State of the Hogs: What's for Dinner?

If you want a true appreciation for where this Arkansas team is headed, spend an entire spring practice watching the offensive line. It's like the best steak at dinner, big and beautiful.

This will be impossible for most. The temptation is too great to just focus on the quarterbacks and wide receivers throughout a Bobby Petrino practice.

But the next time you can wiggle free, attend an Arkansas spring practice and watch the offensive line from start to finish. Better yet, try to focus on the center and guards. You'll actually see the tackles, too, in your peripheral vision. Watch all of the offensive line drills. Leave the stadium when the linemen head to the practice field for one period of work on the sled. I'm talking about watching the O-line every second of a two-hour workout.

Do not watch the pass skeleton drills when the line is removed and the quarterbacks get in about 42 throws in 7-on-7 action. It's fabulous stuff, but skip that part for the duration. Stick with the big men.

If you can, you'll understand why this will be a good offensive line in time. There are athletic monsters in that bunch and they are being taught superb fundamentals by an outstanding line coach, Chris Klenakis.

You'll see the one-on-one battles between the offensive and defensive linemen. They happen throughout the day, often when the skilled athletes are throwing the ball elsewhere on the field. Your eyes will want to slide to those beautiful spirals finding hands all across the middle of the field. But press on.

When the team comes together for 11-on-11 work, concentrate on the center. Keep your eyes in the trenches. You'll like what you see. The centers and guards will take you to the ball as the play develops. You'll understand the talent that's on this team.

The offensive tackles -- Brey Cook and Anthony Oden with the ones and Grant Freeman and Jason Peacock with the twos -- have their hands full with a talented bunch of defensive ends. But they win their share of the battles. Each day it's a little more of an even situation.

But don't expect the offensive line to dominate. What I see happening in the defensive front is special, too. Line coaches Steve Caldwell and Bobby Allen have their guys on the rise, too.

There are no easy days for either side and that's the way a good team develops. Robert Thomas, the juco transfer working with the ones at defensive tackle, is an athletic behemoth. There have been few like him at Arkansas. He will remind you of some of those Alabama inside linemen.

Even on days when there is no tackling, the hitting up front is intense. You'll be rewarded with knowledge of why this is going to be another good Arkansas team, a real player in the nation's best division, the SEC West.

It takes real staying power to accomplish the goal. But it's a treat if you can pull it off. You'll know why I believe this is the most talented group of offensive linemen ever to wear a Razorback on their helmet. They aren't ready yet. I'm not sure when that will happen, but when you watch Klenakis train them, you know it's going to be sooner rather than later.

No doubt, what Petrino does best of all the coaches I've been around is develop quarterbacks. Two old friends had an open day last week and drove several hours for a workout. I suggested the scrimmage, but Friday worked better for their schedules.

No big deal. Any day to watch a Petrino practice is worthwhile. It's like a three-ring circus. No, there are probably closer to five or six things happening at once. Both of my friends played the game and understand it. They marveled at what they saw, both the number of pure athletes on the field and the number of quality linemen getting solid workouts on both sides of the ball.

It's those line prospects that signal the arrival of Arkansas to the SEC dance. The Hogs have had backs before, but rarely have they trotted out so many beautiful, beastly men on both sides of the line. Don't forget, more are on the way this summer when the rest of the 2011 class arrives.

Mitch Smothers and Marcus Danenhauer will add to the O-line ability. On the defensive front, the new studs that will join Robert Thomas, already turning heads in practice, are Grady Ollison, Lonnie Gosha, Austin Beck, Trey Flowers, Horace Arkadie, DeMarcus Hodge, Darrell Kelly-Thomas.

Yes, quarterbacks are the eye candy. Petrino will have them. Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell are being pushed to the limit in a tough competitive environment. If you listen to Petrino's voice above others, you'll know when they make a mistake and how that battle is progressing.

It may be too much to take your focus away from that. But if you can, there is a T-bone steak perfectly marinated being prepared elsewhere on the field. It's juicy. Yes, find the beef for a spring practice field. It's what's for dinner in the SEC. As they say when the best steak is served, enjoy.

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