When you say a team has matured, sometimes it is not about the physical development. It can be about the way players face a challenge, the mental attitude that they carry.
That's what Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino spoke about Thursday afternoon following a practice in Reynolds Razorback Stadium ahead of this week's matchup with top-ranked Alabama, the defending national champion.
"We've done a nice job this week," Petrino said after what he called a mental workout after two tough grinding physical practices.
"We've had good meetings. We've had good execution. There are things we still need to work out in our mental preparation over the next day and a half before the game, but we have had a good week."
A year ago following a 35-7 loss to Alabama, Petrino said the Hogs just didn't believe they could win that day and said the mistakes that happened were somewhat caused by that lack of confidence. That's not the case with this team. That's part of that maturity.
"Our confidence is very good," Petrino said. "It shows up in the way we practice, the way we prepare. We do know that it's going to be a battle. It will be hard fought. There will be times we do well and we are successful and there will be times that (Alabama) does well and makes plays. We have to just keep playing to the end. When you can do that, it's a sign of a mature team."
Petrino was asked about the focus on the Arkansas running game, lacking in the first three weeks.
"We've worked really hard on it this week," he said. "We have had an emphasis on improving the run game."
Practices have been tough. The focus has been on hitting. But, he said, that's no different than any other week.
"It's been nice and physical," he said. "This week has been the same drills, same schedule, that's one of our keys, to keep doing what we do. Preparation doesn't change. Tuesday and Wednesday were physical and today was more mental and focused on the speed of the game."
The Razorback coach knows that the matchup of top 10 teams has changed the schedule of some, mostly students. He's aware of the camps that have sprung up in the student lines to get the best seats Saturday. There are tents for several hundred yards outside the gate the students will stream in before the kickoff.
"Yeah, that's awesome," he said. "It's so nice to have a game of this magnitude. It's great for the students, the university and it's great for our state. I think we all look forward to Saturday."
It could be that Dennis Johnson is at the game Saturday. Johnson was injured against Louisiana-Monroe. The Razorback tailback had to have surgery to repair his bowel. He spent most of the previous week hospitalized. He attended practice Thursday.
"I'm not sure if he'll be on the sideline or not," Petrino said. "We need to get a little closer to the game and see how he is, but he was out there with us yesterday. It was great to see his smile. He was glad to be out there. He's lost a lot of weight, but he's eating now and things are going through the right way."
Would Johnson be eligible for a medical redshirt?
"We haven't even talked about any of that," Petrino said. "Maybe we will sit down and visit about that sometime next week."
Thursday Grid Update, 9/23
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Scout On the Road: SeptemberScout takes a look at some of the top prospects we saw in person during the month of September...
Scout FootballWednesday at 2:00 PM
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM