After a Tuesday practice that left the Arkansas players and coaches entering the media room all drenched in sweat, there is little doubt the Razorbacks are ready to play somebody else.
They’ll get that chance Saturday at 2:30 when UTEP visits for the season opener at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
“We're juiced,” Arkansas offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola said. “You go through all the spring, all the summer and all of fall camp and you see the same guys every time. I love those guys, love them to death. But it gets boring. You want to play somebody else. So finally having Saturday come is crazy, how fast it happened, but at the same time I'm so ready.”
Arkansas junior tailback Alex Collins expressed that same sentiment.
“We have been ready, we have been waiting for this, we look real good out there,” junior tailback Alex Collins said. “Things are going smooth and I just love the feeling. The closer we get the more excited we get.
“We are just polishing everything up and look real good.”
Razorback quarterback Brandon Allen, who goes into the season with more weapons at his disposal, is also ready to hit the field and face a Miners’ defense that blitzes a lot.
“I think we’re very prepared,” Allen said. “Having that extra week last week was good for us. They have some exotic packages in their blitz game, and we planned for every single one they have. Whenever the time comes, we should be able to pick it up.”
He is excited to let the fans see his new receiver corp, including speedster Dominique Reed (6-3, 180, 4.3).
“Very, very confident in our receiving corps,” Allen said. “They’ve come a long way, I think those guys are ready for the game. I think they’re ready for the whole season, I think they’re ready to prove a lot of people wrong in what they’ve been saying about them. They’ve worked extremely hard, they’ve gotten a lot better and I’m excited for them this year.”
Reed is a weapon with height, speed and the ability to go after the ball.
“There’s a lot of speed, a lot of speed,” Allen said. “He can by defenses, can get by defenders one-on-one coverages. He’s got the speed to pretty much outrun anyone, so that’s a big thing I don’t know if we’ve had, really, is that speed and deep threat. He’s tall to go with it, he’s 6-3 to go with it, so he’s just a big, fast target for us.”
Jemal Singleton, the Razorbacks’ running back coach, admits he is very anxious to coach his first game at Arkansas.
“I am just as fired up as the players are,” Singleton said. “You get in the habit of hitting the same guys over and over again it's going to be nice to hit somebody else.”
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman feels like the Razorbacks are prepared to compete.
He noted again that Josh Allen is the only true freshman offensive lineman that will play in the opener and that the plan is still to have starting guard Frank Ragnow be the second center instead of burning freshman Zach Rogers’ redshirt.
“I think we've got a good ballclub,” Pittman said. “I thought we had a good ball club at the end of last year. I think we feel like we can play with whoever's on our schedule. We have to play well to win, and I think that's probably a little bit the way it is with every team in our league.
“I think for people to win they're going to have to play well, and that includes us and includes the other guys in the West. If you don't play well, you're going to get beat. With that said, I think we're preparing very well. I think Coach has a plan for each game. I like the plan that he's done for the first week."
Pittman talked about how there is a Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in the country.
"I got a call in the summer (from Aaron Taylor, former Packer great) basically said we'd be on the teams that they'd look at," Pittman said. "I think it's a wonderful award. Certainly we're just going to play hard and see what happens. I think he (Moore) was an incredible line coach. This is something very well needed as a group, as a unit. I think it's just awesome."
Tretola said there is a swagger among the Razorbacks right now.
“We have a swagger and we have a confidence,” Tretola said. “ At the same time, you don't want to lose the chip on your shoulder. We came into last season planning on winning every single game.
"Now, obviously we couldn't finish for whatever reason there may have been, but this year with the preseason accolades … (ranked) No. 18, No. 7, No. 1, they could have given us No. 1, that shouldn't … I don't think that affects (us).
“We're keeping our heads on straight, keeping our shoulders forward and pressing forward. Once that starts sneaking into the program, then problems start coming. You'll catch guys start playing lackadaisical and kind of taking reps off, and that's now what we want here. We're a grind-first team. Before everything, we grind.”