The first question asked of Houston Nutt on Tuesday for media day concerned a void on the Arkansas football team. No, it wasn't about the lack of returning starters on offense, it was about the lack of action his team has seen on the police blotter since last winter.
"We've been blessed in that regard," Nutt said, "but no one is immune from it. I know we keep reminding them to make good decisions and so far they've done real well. I think this group has good character, but, again, no one is immunce (from those type of problems).
"Temptation is great out there. It can happen at any time. I just like the way they've conducted themselves and carried themselves since January."
Interestingly, there were three different questions from the media in that area. Each time, Nutt answered the questions and reminded that the Hogs were not immune from having off-the-field problems. Nutt said he was recently visiting with members of the Dallas Cowboy staff when Bill Parcells asked Nutt about his staff makeup.
"Parcells wanted to know who the enforcer was on our staff," Nutt said. "I told him that all of our staff members talk to our players and try to hold them accountable."
As far as on-the-field action, Nutt has only one workout to base his opinions on the upcoming season. But, he likes what he sees.
"We have a good set of seniors," Nutt said. "We have only nine, but I love every one of them. They are setting good examples. They are helping the young ones."
And, oh, does Nutt love his young ones.
"We never signed a defensive line that looked this good," he said. "Our older guys have taken notice. They see these young defensive linemen and know that this is the way SEC linemen look.
"As far as the secondary, this is a good group. They do look good in gym class, and that's about all we've done so far. We haven't had a chance to see what they retain, what they can learn and how they react to different schems. We do know they look good as far as being able to run and turn and can do the things well as far as natural ability."
Nutt likes the look of his squad. He praised several players, starting with fullback Brandon Kennedy.
"We had a good winter in the weights and our running program, then put a good spring with it and then added a good summer," Nutt said. "All of our players have done well, but no one has done any better than Brandon Kennedy. He's had a great summer. He's got an awesome work ethic. He's ready to have a great season."
The areas of inexperience are the offensive line and the defensive secondary, but Nutt likes the prospects in both places.
"Our secondary has some promise," he said. "We have a good backbone with Vickiel Vaughn in the middle, Lorinezo Robinson at rover and Michael Coe at one of the corners. I love the way those guys go about things. You add the freshmen and I think we'll be fine. Those new guys can really move around. It's going to come down to maturity, but if you go by yesterday, and that was really only gym class, they are really impressive."
The offensive line has no returning starters, but several lettermen are back.
"This group is going to grow and grow," Nutt said. "This is going to be a good offensive line. You don't know when. You'd like it to be by Sept. 4 (for the opener), but I just know it's going to be good some time this year. It just takes time in the offensive line. It takes the longest for that position than any other.
"Coach (Mike) Markuson tried something a little different with this group. He got them all to commit to lifting this summer in one group at 6:45 a.m. We have three times and three groups of lifters, but he wanted them all in one group and they did that. It takes effort to get up that early every day for the summer, but they did it. You appreciate the effort.
"You look at them and they have really grown up. Tony Ugoh has really grown up. This group has grown together. They have a bond that is hard to explain."
Nutt praised Matt Jones for his leadership this summer, but the senior quarterback didn't think it was anything special.
"Just something that you had to do," he said. "We had a good summer. But it was too short. Didn't get to do too much away from football. Played a little golf. Did a little fishing. It was just too short. But now it's time to play and that will be fun."
Roy Wittke sees an improved Jones after just one day of workouts.
"His shoulder is stronger and that much was obvious," Wittke said. "We were able to do more with him on the first day than we've done in the past.
"But we are not going to over work him. We don't want to abuse that shoulder. We want it to be strong all year. The good part is that we need some extra time this fall to find our backup and third quarterbacks. That will help Matt get some rest as we move through two-a-days becuase we just need a few more reps with those other three or four quarterbacks."
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