"It was great to have all the little kids out there with us today," senior defensive end Jake Bequette said. "It was exciting getting the full pads on and we expected to have some live periods today."
Senior linebacker Jerico Nelson could tell the different from the start.
"It was great," Nelson said. "There was a lot more energy with the freshman and the sophomores out with the vets. It was more people coming together and the vets were teaching. It wasn't just the coaches. A lot of us upperclassman were teaching and trying to help them stay focused and learn how we practice."
"It is a little harder to see over the D-line (this year)," Franklin said. "That's the biggest thing right now. We have got some big wide bodies down there."
For redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Robert Thomas, who committed to Arkansas back in 2009, it was a joy to finally put the pads on as a Razorback.
"Man, it seems like was forever to get to this day and I finally got to," Thomas said. "You know how I love to hit."
Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson knows it's a different world with pads on than without.
"When you practice in full pads it is about timing," Robinson said. "It's easy to go 7 on 7 and 1 on 1 without pads, but you got the pads on and the shock resistance type of situation comes up. And the fact that you are working in this heat that they are, it's a lot different conditioning and a lot different response to how you get hit in the mouth as opposed to blocking against bags when you don't have pads on. It looked sharp today. It didn't seem like they were playing slow at all."
Robinson also talked about how the youngsters – who had practiced by themselves for four days – had an eye-opening experience as they joined the vets for the first time.
"I know they are very happy with the fact that they didn't have to go every rep so that was a pleasure for them," Robinson said. "But I think they thing they were awed by is the speed of what the varsity practice is compared to what they had done the last four days.
"It's the pace of everything that we do, moving from one drill to the next drill that we do because the skill level is different at the next step," Robinson added. "But they did good. We kept them afterwards and got more reps with them. It went well for those kids."
One of those kids – freshman Dayvon McKinney – made the move from wide receiver to full-time cornerback on Monday.
"Today we actually brought him over to defense," Robinson said. "If you read the article you guys wrote yesterday, he was all in about the idea. He sees himself as being that guy…He is going to fit our scheme extremely well with his talent. We worked with him. His speed is awfully quick, he has long arms and he is strong for that freshman age so we think the transition is going to be good for him."
Arkansas has continued to use some 5-2 defense in practice with defensive ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright dropping back as linebackers – as they did last year with Damario Ambrose.
"We've done that before so it is not anything new," Robinson said. "We are trying to kill two birds with one stone in the fact that with the four down we have had their hands on the ground for so long. We want to see if it is to our advantage if we put them up and do the same things from a done position…We are trying to do something different with those guys and see how far we can take it."
In that set, Nelson drops back from outside linebacker to play safety.
"I like it," Nelson said. "It is bigger people getting up there for the run."
Juco linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Robert Atiga – both newcomers - have made their mark in practice even as they learn on the fly.
"He (Highsmith) has made great improvement because of it and he is trusting what we are doing with that first unit up front," Robinson said. "His reads are really quick."
Atiga practiced with the youngsters the first three days before moving up to work with the vets on Sunday.
He is running second-team at middle linebacker behind Franklin.
"I pulled him up yesterday and had him work with that first unit," Robinson said. "I think the thing about it is that he understands where he is supposed to be, he just can quite realize how fast. He came off the field at the end of practice yesterday and said ‘oh, my this is really fast.' Of course, that is what the SEC is all about. Today we will see how he played on film and see how that adjustment went."
Robinson notes that the experience on defense allows him to experiment some with guys.
"The continuity has been real good for us and those kids have earned it," Robinson said. "Now it is time for those kids in the first unit to keep it. I think continuity is very important for us and that is where I think we are going to take a big step on defense because those kids have been working together going into their fourth year."
Arkansas will return to practice Tuesday night at 6 p.m. with another full-squad padded workout.
…Freshmen Keante Minor and DeMarcus Hodge were not at practice.
...Freshmen defensive end Lonnie Gosha, who was injured Sunday, did not go through the workout.
…Arkansas senior offensive guard Grant Cook was injured toward the end of practice and did not return. The extent of his injury – which appeared to be a knee – was not known, but he was walking around.
…Defensive tackle Robert Thomas injured himself early in practice and was down for about a minute.
"I was scared for a minute, but I'm fine," Thomas said.
...Fullback Keiro Small was a standout in the team portion of the practice. He is being backed up at fullback by freshman Kody Walker, redshirt freshman Morgan Linton and freshman walk-on Brad Shearin from Jonesboro.
...Freshman quarterback Brandon Allen had several nice throws during the workout and appeared to be working with the third team behind Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell.
…Tight end Andrew Peterson was dressed out, but didn't go through team drills.