Arkansas had what Houston Nutt termed "our best bowl practice ever" on Thursday at Walker Pavilion. The Hogs scrimmaged the redshirts and walkons in a 90-minute drill that was full of impressive hits and aggressive plays.
"This is what it's all about," Nutt said. "This is our best bowl practice ever. We had enthusiasm, great effort. Our guys had a great day. I'm pleased.
"Today, we did a lot of fundamental work, and then we scrimmaged the young guys. That's been a good reason bowl teams usually get better ... they get that extra spring practice to work and look at the young players. We scrimmaged for about 20 plays, and I liked what I saw.
"Guys like Pierre Brown, Clarke Moore, Lorinezo Robinson, James Johnson ... they made plays. Johnson made two big plays on the goal line."
Nutt was asked if the speculation concerning interest Notre Dame might have in him for their vacant coaching job had hurt recruiting.
"Based on what I've heard today, I'd say no," he said. "I've had several recruits call me and I'd say the feedback I've had is that it hasn't hurt. We've been able to tell our recruits that we have the kind of coaches here that others would want."
Nutt emphasized that he has not heard anything from Notre Dame officials, nor does he expect to hear from them at this point.
"I think we are doing well in recruiting," he said. "One of the big reasons is that our players are great recruiters. I've heard from players and the families of recruits who have been here on visits. Most of them have been on two or three visits already and have something to compare, and they said this was the best place. I think it's because of our players.
"One reason we recruited so well last year was because of the players that are here. We had won six games last year, and our players were so positive that we were going in the right direction. That's what the recruits hear. The players don't do anything but tell the truth. And, at some places, you don't get the right picture painted by the players. They do a great job here."
The Hogs worked on the indoor practice field because of a mistake with the watering system outside.
"Two days ago, someone hit the wrong switch and the water came on at the practice field, and it stayed on," Nutt said. "When we tried to practice on the field yesterday, it was too slick and we had some groin pulls. We decided to go inside today. I don't like the turf, but it was good to have it today. We'll be outside the next two days."
Most of the UA coaches were on hand for the workout, but George Pugh remained on the road recruiting. Hence, Nutt worked with the wide receivers during individual drills. Several other coaches will hit the road the next two days to scout high school playoff games.
You could see the teaching that went on ahead of the scrimmage today. This writer spent time watching the linemen work against each other, paying special attention to some of the young defensive linemen ... then later watching our defensive backs work on their technique. John Thompson, the UA defensive coordinator, thinks the Hogs will improve over the next few weeks during these bowl practices.
"My experience tells me that this is when you make the most improvement," Thompson said. "There isn't the pressure to gameplan for a scheme, so you concentrate on the young players, at least for the next few days. You get better.
"I like what I see from a lot of our young players. Linemen like Justin Scott, Jayson Johnson, Arrion Dixon and Gavin Walls are really coming. I think the light has come on with Jayson Johnson. You know, last spring, when you looked at his body and the way he was playing, you thought Jayson might be an offensive lineman. Not now. He's going to be a player. Like I said, the light is coming on now. He's rushing the passer a little better and is more aggressive. And, what I've seen these three days from Justin Scott tells me that he needs to play more in the bowl. He's making a big step forward. I think guys like Justin and Jayson are just maturing. I think guys like Justin, Gavin, Elliott and Dixon are going to get more snaps in the bowl and will help us.
"As far as the bowl practices, they give you a chance to go back and look at some stunts, alignments and situations that you didn't like the way you played them, and then get better at them. There were some things that we tried early that didn't go well, and we had to just drop them and move on. I still think they are things we could do that would help us, but there just wasn't enough practice time to clean them up. We've got that now, and we are working hard on them. It will help us in the bowl, and it will help us next season to get them in and do them right."