Hogs Bounce Back after Start of Class

Three days into classes, the Arkansas football team figured out how to eliminate the distractions with a solid Wednesday practice.

It's the first week of class. It's a good thing that there are two weeks of campus activity before the opener against Texas-El Paso on Sept. 5. Or, maybe all it took was two days of class to handle the extra work load.

Either way, Arkansas had a much better practice Wednesday than on Tuesday when at least some members of the football team let distractions become a burden.

"I don't know why it's like this, but it always is," linebacker Brooks Ellis said after Wednesday's workout. "We were much better today. It's like this every year."

Secondary coach Clay Jennings said, "We were really good today. There were no walking zombies. It was solid with great energy. I think maybe yesterday with everyone back on campus, maybe some didn't eat enough, fuel properly. Maybe they stayed up too late talking with friends. But they were with it today, so maybe they figured it out.

"What you have sometimes is the young guys are adding one more thing. They just have more on their plate. We haven't added study hall, but there will be a little more then."

Classes began Monday. So it was actually the third day of classes. Defensive line coach Rory Segrest said it's about learning to tune out the distractions.

"It was like they were distracted yesterday," Segrest said. "It was a little lack of focus. But whatever it was, it was gone today. It was a very good day. I think some guys got some sleep, some rest. When you start classes, there just is a lot more going on."

Segrest liked what he saw from what's turning into one of the team's strengths, the depth in the defensive line. Earlier in the day head coach Bret Bielema talked about Segrest's rotation expanding to possibly 10.

"We do have two deep everywhere and we probably have two more," Segrest said, noting 10 might be the right number. "We've got Mitch Loewen and Karl Roesler in the rotation. Mitch can play the end position and the (defensive tackle). Karl can play the end positions.

"We are much further ahead than we were last year. Our starters were good, but there was a dropoff between the ones and the twos. We couldn't play the twos and the ones probably played too much. There wear and tear in the season. It shows up at the end."

Bielema also highlighted the progress with the top two interior linemen, nose tackle DeMarcus Hodge and defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson.

"Both of them worked on their weight in the offseason, both in opposite ends of the spectrum," Segrest said. "DeMarcus had to redefine his. He lost some and just generally is in better condition. He can go a lot longer. Taiwan played nose at 260. He's 285 to 290 now. He can handle the run game better. Both of them are playing well."

Both Jennings and Segrest remember where the team was two weeks into camp last year. They marvel at the improvement. It's significant at both the secondary and the defensive front.

"I don't go back and look much at last year's practice tapes," Jennings said, but noted there was no doubt at what he'd see as the difference. "I do think you need to reference history at times. The one thing that I'd say is different, our kids are a heckuva lot more confident than we were at this time last year.

"I also think there is a heckuva lot more knowledge in the system. If you see our Hoganeese sessions, you could really see the difference. They know it now. That translates into the ability to make more plays, be in the right spots."

Jennings has coached corners for several seasons and has seen his fair share of good ones in his time at TCU. How often has he had the depth that the Hogs possess now with Jared Collins, D.J. Dean, Henre' Toliver and Cornelius Floyd? Ryan Pulley has turned heads from the freshman ranks, too.

"It's been a minute," Jennings said, an obvious understatement. "It's been awhile since I had three, possibly four. As a group, I'm pretty pleased."

There was praise for all of the corners, along with safeties Josh Liddell, Rohan Gaines and Kevin Richardson. Jennings said Richardson is the backup at both free and the nickel back. Santos Ramirez is the backup at strong.

"Kevin knows them both," Jennings said, who then praised Liddell for special work.

"Josh has had a great camp. He's accepted the role as leader and has been great at communication. His growth has been tremendous. He started the bowl game, started against Ole Miss and also had 15 solid practices in the spring. He's never missed a beat at any point. He's stayed healthy this camp and fought through adversity when he was tired and kept fighting and getting things right with his keys.

"We are also pleased with the development of our safety group. Santos Ramirez, we are pleased with him. He's had a great week."

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