCO last year, but that he is on the same page now. Leon's work during the offseason has been receiving the coaches strong praise.
- Another late JUCO transfer showing up on the practice fields in a strong way is Caleb Evans. Evans got lost in the shuffle in 2009, but with Tenarius "Tank" Wright out for the spring, he is getting a lot of quality work at defensive end. Coach Robinson feels he is coming along well and will be able to help out a lot this season
- Three players that contributed in limited roles to look out for in this spring are: OL Anthony Oden, LB Terrell Williams, and DL Colton Nash. Nash spent last year at TE filling the void left by the injured Chris Gragg.
- On day two, the Razorbacks moved their practices into Razorback stadium and the passing game showed a large improvement over day one. Brandon Mitchell out-shined Tyler Wilson on day two. Mitchell connected on a high percentage of his passes, while Wilson also improved connecting on a little over 50 percent of his passes.
So two days into spring practice, and there are some good notes and story lines to follow for all you Hog fans out there. Friday, the Razorbacks take the practice fields in pads for the first time, after a break from practices on Thursday.
We will have a practice report following the players and coaches press conference Friday to fill you in on all of the details and happenings of the day.
The Razorbacks plan to hold their first scrimmage on Saturday; we all know that Bobby Petrino is known for extremely long scrimmages, so, we will have a lot of good news for you following Saturday as well.
Check back for continued spring updates leading all the way up to and following the free Red and White spring game.
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