Hogs try to shake off rust

Arkansas returned to the practice field on Tuesday and while there was some rust, Jim Chaney said he didn't see turnovers. Sam Pittman likes what he sees at center.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney noticed the "rust" when spring drills resumed after 11 off days, but said the real test will be Thursday when the installations pick up.

"Well, sure, there was rust today," Chaney said. "But there were not a lot of mental mistakes. We didn't install much. We were just seeing what the recall was before we do more installs.

"You know there is some rust that comes with taking off a week. But it wasn't bad. What I liked, we didn't have many turnovers. We worried about that after spring break, but we didn't see that.

"We'll push the install the rest of the week. We'll challenge them with some third down installations on Thursday and there will be a lot more volume there."

That might push the youngsters at wide receiver, junior college transfer Cody Hollister and freshman Jared Cornelius. Both were midterm arrivals and are high in the depth chart through four days of spring drills.

"There is a learning curve for Jared and Cody and with the young quarterbacks, but they are all doing well," Chaney said. "We'll find out a little more about them the rest of the week."

Chaney praised the work of the offensive line, noting there is improvement at center where Luke Charpentier is listed at first team. Line coach Sam Pittman said Charpentier is "our first teamer," but noted that backup Cordale Boyd "got a full rack with the ones in team."

"Center, well, I'm not going to call it a surprise, because I thought we had good guys there in Charpentier and Boyd," Pittman said. "But of all what I've seen at spring, that's one of the spots that I really like so far."

There is a scrimmage planned for Saturday.

"That's always a big day, the first spring scrimmage," Chaney said. "That's where we'll find out about toughness and see where we are as far as execution of the offense. We'll put the ball down and see if we can win first down and be smart and not turn the ball over.

"We had a few drops today that we hadn't had in the first week (before spring break), so that was disappointing. I just think when you put on pads, things change a little bit and we saw that with some today. You get hit, the whole game changes."

Wide receiver coach Michael Smith said he'd hoped that his group was past the drops.

"Maybe it was rust," he said. "But we lost a little focus. We had been catching it good earlier in the day but had a couple of drops when we got to team. It was right out of the chute when we got to team and we have to be better than that."

Practice was closed and there was no mention where the drops came from, but Smith praised his newcomers at wideout and also the work from senior Demetrius Wilson, returning from August knee surgery.

"I'm very impressed with all three," Smith said. "They have made tremendous strides picking things up, both Jared and Cody. We made some things simple for them, but they have picked up what we gave them.

"I think you see great ball skills from both of those guys, Jared and Cody. Without a doubt, Cody brings a bigger, more physical guy to our offense. Jared, everyone knows he's got speed and quickness, but what I see also is very strong hands.

"It's great to have Demetrius back. It starts with just having him in the (meeting) room. And he's caught the ball well in our four practices. He can run, even with that brace."

Hollister said he tried to keep the rust from settling in with a lot of work over spring break back in Bend, Oregon.

"My high school quarterback was back in town and he threw to me," Hollister said. "I tried to get in a lot of running and a lot of routes."

Hollister looks forward to Saturday's scrimmage when the hitting will pick up.

"I'm very pumped for the scrimmage," he said. "So far the defense hasn't been able to go live and we know that changes then. We know they haven't been able to give us everything they have and it's going to be fun.

"I'm a bigger, physical receiver and I love that part of the game, so I look forward to it.

"There's been a lot of press coverage and I love that part of the game, too. It's going to be great to get to the scrimmage."

Pittman said he didn't need to see a scrimmage to work on physical play.

"Every day is a good day to be physical for an offensive lineman," Pittman said. "We've got a ways to go, but I think our technique is improving.

"I'm excited about what I see from the O-line group. We've got a good group of old guys and we have some good ones coming in for the summer. I think we'll have 10 nice linemen to go compete with in the fall. I believe that.

"I think the time Luke has spent here learning is showing up. He may not have been out on the field in the stadium a bunch (for games), but he's practiced an awful lot.

"To learn behind a guy like Travis Swanson -- a great one -- has really helped Luke. You see that. He's serious about it and he plays hard. I think he'll be ready. I like where he's at right now."

There was some talk about getting Boyd work at guard and center, but Pittman has been reluctant to give him anything but repetitions at center so far in spring drills.

"Not yet, not any snaps at guard," Pittman said. "Right now, he's just getting center snaps. He's not played there much and we want to be sure he has all of that down. Later in the spring, we might give him some at center."

The competition is heavy at left guard, the spot Dan Skipper vacated with a move to left tackle. Grady Ollison has been the first teamer, but was slowed with an ankle sprain Tuesday.

"We rolled guys in at left guard when Grady was out today," Pittman said. "Mitch Smothers got the work with the ones, but we also looked at Johnathan McClure, over from right guard. Reeve Koehler got some snaps there at left guard, too."

The move for Skipper appears to be paying off.

"I think so," Pittman said. "I like him there. It's hard to go from guard to left tackle. That's never easy. You have to realize he's only been on campus for about six months. What he's still got to do out at tackle in his pass protection, is to learn to strike. That's going to be fun. He will get it, too."

Pittman is looking forward to watching the guards develop. He said there wasn't a lot of plays for a pulling guard in last year's offense, something he wants to change. He said the newness with Denver Kirkland and Skipper didn't allow for it.

"Our pulling plays were with our center and tackles," Pittman said. "We like to pull our guards. It remains to be seen if we can with this set, but we are going to look at that later in the spring and see what they can do. We've got some plays for guards (that pull) and we'll see how they do with them."

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