Even though coaches are not allowed to be at voluntary workouts during the offsesaon, the veterans on the Arkansas football team that has won 21 games in the past two seasons told the Razorbacks coaches they have been impressed with the newcomers.
At the NWA Razorback Scramble in Bella Vista on Friday, Arkansas coach John L. Smith said that he has been impressed with the newcomers' class attendance and has heard most about the quickness of the the players that have joined the team this off-season.
"This class comes in and our vets will say 'coach, these guys can run. These guys can fly,'" Smith said.
"The basic attitude has been that this is a real good class. It's a great group of rookies that need to get bigger and stronger, but they all can run and they all pretty much have had a great workout to this point. As far as classes go, they've been good, positive, always at class and doing the things they should do.
"I'm knocking on wood. This is a great looking crew from a coach's standpoint."
Arkansas got some big plays out of a few freshman a year ago including Marquel Wade who contributed as a receiver and on special teams. With Wade and a few other pass catchers' statuses in question, the Razorbacks will be looking to some of the newcomers to fill the gaps.
"They're going to have to come in and do some work for us," Arkansas receivers coach Kris Cinkovich said of the new receivers on campus.
"With a guy like Chris Gragg being a weapon for us and now Brandon Mitchell coming in and working, I just don't know how heavy it will be.
"Keon Hatcher is a really polished guy that played in a system where he caught 100 balls last year and that probably lends to it.
"Eric Hawkins has great speed and can really roll.
"I really like MeKale McKay as an athlete and he is going to develop into something tremendous as he has time to mature. Being a basketball player, he probably hasn't spent much time in the weight room, though.
"D'Arthur (Cowan) is here now. The quarterbacks have talked about him having great ball skills and then Demetrius (Wilson) is here and they say he is flat-out fast and can really catch the football.
"Demetrius Wilson is different than those other guys, though, because he was a junior college guy and we signed him to come in and play right away. We've prepped him for some time to do that."
The Razorbacks may look Wilson's way to fill in at punt returner and Smith said Nate Holmes has been working on catching punts as well.
Defensively, Tevin Mitchel and Trey Flowers were key contributors to an 11-win season, but Smith said his hope is that players will not have to be depended upon quite like Mitchel was last season.
"We'll rely on some young guys like Otha (Peters) at linebacker, but Tenarius will help us and Highsmith is looking good and strong coming back," Smith said.
"I think we'll be pretty decent in the secondary. We may have to play some young guys like we did with Tevin Mitchel. And we may have to do that
again, but hopefully in a more limited role than he did did.
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