Newcomers Revel in UA's Opening Day

Razorback rookies talk about their first day of college practice as the University of Arkansas football program gets preseaon workouts underway.

For some of the University of Arkansas football rookies, Monday afternoon couldn't have gotten here fast enough.

That's because many had been working out and pointing to their first college football practice since they signed back in February.

"It got kind of boring working out every day this summer, but I just kept looking forward to this day," Razorback freshman fullback Peyton Hillis said. "It was great being out here around all these guys and working hard. This is a great group that encourages each other and picks each other up."

The 6-2, 230-pound Hillis is just one of the many first-year guys expected to play this season for the Razorbacks, who were hit hard with an exodus of seniors and several juniors that bolted for the NFL.

"That is a reason why a lot of guys chose Arkansas along with the fact that traditionally they are a great team," Hillis said. "There are some really great athletes here and we are all just working trying to get some playing time. But we all really respect those guys ahead of us."

Hillis is certainly not expecting to be handed playing time, especially with what he deems as a great crop of running backs on campus.

"There are a lot of good backs out here," Hillis said. "I am going to have to step up and prove my stuff to get playing time because there are so many really great players around me. I just do my best and see what the coaches think about it."

He's noticed in the summer pass skel workouts and on Monday a big difference in the pace of playing with the big boys.

"It's the speed of the game," Hillis said. "It is so much faster. What I have found out from being around these guys this summer and in this first practice is that you are going to need a whole lot more than just physical ability. You have to have the mentality to come out here and do this every day."

One player who was a ballyhooed recruit but will have to make up some ground is former Little Rock Central defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe, who reported at overweight at 315 pounds.

"I know I should have lost a few more pounds and didn't come in the shape I needed to," Bledsoe said, "but I am going to correct that mistake, lose a few pounds and be ready to compete. I really want to be at 280 and I hope to be at 300 real soon and get on down as the season goes along."

He had several people exhorting him on Monday.

"I know that I have to get in shape, have to be best I can be, have to go hard every play," Bledsoe said. "I had a lot of guys pushing me today, players and coaches. They are just wanting me to be the best I can be. That's all you can ask and I have to bring it for them and myself."

Bledsoe hopes to work himself into someone UA defensive line coach Tracy Rocker can depend on during the season.

"Coach Rocker sit down and told us that the playing time will go to those who get their work done in practice, no matter what class you are," Bledsoe said. "It's just who gets in good quality snaps."

Marcus Monk, a highly regarded football and basketball star from East Poinsett County will play both football and basketball this season for the Razorbacks.

But football is paying the bills and he is putting his full attention on that sport.

"I am all about the football right now," Monk said. "I didn't drop any balls today so it was a good day. It was great to get out here with all the guys and getting with it."

There are certainly more on-field tutors to help Monk out than there was in high school.

"You have a lot more coaches and a lot more attention so I am going to learn a lot each day," Monk said. "I've also got plenty of older players helping me out."

Monk said that started back this summer when many of the Razorbacks skill players got together to work out twice a week. He said senior quarterback Matt Jones ran the show and was a big help to all the new wideouts.

"It helped being out there this summer so today wasn't such a culture shock," Monk said. "You are more in tune to what is going on. Matt knows everything and was a big help. He has really taken us under his wing. They all have."

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