Arkansas unveiled what Houston Nutt has already dubbed "our best group" with a Monday morning workout for football newcomers that also included tests for the shuttle run, bench press and vertical jump.
"You can see the speed, agility and overall athletic ability," Nutt said after the morning workout. "They run better than our other groups overall. And, they just look the part. They look fit and strong."
The stars of the testing were Batman Carroll, Matt Jones and Marvin Jackson. That trio clocked 3.9 in the shuttle run, a sprint with changes of direction. Carroll did a 35.5 vertical jump.
"I don't know where that stands as far as our records, but that is in the neighborhood of Cedric Cobbs and Fred Talley," Nutt said. "We had a lot of guys run well in the shuttle. That's a great sign of athletic ability and speed."
Nutt decided against timing the newcomers in the 40-yard dash because he didn't want to risk any hamstring pulls. He said, "We know they can run, so we don't want to risk an injury with the season so close."
The newcomers worked for about an hour in the indoor workout area following the tests. They donned helmets and full pads. They split the time between offense and defense.
The highlight came in the passing skeleton drill when Marvin Jackson made a spectacular catch on a post pattern. He left his feet to dive headlong to make a catch in the horizontal position just inches off the turf.
Jackson, who wore a defensive white jersey, received high fives from players and coaches. Wide receiver coach George Pugh immediately turned to secondary coach Dave Wommack to say, "We will find him a red 33 for this afternoon."
Defensive coordinator John Thompson laughed about that after practice. "No, no, no," he said. "Marvin will stay with us. This is a great group. What I love the most is the competitive spirit to go with the athletic ability. They came in competing."
Of the quarterbacks, Tarvaris Jackson displayed the best arm. Ryan Sorahan and Matt Jones also showed flashes of brilliance in passing drills. Of course, Jones dazzled in the shuttle, too.
The three walkon kickers (David Carlton, Ross Novak and Chris Balseiro) all displayed strong legs. Carlton was the most impressive in the first kicking session of the day, booming 42-yarders with ease into a cross wind that quartered against them from the left. It appeared Carlton was the most consistent both when the coaches attended their drills and during their warmup before coaches came outside. Carlton hit several 42-yarders that banged against the top of the Walker Pavilion, suggesting that they might have been good from 55 to 60 yards.
"We've got some good candidates in these three," said Bobby Allen, who served as holder in the kicking drills. "They have good legs. I'd say they all need some technical work from the hash marks, but that will get done. We are going to like what we have in these three."
Ken Turner, former UA kicking coach and tutor to such greats as Steve Little, Ish Ordonez and Kendall Trainor, observed the kickers.
"He just came by," Nutt said. "He's not doing anything other than watching. I think this will be the only day he'll be here."
Turner downplayed his role.
"My daughter lives here and it's her birthday," Turner said. "That's why I came by, just to see some old friends like Wilson Matthews, Harold Horton and some others I've known for a long time. I'm not doing any coaching."
Running backs coach Danny Nutt loved what he saw from his highly regarded group. He said all looked good, but some were in better condition than others.
"I'd say Mark Pierce is in the best shape of all of them, but that is easy to understand since he's been here working out for the last few weeks with our varsity," Danny Nutt said.
Things just improved in the afternoon session on the first day of newcomers practices for the Arkansas football team, according to Houston Nutt.
"They were more relaxed and looked even better this afternoon," Nutt said. "The quarterbacks were much better. I thought they loosened up and threw the ball well.
"Ryan Sorahan has a funny motion, but the ball has good velocity and it gets where it's supposed to be. I thought he had good presence in the huddle. I liked what Matt Jones and Tarvaris Jackson did, too. The quarterbacks had a good first day."
Quarterback coach David Lee talked in excited tones when the three quarterbacks were mentioned.
"Ryan Sorahan's velocity is better than I thought it would be," Lee said. "He can deliver the ball and he is extremely accurate. Matt Jones is much better throwing that what I'd seen on film, just like Ryan. And, Tarvaris has a cannon. Tarvaris overthrew it some, but I think that was just excitement. He was better in the afternoon. I like all three. They are big suckers. I want to keep them all.
"Matt Jones has a lot of potential. He didn't know all the drops, but he is learning quick. I thought he did well today and we haven't even gotten to the (option) stuff that he does so well. He is going to stay at quarterback. I like him alot."
Marvin Jackson, working at cornerback and wide receiver, dazzled with another catch on a bomb, laying out for a second diving catch in as many practices. He did come down out of bounds, but it wasn't his fault since that's where the ball came down.
"Marvin Jackson is special," Nutt said. "No doubt, he can play wide receiver. But, the defensive coaches already say he is their best cover corner. It will be hard to get him on offense, because the defensive coaches will fight me."
All three kickers did better in the afternoon session, leading Nutt to say that he is excited about the prospects of David Carlton, Ross Novak and Chris Balseiro. Carlton seemed to get the best of it for the second straight practices, but none of the coaches would make a statement to that effect.
"I think they are going to keep getting better," Nutt said. "The kickers were a little nervous in the morning and you could see that all three were better this afternoon."
The Hogs did not have any serious injuries and benefited from overcast skies and a nice east breeze. The newcomers will practice twice again Tuesday before breaking for media day on Wednesday when the varsity reports.
The only downer that this reporter saw was the practice field itself. It was resprigged in early summer and has not developed proper root structure. It looks great, but chunks sometimes come out of the ground when someone cuts hard on it. It could be a source of injuries. However, there's nothing that can be done right now, and it will no doubt improve as the summer progresses.
David Carlton (69) boots a field goal.
Matt Jones (above) tests for his vertical jump.
Ryan Sorahan (10) warms up.
DeArrius Howard (32) runs in a drill.
Some veteran observers: (seated) Wilson Matthews and Orville Henry, (second row) Charles Ripley, Harold Horton, Louis Campbell and Ken Turner.