State of the Hogs: What to Watch?

It's time to get a peek at the 2015 Arkansas football team. Here's some items a reporter plans to watch when the spring practice gates swing open Tuesday afternoon.

I will be like a kid in a candy store a little after 4 p.m. Tuesday. It's my first time to see the Arkansas football team since the 31-7 dismantling of Texas. What will I watch?

It will be a little bit of everything, from the way players carry their weight, from who lines up where and just getting the eye balls on some of the new players like Ty Storey, Jeremiah Ledbetter and Hjalte Froholdt.

It's a matter of being productive with close to three hours of eye time. It's about what you can learn from the 30 minutes of pre-practice until the interviews some 45 minutes after practice. The three practices before spring drills were closed so this, the fourth practice of spring, is the first one open to the media.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema tries to get as much meeting time wedged between practices as possible for the 15 workouts of spring. The Hogs will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the next four weeks before concluding with the spring game at 1 p.m. April 25.

"We have done this for quite some time," Bielema said. "We want a day of meetings following every practice to teach and learn in the class room with the tape to watch. We think players make the most progress with this style."

It's a chance to see three new coaches in action, including the new play caller, offensive coordinator Dan Enos. That's Bielema's new quarterback coach and the former head coach at Central Michigan. It will be interesting to watch Enos put quarterbacks Brandon Allen, Austin Allen, Rafe Peavey and Storey through their paces. How are the practices different?

Jamel Singleton is the new running backs coach. He's got a few tricks for some old hands like Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Singleton has a string attached to the football for some drills to work on ball security. I'm interested to watch that drill.

Vernon Hargreaves takes over as linebackers coach. His task is to get the young ones like Khalia Hackett, Randy Ramsey and Dwayne Eugene up to speed in the packages that defensive coordinator Robb Smith installed last year. Those three linebackers were in the Class of 2014 and are highly regarded. Can they mentally keep up with Brooks Ellis and Josh Williams, the older linebackers?

Elsewhere on defense, I want to see the quickness of Ledbetter and the strength of Froholdt. The Hogs lost two good ones in Trey Flowers and Darius Philon in the defensive front. Rory Segrest thinks there is growth in the line with the returnees, led by JaMichael Winston, Deatrich Wise, Taiwan Johnson, Bijohn Jackson, DeMarcus Hodge and Tevin Beanum. Jackson has developed a burst after dropping some pounds over the winter. Ledbetter is said to be quick enough and strong enough to play all four spots in the line. Froholdt is beast-like. But I want to see with my own eyes.

Does Santos Ramirez really look like a safety who can play cornerback? Is Jared Collins gotten any bigger? He's always looked too tiny for the SEC, but plays bigger than he looks. What about Henre' Toliver? He was rail thin last year, too. Josh Liddell may be the next fine free safety for the Hogs. He looked the part against Texas. How much has he grown and how does he move?

Offensively, I'm curious to how the guards move. Frank Ragnow was among the most coveted players in the Class of 2014. He's penciled in at right guard. His quickness and speed along with Tretola give Enos a pair of guards more capable of pulling and leading the way on screens. Tretola continues to drop weight. The sky is the limit for this big man, but the eyes want to see it.

The tackles continue to fascinate me. That's where this line may improve the most. It seemed like an obvious move for Denver Kirkland to take the blind side, the left tackle spot. He's the best pass protection linemen. His feet are amazing. Jalen Merrick backs him up and he might be as good a mid-term arrival as the Hogs have gotten from the high school ranks. Dan Skipper, down to 307 or thereabouts, takes over at right tackle, but can he old off Brian Wallace, another phenom from the Class of 2014.

Then there's the wide receivers, with Keon Hatcher always leading the way. He's the tape king of the receivers. He may get to play a little more in space than last year, thanks to some new wrinkles from Enos. I'm interested to see how much Jared Cornelius and JoJo Robinson have developed. Cornelius played some as a true freshman after arriving last winter. Robinson is a redshirt freshman and is probably one of the quickest and fastest of this group, something the offense lacks. Is he progressing?

I want to see the kickers. What kind of range does Cole Hedlund give the Hogs after redshirting last season and spending most of his time with strength coach Ben Herbert. And, just what does this entire squad look like after another eight-week period with Herbert?

That's just a tiny bit of what I want to see Tuesday afternoon. I can hardly wait.

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