If you are football fan who loves it when things get physical, then Wednesday's University of Arkansas football practice would have been right up your alley.
Although one bit of incidental contact left both tailback Dedrick Poole (hip) and Chris Baker (knee) hurt but walking away after being down for a few minutes, it was a middle drill midway through the workout that got both the team and onlookers excited.
"That was fun," Arkansas linebacker Clarke Moore said of the workout in pads and shorts that actually occurred at Fayetteville High School. "You could see how excited guys were to have the pads on and hit each other."
The drill one of football's oldest - pitted one defender against one blocker with the best man winning - whether it was on sheer strength on technique.
It gave the players, dressed in shoulder pads and shorts, a chance to get vocal for their side of the ball and was a precursor to getting on the full pads and getting with it later in the week.
While the upperclassman won a majority of the battles there were some young ones like true freshman defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell and redshirt freshman Robert Felton who made their presence known.
"We really had some guys getting after and that's great to see," UA head coach Houston Nutt said. "It gets the players going a little bit, the coaches going a little bit and just gives us momentum for the rest of practice."
It carried over into the scrimmage session of practice on a day when temperatures were only in the mid-60s in Fayetteville.
"There was a lot of crisp hitting out there today," Nutt said. "The offensive and defensive lines were very strong. There was a lot of contact and it was a great start to the contact portion of practice."
Part of that contact was actually delivered by the tight ends, such as junior starter Jared Hicks (6-6, 273) and redshirt freshman backup Mason Templeton, a pair that join redshirt freshman Payne Hall (6-4, 236) as returnees who have been in camp.
That's something UA tight ends coach Clifton Ealy loved seeing.
"Our guys loved that contact," UA tight ends coach Clifton Ealy said. "That's something you love to see because while we have more plays in our offense to get the ball to the tight ends, one of biggest responsibilities is getting that push and blocks taken care of at the line of scrimmage."
Being the first day that the pads popped, Ealy was watching how his group - that also includes freshmen Marc Winston (6-6, 238) and Lance Thompson (6-4, 245) reacted to the physicalness of the upperclassmen defenders.
"Being the first day in pads, you really want to see how it is when one of those older guys really puts it in their face and mixes it up with them," Ealy said. "I didn't see any of our guys backing down and although the older guys might have gotten the best of the younger ones, they didn't back down an inch and that's what you want to see."
Hicks, who caught four passes for 42 yards as the back-up to Jason Peters last season, played in all 13 games last season and is the only one of the three to actually take a college snap.
"It's a young group overall," Hicks said. "But we have three guys in Mason, Payne and myself who have been around the system, know what to do, know what is expected and I think will be a strength for this football team this year."
Ealy would not count out the young ones from getting some time this season.
"We've went out and got guys like Winston to come and play if they can," Ealy said. "Those older guys have the edge because they have been here and gone through things, but we are not ruling anything out right now."
o o o
Poole and Baker both went down on the same play, a sweep to the left that injured both when defenders push the two together as they were going out of bounds.
Baker's knee hit Poole's hip causing both injuries and leaving the pair on the turf for several minutes while being attended to by trainers.
Both did walk away and UA assistant Chris Vaughn reported late Wednesday that both injuries seemed minor.
"Dedrick just bruised his hip and Baker just tweaked his knee," Vaughn said. "Both should be fine and not miss too much time."
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Arkansas moved its practice up 90 minutes and to a different location because rains Tuesday night and Wednesday morning saturated its grass practice field and work was being done on both its outside and inside practice surfaces.
The new outdoor grass field is in its infancy while both turf fields were having work done on them.
Fayetteville High allowed the Razorbacks use of its field turf for the afternoon.
"I really want to thank Fayetteville High School Athletic Director Dick Johnson for the use of the field today," Nutt said. "Our artificial surface field was not ready to go just yet and this was a nice change for us. It's a good facility.
"We could have gone out on our outdoor grass field," Nutt continued, "but we wanted to preserve it because it is going to take such a pounding throughout the season."
o o o
The end of practice featured more conditioning work than in the first two days.
"We had not run in a while," Nutt said. "Our linemen have not run since the break, at least 10 days. You can tell it caught up to them today."
o o o
Barring more inclement weather, Arkansas has plans to return to its own fields on Thursday for 2 p.m. practice time with the newcomers coming out at that time and veterans joining in at around 2:45.
UA players get physical on Wednesday
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