Monday Grid Report, 3/22

Arkansas worked for over two hours with one of the team's main cogs missing for the first week of spring football drills.

Arkansas worked until dusk in what will count as its second workout of spring football practice Monday afternoon. The practice started on the practice field and moved inside the stadium for the completion of the day.

Tight end Mason Templeton sustained what Houston Nutt termed a "bad ankle sprain" early in the workout. He hobbled off the field and was taken to the training room with his ankle packed in ice.

"We a good day," Nutt said. "There are a lot of new players fighting for jobs and you could tell that they were fighting hard and listening well. Everyone was very attentive and you could tell that everyone was excited and anxious to get going."

The Hogs used their first practice of the spring on March 11 when they turned a 5:45 a.m. running workout until a spring drill by breaking out the footballs.

"We decided to have a rehearsal with the last of our early workouts," Nutt said. "So this one today is number two for the spring.

"I thought our young quarterbacks looked good, but we had a lot of footballs on the ground. We started the day just working on getting in and out of the huddle and then progressed from there. I see a lot of potential with our young quarterbacks, but we have a long, long way to go.

"I thought Chris Baker had a good day with the wideouts," Nutt said. "All in all, I thought it was a good first day."

Matt Jones, senior quarterback, did not practice. He met with Nutt earlier in the day and asked for the first week of practice off to concentrate on academics.

"There's nothing sinister," said quarterback coach Roy Wittke. "Matt has just played a full football season and half of a basketball season against the top competition in collegiate sports. That's competing at the highest level. He needs some time off, how long I don't know. I think the best way is to take it one day at a time and bring him back when he's ready. He needs some time to work on his academics and recharge his mind and body. I think the coaches understand it and his teammates understand it."

Wittke stayed late after practice, until it was practically dark in the stadium, as Robert Johnson, the heir apparent to Jones, worked on swing passes in the flat to both Kyle Dickerson and Brandon Kennedy. They tinkered with Johnson's timing until both quarterback and coach were satisfied.

"We've got some things to work on and it's far from perfect right now," Wittke said. "Our timing on the handoffs wasn't right either, but we will get there. We missed some connections on both the quarterback-center exchange and the handoffs to the tailbacks. We'll have to do better."

Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was pleased with Monday's workout, especially with the defensive front and the linebackers.

"I thought we picked up things fairly well, but I expect a lot out of those two areas because we've got quite a few that have seen some action at both linebacker and the defensive front," Wommack said. "As far as the secondary, we have a ways to go. But those guys are working hard. We are just real green there.

"I thought Jeb Huckeba and Clarke Moore provided quite a bit of leadership out there today. Arrion Dixon can't do everything since he's coming off shoulder surgery, but he did give us good leadership. He and Elliott Dixon were both vocal today and I think our young guys responded."

The Hogs will work in full pads for the first time Tuesday with a brief scrimmage set for late in the afternoon.

"I know our guys are excited to get it on," Nutt said. "We won't go long, but we are going to hit some on Tuesday."

Asked if the quarterbacks would continue to wear green (no contact) jerseys this week, the head coach nodded in the affirmative.

"There's a fine line," Nutt said. "You want to see them get hit a little, but it would not serve anyone to have a Robert Johnson out this spring. We need him out there for every snap ... so, no, he won't be hit."

Nutt had praise for the tailbacks.

"De'Arrius Howard made a commitment in the winter, and he's down to 225 pounds and is very quick," Nutt said. "He didn't lose one race in any of the running we did. We did all kinds of different distances and he finished first in every line he was in this winter.

"De'Arrius has looked good and so do the other tailbacks, DeCori Birmingham and Dedrick Poole. We've got great competition there. They are all working very hard."

John Jackson, suspended earlier this winter because of an alcohol-related driving offense, was at practice and dressed in his practice gear. But he did not participate in any drills. He did not have his helmet like his teammates for any of the sessions. It was not clear if he would join the action later in the week.

Some of the workout was split between the practice field and Walker Pavilion. Some of the practice field is fenced off while a new indoor weight facility is built as an expansion of Walker Pavilion. Probably three/fourths of the practice field will be available this spring. The linemen went inside Walker Pavilion for about half of the workout while the quarterbacks, backs, wide receivers and defensive secondary conducted passing drills.

Alex Mortensen, part of the Class of 2004, attended the workout and stuck close to Nutt, Wittke and the quarterbacks. The prep star from the Atlanta, Ga., area is on spring break and will watch the Hogs all week.

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