Thursday Grid Update, 4/14

Arkansas moved outside on a beautiful Thursday afternoon for a two-hour workout in full pads. They will scale back practice on Friday before winding up spring drills with a scrimmage Saturday open to the public.

Arkansas worked on special situations Thursday as it began to set the stage for Saturday's final day of spring football, a short scrimmage in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Head coach Houston Nutt said the scrimmage could be as short as 40 plays or as long as 50 plays, depending on circumstances. The scrimmages would be divided into four 10-to-12 play possessions, with kicking sessions in between.

The day will start with a 10:30 a.m. pep rally with the stretching part of the workout starting at 11 a.m. The Hogs will practice a bit -- including some pass skeleton drills resembling 7-on-7 -- before starting the scrimmage about 11:30 a.m.

After the scrimmage, Razorfest will take center stage with a 7-on-7 tournament involving former Razorback players. There will also be games for children and plenty of concession areas during Razorfest. There is no admission charge.

"We tried to cover some different things today," Nutt said. "We went over the two-minute drill, we worked on how to kill the clock. Some things when you have an experienced quarterback, you take for granted. We wanted to go over those things with our young quarterbacks -- like how to get in and out of the huddle in those situations. It was a good learning day."

Nutt said the Hogs will take off the pads for Thursday's workout, the 14th out of the 15 spring days. They'll wear helmets and shell pads on their shoulders and concentrate on kicking situations and getting their legs fresher for Saturday's scrimmage.

"We will do some run polish and try to get ready to put on a good show for our fans on Saturday," Nutt said. "Saturday is going to be a good day (for fans) with 40 or 50 quality plays. We are going to go good on good most of the time Saturday."

Nutt said some of the walking wounded returned to Thursday's workout. Defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe and offensive guard Chase Pressley both practiced after missing over one week with concussions. However, Pressley had headaches return and didn't make it until the end of drills before stepping aside.

Nutt said sophomore Robert Johnson would be under center at quarterback for the first snap of the scrimmage, but that all three would work extensively with the first offensive line to keep them on equal footing for an evaluation.

"Robert has taken the first snap in most of our sessions, but we've opened with one of the others in some of the pass skeleton sessions," Nutt said.

Quarterback coach Roy Wittke said the Hogs are probably not close to naming a starter at his spot. He said that the trio of Alex Mortensen, Cole Barthel and Johnson have all had their good days and bad days.

Asked if they were on a rollercoaster of sorts, Wittke said, "I think that would be a fair assessment, probably because of the way we've had to chop up the repetitions and the lack of scrimmage time for each quarterback. You can say that they each lack consistency from one day to the next or even in the same practice. We talk about every day eliminating the mistakes and unforced errors that kill an offense. We talk about learning our system and managing the team and being productive. That's what we are trying to do, become consistent. We are looking for someone to manage the team and be productive."

When will the Hogs pick a quarterback?

"We aren't on a time table right now," Wittke said. "We are gathering information. It may take awhile. And when we pick one, that one might not be the one that ends up there when we play games. It could change. Sometimes when you pick one, that one will slip and another one will come on. You never know what will happen when you pick one. We are talking about a player who has never started a game. You just don't know what you are going to get."

Nutt said he sees improvement from the start to the 13th day of practice from the quarterbacks. All three are better able to execute the throwing game that has changed in dramatic fashion since Matt Jones finished his eligibility. The Hogs are hoping to be in more of a pro passing game which relies on timing routes.

"We are going against press coverage from our corners on every single snap and that makes the window very tight for your throws," Nutt said. "Some days we get it, some days we don't. It's a learning process for our quarterbacks and our wideouts."

Wittke said, "I've always said that we want to utilize the strengths of our players and that quarterback is no different. We want to move away from the weaknesses. What we have now are three quarterbacks who fit much better with the pro systems than we did with Matt Jones. But it's still different. We are using different terminology. We are running things a little different."

Barthel, a true freshman, nodded his head when asked about the lack of consistency.

"With me, I know that's true," he said. "I have a good day, then a bad day. I've had some days where I had both in the same day. Coach Wittke told me that there would be times that I wasn't comfortable and he was right about that. But it's getting better.

"In that way, nothing has been a big surprise. I was prepared for all parts of the rage from good to bad. I'm just trying to work hard and know that I've got to continue to do that through the summer. I've been in some situations where I've had to think too much and not react and that's when I've been slow to make things happen. Then, there were other times where I saw what was happening and I reacted and it worked well.

"We are getting better, all of us, against press coverage. We spent a lot of time going through those steps again today before practice. You have to fit it into a tight window."


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