After giving his team two days of rest over the weekend, Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino expected his team to be all business in Monday night's practice.
That's exactly what he got as the Razorbacks prepare to open the season Saturday night with Missouri State.
"Well, it is good to be in game week although the issue is how we practice," Petrino said. "We are making this week all about us – how we take care of our business, how we prepare in the classroom and how we practice on the field – and we have have got to push ourselves with the right attitude to get better every rep that we get in practice.
"I really like the way our players came back from their two days off," Petrino said. "(Arkansas strength and conditioning) Coach (Jason) Veltkamp told me they grinded real hard in the weight room today and then we came out and had great enthusiasm and we got a lot accomplished in practice today."
Arkansas will not normally practice on Monday during the season, but squeezed in this workout after going to class.
"We really went back to our camp stuff where we do a lot of technique and fundamental work and made it about us getting better at our position today," Petrino said. "Obviously tomorrow we will get into game plan and stuff. I am excited to get going and certainly I think our players are, too."
While Ronnie Wingo was listed as the starter at tailback, De'Anthony Curtis was listed as his back-up instead of Dennis Johnson, who has been injured.
"He (Wingo) has done a really nice job," Petrino said. "He has concentrated hard on getting to your speed quick. He is working hard on his conditioning. That is something that has been new to him. When Knile goes down, he gets more reps. A year ago you had four guys back there splitting reps. They were the freshest group after Thursday's practice of anybody.
"But now they get more reps and it challenges his conditioning and his recovery," Petrino continued. "He is getting in the ice tub, coming in and getting stretch and getting the full massages – everything you have to do when you take that many reps."
Curtis was recruited as a running back, but went into this season as a cornerback ready to be in that rotation before Davis was lost to a season-ending injury.
"I also like De'Anthony Curtis, he has done a really nice job for us," Petrino said. "It has been a pleasant surprise coming back over from defense, understanding the offense so quick. Like I said the other night – he is the ultimate team player and we are certainly rooting for him to do real well."
Because of the injury, Johnson has been supplanted as the kick returner by true freshman Marquel Wade, who Petrino noted earlier had two returns for touchdowns in a recent scrimmage.
Kelvin Fisher is listed as the back-up kick returner.
"There really hasn't been any competition for the job in the last week," Petrino said. "It's just been Marquel back there and Fisher has done a good job and had a real nice return the other night. Those are the two guys getting the reps and Dennis really hasn't been practicing.
"He (Wade) is really explosive," Petrino added. "One of the things we have really be working this year is having competition on how fast their first 10 yards are. Working on the idea that makes the difference when I catch the ball – my explosion and my first 10 yards. He is really explosive on that and got great vision and can really cut on a dime. I think before it is over he will be a real special return guy for us."
There were ties listed at one of the wideouts with Cobi Hamilton or Greg Childs and a continuing battle at tackle with freshman Mitch Smothers or junior Jason Peacock at that spot.
"They (the offensive linemen) are going to compete throughout the week," Petrino said. "They basically have been competing all preseason. Both of them have some things that have to improve at. Peacock, one of them, is getting off on the count. He has been jumping the count and having penalty issues. He has to be more disciplined. He is a very, very talented young guy, but needs to be more disciplined.
"Smothers, he just needs to keep getting better," Petrino added. "He is a great technician. He is probably as good a pass set guy as we have. He just needs to keep focusing and playing one play at a time and limit his mistakes. I think it is real important (starting guard) Grant Cook does the job of helping him out. Whoever is in there at that position. Grant is the one with the experience. He has been in this offense now for four years. He has to control the line calls and help those guys grow up in the offense."
Freshman Brey Cook was listed as a back up at tackle and sophomore Chris Stringer as the top reserve at guard even though both have worked at the two spots.
"They will still work at both," Petrino said. "That's why I hate these depth charts. When you set it up on that, he (Cook) is probably going to practice more at that strong tackle position, but it will rotate between him and Stringer between guard and tackle. We feel like the two of them play both positions."
Colton Miles-Nash is listed as the starter at tight end with Chris Gragg as his back up, but Petrino again says that is misleading.
"They are both starters and it really just depends on what package we are in," Petrino said. "They both do different things well and they both have different talents. Colton is a very physical blocker. I have been very impressed with his route running and his ability to catch the ball with his hands. Chris is that explosive guy that can really get down the field. He has done a nice job of running with the ball after the catch.
"Really when you look at our offense with the fullback, three wide receivers, a couple of tight ends, we probably have 13 or 14 guys that you would consider starters," Petrino added.
Freshman defensive end Trey Flowers was listed as the back-up to Tenarius Wright as he continues to battle fellow rookie Horace Arkadie.
"It's kind of been a competition between him and Arkadie," Petrino said. "Both have done real well. They are still going to practice, they are still going to get reps and go into the game and see who it is. It is a little misleading because in some packages D.D. Jones plays defensive end, but we list him inside as a tackle. Trey has been very explosive and he has very, very long arms. He has a great motor and just plays hard all the time."
There was no third-team quarterback listed – something that prompted a question on whether a decision had been made on whether freshman signal caller Brandon Allen would be redshirt.
"No, not really," Petrino said. "Really it is just an indication of listing two quarterbacks. We have had no decisions made on Brandon. He continues to get better. He took reps in practice today. He has a quick release and is very accurate and we like everything we have seen about him. He came out and scrimmaged the other night."
While Tyler Wilson is the starter, the other quarterback named Brandon (Mitchell) had an impressive night in a scrimmage last weekend.
"Brandon Mitchell had his best scrimmage since he has been a Razorback and that was great to see," Petrino said. "It gives you comfort that he will definitely be in the game and play in the game."
Arkansas' first four games seem to have them taking a step up each contest – with Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy and Alabama a rising challenge.
"I have a hard time with the fact that we play Alabama so early every year," Petrino said. "It would be nice if they rotated the schedule, but that is never going to happen because they have all the tradition. But I think our preseason schedule sets up good. We get an opportunity to play hard and play well and get a lot of guys with experience in the games."
Petrino expects a mental challenge from Missouri State.
"They are going to come out and play a 3-4 package on defense and they are good at it," Petrino said. "They will move their defensive front a bunch, blitz us and give us different line games. They are young on defense. They lost some really good players on defense from a year ago.
"Offensively, they are going to challenge us with our discipline, making sure we are good with our eyes, play our assignments and play fast," Petrino added.