Barthel Turns In Solid Performance

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas freshman quarterback Cole Barthel said he's never been a "hoop-hoorah" kind of guy.

That's why the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, who played baseball in the Atlanta Braves organization for three years before enrolling in classes at Arkansas this winter, didn't turn cartwheels after throwing his first touchdown pass since 2000 on Saturday.

"You've got to take everything in stride," Barthel said. "You've got to take it like a grain of salt. It's nothing. There's some things I need to work on now. Some things I did right and some things I did bad. Overall, it was a decent day."

The 22-year-old freshmen downplayed his performance in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, but was one of the highlights of Arkansas' first major scrimmage of the spring. He threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to receiver Anthony Brown, rushed for another score and completed 4 of 6 passes for a scrimmage-best 83 yards.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said the Razorbacks aren't even close to naming a starting quarterback between Barthel, sophomore Robert Johnson and redshirt freshman Alex Mortensen after the 60-play scrimmage. But there's no denying Barthel took a step in the right direction during his fifth practice with the Hogs.

"I think it will really help him," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said about Barthel's performance. "He'll gain some confidence.

"He just needs this. After the first couple practices he said it's strange being out here. He's got shoulder pads on he hasn't put on since high school. It's a little different environment for him, but he's adjusted."

Barthel was the third quarterback on the field behind Johnson and redshirt freshman Mortensen, but was the first to get the Razorbacks in the end zone. He struggled in his brief experience during Thursday's 25-play scrimmage, but got his first taste of success when he tossed the touchdown pass to Brown on fourth-and-4.

He later led the second-team offense on a 50-yard scoring drive that ended with his touchdown run. Barthel was 2 of 3 passing on the drive with big completions to Brown (26 yards) and junior Cedric Washington (23 yards).

"I didn't show out by any means," Barthel said. "I think everybody did pretty good. Anything is a confidence builder when you complete a pass or make a right read. I get a confidence builder when I hand the ball off right and get the snap count right.

"I think you can use some positives from today. But I've still got a long way to go."

Arkansas quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke said Arkansas got a valuable chance to gather information about each quarterback and introduce them to several different situations Saturday. Drives were intentionally started all over the field (from the offense's 1-yard line, to the defense's 20) and Wittke said there were positive and negative moments from each quarterback.

Johnson started under center and completed 4 of 10 passes for 37 yards with an interception. He led the Razorbacks on a 30-yard scoring drive, but also lost a fumble and threw an ill-advised pass, which was intercepted by cornerback Darius Vinnett.

Mortensen had little success in his time under center, completing 1 of 5 passes for 5 yards. But Wittke noted subtle things, like a hard count that set the defense on its heels and led to a 9-yard run by Hillis on first-and-10 from the offense's 1.

"The most pleasing thing about today was there wasn't once where any of them hung their head," Wittke said. "There wasn't once where any of them kicked the ground or pouted because they made a mistake. They all kept their focus and worried about the next play. That's the type of attitude we've got to have.

"We're still a long ways away. Sometimes it's one step forward, two steps back. The best part again is the attitude and the approach and the willingness to work."

Wittke said Arkansas had just one-third of its offense in place for the scrimmage and had trouble adjusting to some blitzes and schemes thrown at them Saturday.

Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said the defense has about 75 percent of its playbook in place and got plenty of pressure on the quarterbacks.

Herring said the Razorbacks finally "looked like a Division I football team" during Friday's practice. He said there were only 22 loafs, down from the 85 during Thursday's practice, so he stripped the pink jerseys off players for the scrimmage.

His unit collected three sacks, 13 tackles for losses, one fumble recovery and one interception. But Herring said it was a shaky follow-up to Friday's performance.

"I just know that we got more around the quarterback than what we had," Herring said. "But there were a lot of missed opportunities where we didn't get them down.

"I just think we can't get carried away here. This was just a step forward from where we were day one. They're learning the system. They're learning how to compete and once again, it's going to be a day to day thing. By no stretch of the imagination are we even close."

Defensive ends Desmond Sims and Zach Snider, two players that switched positions in the off-season, turned in big days Saturday.

Sims recorded one of Arkansas' three quarterback sacks and batted down a pass to force fourth down on the first series. Snider equaled linebacker Sam Olajubutu and Darren Rogers for team-high honors with two tackles for losses.

Offensively, Hillis led the Razorbacks with 37 rushing yards on 12 carries, while senior Kyle Dickerson added 23 yards on 11 attempts. Brown led the Razorbacks in receiving with 2 catches for 47 yards.

But the most noticeable performance came from Barthel, who performed calmly during his first game-like outing in years.

"We said all along he's an even-keeled guy," Wittke said. "He's got a positive outlook. He's mature. He's a guy that doesn't get too excited, doesn't get too down.

"They're all that way and that's something we try to emphasize. They've got to be able to handle different situations."

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