This is my belief after watching the last few days of practice; this is a much improved Arkansas team.
Houston Nutt said pretty much the same thing after practice today, the first time he'd met with the media since the end of the day Wednesday. He didn't entertain media after the closed practice Thursday night.
"I wish we could have scrimmaged more, but we did hit a lot and I think we had a phsyical camp," Nutt said. "If we could have scrimmaged one more time I think we could have showed some people what we've got in some of these guys. I think we've got a good squad.
"I think we are in good shape at running back with Cedric Cobbs, Brandon Holmes and Fred Talley. Cedric has had a lot of contact ... really an awful lot ... and he's handled it well both in the spring and this fall. No question, Brandon is a quicker back this fall than he was in the spring or last year. He's looked extremely good. And, Talley is further along than we ever dreamed. He is going to play, I think."
The good news is that the Hogs are relatively healthy. They have done a lot as far as the physical hitting, but stayed injury free.
"We are going to have almost everyone for the first game, it looks like," Nutt said. "Sacha went down last night and it looked pretty bad right after it happened. It really puffed out. But it's better today. And, he's just so tough. I think he'll be okay.
"So, as far as health, this has been our best camp. I'm pleased with that. You always want to scrimmage more, but we've had the right balance."
Nutt thinks J. Strain will play at tight end in the opener despite missing most of fall camp with a knee injury.
"We will know more after Tuesday, but he's coming along," Nutt said. "I think then we'll know what role he can play."
Defensive coordinator John Thompson was especially pleased with the fall camp on his side of the ball.
"I'm still trying to figure out how many guys we will play," he said. "I like to play a lot. Some years we've played as many as 27 or 28 and usually we've played 25-26.
"How they did today will go a long way in determining how many we will play. We put them through a game-day script ... just bang, bang, bang to see if they know their assignments. We are going in to look at the tape now. If they know what to do, then we can trust them to put them on the field. The physical part they can all handle. I know that now. I want to see if they are going to bust assignments. If they busted today, we'll put them back and play the ones who know what to do.
"We did it really fast, about 40 snaps in 16 minutes. There's not much time to think about it. That is a great test to see what they know."
Thompson has no qualms about putting two true freshmen on the field. That would be Jeb Huckeba at outside linebacker and Ahmad Carroll at cornerback or the "Gator" position, which is the nickel back.
"Those two can play," he said. "I have confidence in them to put them in the rotation. Jeb has come so fast it enabled us to move Gavin Walls to end where we were a little thin. I love Gavin Walls. He is really nasty. He got hurt a little, but we want to get him on the field. We think end will let him turn that nastiness loose."
As far as the kicking game, the Hogs are better. Brennan O'Donohoe has a slight edge over freshman David Carlton at placekicker, but has not cinched the job for the opener.
"We will chart those two all the way through next Wednesday," special teams coach James Shibest said. "If we played today, Brennan would do the placements and David would kickoff. But, we can still make the change. We have been pleased with both. They have been equal all the way, with both charting real well. I don't worry about either one of them and we'll pick one next week."