Peyton Hillis and Matt Jones were among the headliners in Arkansas' first major scrimmage of fall camp Saturday afternoon before around 1,500 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Hillis scored a touchdown on a 13-yard run up the middle, splattering defenders along the way. Hillis' powerful run climaxed the only possession of the day with quarterback Matt Jones at the helm. Jones was four-of-four passing for 51 yards in the drive.
The offense had only one other touchdown, a 32-yard pass from Robert Johnson to Steven Harris when freshman cornerback Shedrick Johnson turned the wrong way and slipped on his recovery bid.
Hillis, 6-2, 240-pound Conway freshman, provided another highlight when he splattered blitzing defensive back John Jackson late in the scrimmage. His block caused a huge roar on the offensive sideline as teammates rushed to congratulate Hillis after the play.
"I picked up the blitz on that play, but the one before that I ended up on my backside," Hillis said. "It's funny, but I was supposed to take it easy on blocks, not abuse my shoulder because I've got a bit of a bruise there. So I was just going to put my hands out and get in his way. I think it was Pierre Brown and he pushed me down. I felt kind of retarded on that play and figured I needed to hit someone.
"Coach Nutt got on me and asked me to block someone the next time. So, on the next play, here came the safety and I made sure to put him on the ground that time. I like to block, really I do.
"It felt good out there. There were a lot of people here, but I wasn't nervous. We've been out here a week and it was time to get out there and do something.
"Hillis is a talented, talented guy," said Houston Nutt, the UA head coach. "We've got a good class. That much is obvious. I wish we could slow down with them a little bit. We are going to have to force feed them a little more than we'd like."
Indeed, Hillis is having to learn fullback and tailback with starting fullback Brandon Kennedy on the mend for around two weeks with a broken finger.
"Farod Jackson is stepping up at fullback and we have to use Peyton at fullback and tailback. He's going to have to play both spots.
"What you see from Peyton is that he doesn't shy away from contact. He lowers his shoulder and has a tremendous knack for finding that white (goal) line. You saw that today."
Harris, who had a cakewalk on his TD catch when he found himself 10 yards behind the defense, was talking about Hillis afterwards, too.
"Look at him," Harris said, pointing to Hillis. "He's a man. He doesn't look like a freshman. Look at that physique. You don't see many like that come in as a freshman. They bounce off of him and he's doing that to some good players."
Nutt was pleased with the large and vocal crowd at the scrimmage.
"I applaud our fans," he said. "It was a good atmosphere. It gave our young players a game-like setting.
"I'm pleased with where we are. We have a long way to go, but we are off to a good start. I love the intensity of our players.
"One thing that I am seeing, it's like Coach (Frank) Broyles and Coach (Darrell) Royal have always said, when you have young, young puppies, sometimes they will bite you as pups. Our young ones are coming on."
The hitting was crisp throughout the session. The best hit might have been when freshman safety Desmond Williams caught Marc Winston flush on a short completion to the tight end in the flat.
"That was a good one by Desmond," Nutt said. "But we had some other good play by some other freshman like our linebackers, Weston Dacus and Zach Snider.
"I'm proud of our offensive line. They are doing a nice job. That's probably our thinnest area with the loss of James Johnson. Those guys are encouraging each other and picking each other up. I like the way they are playing."
Nutt praised Jones at quarterback, citing "sharp execution. Robert Johnson made the biggest step today. He did some good things like picking up a blitz and getting us out of a bad play."
Secondary coach Bobby Allen was pleased with the effort of his inexperienced group, but noted there were plenty of mistakes.
"We didn't play our technique in a consistent way and made too many errors," he said. "I guess overall you have to be pleased, but we have to tackle better. I give Peyton Hillis credit for making a great run, but we have to lock up and tackle. We didn't on that run. Most of it was young mistakes and can be fixed, but we have some work to do. I will say that Hillis is a man.
"I thought Desmond Williams made a big-time play. He was flying to the ball and made the play on the dead run. I thought Michael Coe and Michael Grant were solid at cornerback. There was nothing real awful -- except when Shedrick got turned around that one time, and that can't happen. But otherwise it was okay for a first scrimmage. What we have to do is force some things. We got no intereceptions or caused anything to happen"
Among the other offensive highlights: Dedrick Poole bounced outside for a 23-yard run (the longest of the day), Kyle Payne made 23 yards on six carries, Robert Johnson completed five of 10 passes for 65 yards and Cedric Washington hauled in a 27-yard strike from Jones on a perfect throw over the middle.
There did not appear to be any serious injuries during the scrimmage. The Hogs, who warmed up on the practice field for about 30 minutes before hand, returned to the practice field for 15 minutes of conditioning after the one-hour scrimmage.
Peyton Hillis powers through the middle.
There was a nice crowd at Saturday's scrimmage.
Peyton Hillis produced several highlights Saturday.
Backfield coach Danny Nutt gives instruction to Peyton Hillis (22).
Matt Jones barks out signals in the scrimmage.
Robert Johnson bootlegs before firing a pass.
Kyle Dickerson powers for yardage as Pierre Brown (29) closes in for the tackle.
Dedrick Poole had the longest run of the scrimmage in his only carry.
Photos by Clay Henry
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