Friday Grid Update, 4/15

Houston Nutt changed up the routine for Friday's workout. After closing all but the scrimmage snaps this spring, Nutt opened the doors to everyone.

Tax day was not a "taxing" day for the Arkansas football team. After meeting with the lettermen at a reunion golf tournament at Paradise Valley Golf Course earlier in the afternoon, Houston Nutt put the Razorbacks through a shorts and helmets workout which lasted about 45 minutes Friday.

Nutt said the shortened workout was designed to freshen legs before Saturday's spring finale, a scrimmage that will last betwen 40 and 50 plays.

"We took it off of them," Nutt said. "We are wanting them fresh on Saturday. We've got a lot of moms here and a lot of former players. We want them to look their best Saturday."

There is one day left, but Nutt was ready to proclaim it "a good spring" after Friday's workout.

"We are short on bodies, but our (offensive) line has a big heart," Nutt said. "They perservered. We are looking forward to the scrimmage. Our players are excited."

Nutt said most of the walking wounded will return for the scrimmage, but he said linemen Chase Pressley and Fred Bledsoe, bothered with headaches after concussions earlier this spring, will probably sit out the day.

Nutt said Michael Coe and Anthony Brown will spend most of the scrimmage at their usual spot, but will switch sides of the ball for around eight plays. Coe, normally a corner, has worked some at wideout this week. Brown, who is listed as a wideout, has worked some as a defensive end with an emphasis on third-and-long plays.

"Their coaches (at the new positions) are excited about both of them," Nutt said. "Michael looks like a natural wideout. He runs good routes and he catches it. That's what we recruited him to play, but we were short on corners. He's done really well. Anthony has done some good things, too, at end. They will have to be coached up on what they are going to do in the scrimmage, but their coaches are excited about them."

Nutt said the defense was up and down on Friday. With the media allowed to stay from start to finish Friday (with lots of friends, family and former players also watching), it was easy to tell that the offense did the best work. Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring got on his side during one series in the team portion of drills pleading with them not to look like scout teamers.

"The sun was out and it was very hot after some cool days," Nutt said. "We were on this artificial surface with a hot sun and I think the defense was sluggish early on. They had to do some up-downs at one point."

One of the stars for the offense was walk-on tight end Lance Thompson who caught a long strike from quarterback Alex Mortensen. Tight end coach Clifton Ealy praised Thompson for a "good day" and called him "a very, very good walkon who has helped us this spring."

Line coach Mike Markuson praised senior center Kyle Roper for a superb spring and announced that he'll let redshirt freshman Jonathon Luigs take at least half of the snaps on Saturday.

Roper missed the first day of spring drills when thunderstorms canceled a series of airline flights from Atlanta to Northwest Arkansas after the end of spring break. It was the only spring workout Roper missed in four years at Arkansas, counting his redshirt year.

"That doesn't surprise me," Markuson said. "I can read you a page right out of Lou Holtz book about football players who are fundamentally sound and how seldom they are injured. That describes Kyle. I hadn't thought about him not missing a spring day except that one, but it's true. He has great balance, great fundamentals. He was a wrestler in high school and he has great feet and great hands. You never see him on the ground or off balance.

"He had a great three weeks this spring. We are going to give a lot of work with the first group at center to Luigs on Saturday. He needs it and we need to see what he can do. He's finally healthy and doing well. We know what Kyle can do. Kyle is going to have a great senior year."

Roper has had to snap to three different quarterbacks as the Hogs have given Robert Johnson, Alex Mortensen and Cole Barthel equal snaps with the first team. That caused problems early in the spring with a few botched snaps.

"That excites the head coach and any offensive coach," Markuson said. "But that got worked out pretty quick. I don't think we've had any balls on the ground betwen Kyle and any of the QBs of late. He's adjusted to them and they have adjusted to him. They've had to learn his steps on certain plays in his blocking and that means adjusting to where the snap is going to be and how it comes out. They've done very well of late."

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