Monday Grid Update, 4/11

Arkansas began its final week of spring football workouts inside Walker Pavilion. The defense had to stay afterwards.

Arkansas' 10th practice ended with a loud, spirited, almost-angry pep talk from Houston Nutt and close to 100 up-and-downs for the defense by an animated Reggie Herring.

After dismissing the offense to meet with the position coaches and addressing the media, Nutt returned to the practice field to listen as Herring gave the defensive squad the business in a fiery speech after they ended their series of up-and-downs.

Nutt seemed up beat concerning Monday's workout, conducted inside Walker Pavilion after overnight rains left the practice field muddy and slick. The Arkansas head coach said afternoon sunshine might have left it in a decent shape, but the staff decision to move inside had already been made.

"We came out and practiced hard today," Nutt said. "We have some guys who are pushing through it -- Marcus Harrison and Randy Kelly with swollen ankles, Tyler Morgan with a hamstring and Matt Gilbow with a sore knee. All of those guys worked hard today and we were glad to have them out there. We got Jonathon Luigs back today so we had a few more offensive linemen."

Nutt said the addition of three scholarship offensive linemen didn't change the decision to limit Saturday's scheduled Red-White game to a regular practice followed by a shortened scrimmage.

"We still don't have enough for a game," Nutt said. "We will get there someday, but we can't do it this year. It wouldn't be fair to the three quarterbacks. We just don't have enough healthy (offensive) linemen full speed to do that.

"We want people to come. We are going to start out with a practice, have a lot of good kicking, then have pass skeleton and then put the ball down (and scrimmage). The format we've talked about the last four or five days is what we are going to go with."

Nutt said the team is making progress this spring. He said that much was obvious after grading film of a short scrimmage from Saturday.

"We are getting better," he said. "We know who to block and we are getting to the right places on defense. We need to tackle better. And on offense we averaging three plays in a row where we do it right, but we kill ourselves on the fourth play. It takes more than three plays on offense."

Nutt said he's seen solid progress in the defensive secondary. Cornerback Michael Grant, who has spent some time with track the last two weeks, will be with the Hogs for the rest of this week and that has deepened the competition at that spot.

"We got a couple of days from Michael Grant last week and it's good to have him stay with us this week," Nutt said. "We've got a good, deep group there."

Bobby Allen, who is coaching the corners, said the scrimmage Saturday was disappointing overall for the defense.

"We didn't have the same focus we'd had in previous days," Allen said. "We've been trying to create competition and an intense environment. We were missing some things Saturday.

"I thought Darius Vinnett was by far our most consistent player at corner on Saturday and has been like that all spring. We just need to get the rest of the corners at the same level. Matterreal Richardson has made some strides, but hasn't been consistent. Michael Grant just hasn't had enough work, but he's helped us the days he's been with us. He makes us better when he's out there."

Allen said the mindset has been hard-nosed from the start this spring, especially for the cornerbacks.

"We started off last year not playing much press coverage with the corners because of lack of experience," Allen said. "But in this scheme (with Reggie Herring), there is no other way. We've been in press (coverage) for every play of every practice.

"In this scheme, we will have help. In our eight-man front (of the past five years), there was no help, no leverage for corners. We have picked it up okay, but we will get better. We are still learning the angles and where our safety help will be and how to leverage it. I like what I see."

More than that, attitude has been the focus.

"We won't finish spring with any starters at corner," Allen said. "I'll say if I was going to war right now, Vinnett would be out there. But we are just trying to create an environment of competition every single play, every day. That's how we'll approach the fall. We are trying to learn about each other and about ourselves. We are learning accountability.

"Sometimes you are in a comfort zone. We said scrimmage on Saturday and there were some who didn't turn it on. They were exposed. That's what the (up-and-downs) were about. We talked about that after the practice. Today, Vinnett outworked everyone. He's done that on other days, too."

Wideout Marcus Monk said he's noticed the intensity in the press coverage. He said it's been a positive for the wideouts to see every day.

"We are working hard on our timing routes and to see that kind of coverage has got to help us next year," Monk said. "We will be more about timing this year with these quarterbacks. I loved Matt. He was awesome, but we will be more about throwing to a spot and on timing than we were with him.

"We have quarterbacks with better arm strength. They throw on time and the ball is there. They all can make all of the throws and put it where you know you are going to be.

"Let me just say that we are progressing. We are just done with day 10 and I see what spring does for you. I've learnd so much. Last year, all I knew was to try to catch it. I have learned so much about reading coverages and blocking. It's been a lot of hard work and so beneficial for me. The catching part was always easy. Coach (James Shibest) is giving me the whole game now. I'm trying to become an all-around wide receiver.

"I've learned to run crisper routes and be at a spot. That's what I needed to learn this spring. I'm not there yet. I'm still learning, but I've come a long way from last fall."

Offensive guard Chase Pressley and defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe continue to sit out the workouts with minor headaches. Both sustained concussions early in spring drills. Nutt said both may be ready to go later this week.


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