Bobby Petrino still hasn't decided whether or not Knile Davis will go through any contact this spring, but the Arkansas coach said his star running back is 100 percent.
"Knile has already run a personal best in our testing and PRed in several other areas," Petrino said before the Harrison Razorback Club on Monday night, just two days before the start of spring drills. "He ran the fastest time on our team in testing. He looks great and he is 100 percent to me."
Davis is returning after missing last season because of a broken ankle in August practices. He ran 4.33 last week in the 40-yard dash. He weighed 226.
Petrino said quarterback Brandon Mitchell is ready to go after spending the winter with the basketball team.
"He came to our morning 5:30 workouts," Petrino said. "He didn't do our conditioning or agility drills, but he was there and that was important to the team. He's probably behind, but he's ready to go."
Petrino said Mitchell was sure to make the morning workout after his dunk in the Ole Miss game made the ESPN highlight show.
"I think he wanted everyone to see him that morning," Petrino joked. "I'm sure that's why he came that morning."
Petrino was asked who among the youngsters made a move with impressive performances in the bowl or or offseason workouts.
"I'm excited to see the young secondary guys," Petrino said. "Davyon McKinney is one that has been impressive in testing. When you add a 6-foot plus corner, I really liked that. I was a little nervous because all of his high school production was at wide receiver. But he likes defense. He can be a major plus.
"Kelvin Fisher was really impressive last year in our first three practices at cornerback in August. He had five interceptions. It will be really fun to get a true ball hawk back there. He's got great hands. He was good at running back and he could play running back.
"Rohan Gaines had a great redshirt season. He's fast, tough and looked good.
"At linebacker, Brock Haman was injured (in August) and redshirted. But he came on late in the year. It will be good to see where he fits.
"In the defensive line, the first guy who coms to mind is Horace Arkadie. We were really close to playing him. It was between him and Trey Flowers. It will be fun to see where he fits and we think he will compete for playing time."
Petrino praised Tyler Wilson's winter tape study and said there are some technique things that can improve in the spring.
"Tyler has made a lot of progress," Petrino said. "He's had a great offseason. He's had a great work ethic, come in to watch a lot of video. He wants to understand the fronts, the coverages and that's where he can improve -- knowing the run game better and how to get the runs called in the right place and get out of bad plays.
"We want him to improve the consistency in his footwork. We want him better at how he carries the ball and how he takes care of it in the pocket. At the same time, we don't want to over coach him too much. He's always going to be a little unorthodox and that's how he makes some of the plays that others can't."
Petrino was asked what it would be like to look on the field in practice with Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs gone.
"It will be very, very different," he said. "Weird. We still have a bunch of production back in Cobi Hamilton and Greg Childs. Javontee Herndon has had a really good offseason. He made a lot of plays last year. When you look at his production, sometimes you forget how much he did. He had five catches against Mississippi State and made a big third-down catch.
"On video, you see Julian Horton making plays. When Joe was out his junior year, Julian made plays.
"Marquel Wade is very, very talented."
Petrino noted that the Hogs may be less in a five wideout set this year than the past two.
"I think we could be in more two-back sets, with two wide and two tights," he said. "That's a great formation to run the ball. We might not be as much five wide as we have been. The two back set wasn't as big a part as our offense as last year but it might be this year."
Petrino said Taver Johnson, the new UA linebackers coach, reminds him of Paul Petrino, his brother. He said both coach with a lot of enthusiasm and intelligence. He said he's interested to see how players react to Johnson when they begin spring drills.
"He reminds me of Paul," Petrino said. "Both are high strung. I am interested to see how our players react to his energy."
The Hogs are learning a new defensive language under coordinator Paul Haynes and Johnson.
"It's new terminology, really a new language," Petrino said. "It might be the same calls, but it's all different. For instance, we had a call last year that was Falcon, Sting, Two trap. That same call is now Florida, Sharp, Fire.
"That's hard on our defense, but they have done excellent at learning."
Petrino said the goal of each player is to become the best at their position in America.
"A year ago, we had D. J. Williams win the award as the No. 1 tight end in America," he said. "So we have examples of that. He won the award so we know he was. Before that, Darren McFadden was the best running back in America. He should have won the Heisman. No question, he was the best. He deserved it. He got ripped off. You have to deal with it.
"But in the SEC, we want our players to become the best at their position, experts at their position."
In the question and answer session, Petrino said there are four things that Haynes believes in that will help the defense.
"Coach Haynes and (defensive tackle coach Kevin) Peoples really emphasize as the number one thing shedding blocks. They coach that every day. Number two, they coach getting to the football full speed. It isn't just running to the football, it is getting there full speed. I've seen Coach Haynes coach that. Number three, it's new drills in tackling. He's an expert at teaching that. He coaches stepping to contact. It's different drills than what we've had. Then number four is getting turnovers. We have done that here. But some of that is getting a lead and getting the other team to pass so you can hit the quarterback."
Petrino was asked about the new signees and he mentioned several. But of special note was the phone work that wideout coach Kris Cinkovich has been conducting with junior college transfer Demetrius Wilson.
"There are ways that you can take advantage of computer technology," Petrino said. "You can start learning the offense and the playbook so you are ready to play early."
The best question came near the end of the session. Petrino was asked how he would get Knile Davis to top form by the third game of the season.
"Is game three very big?" he said. "I know who it is. He's in good shape.
"Anytime you are away, it takes awhile to get your instincts. He'll need a bunch of reps to get instinct and vision back.
"When we did cutups of our backs to show recruits, one thing we noticed different from Knile and Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo, was that Knile got to top speed quicker. It was good for Dennis and Ronnie to see that. He gets to 4.33 right now.
"He is a home run player. He helps me with our play calling. He gets it in the end zone and I don't have to call as many plays."
Petrino, as he talked about Brandon Mitchell playing basketball this winter, reminded fans of his basketball ability. He said he went from football to basketball in a hurry. He recalled playing against Gonzaga point guard John Stockton.
"I held him to 25," he said. "I do remember that I scored 17 against him. I also remember that I got a technical foul. That's probably when I learned not to like officials."
Petrino: Davis Clocks 4.33
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