Nutt Expecting Competitive Summer

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas junior Anthony Brown opened spring practice at third-team flanker behind junior Cedric Washington and sophomore Cedric Logan.

But four weeks later, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt told the 6-foot-6, 223-pounder he had climbed to the top of the depth chart at a new position -- defensive end.

"It was a shock, but it's real exciting," Brown said. "I had no idea I'd be the first person on the depth chart.

"I'm just going to try to hold it down and do whatever I can."

Brown's unusual ascension was the biggest, but not the only surprise unveiled by Nutt when Arkansas' post-spring depth chart was released Wednesday.

In addition to the former receiver's rise, it revealed a few more position switches, the inclusion of incoming freshman for the first time and new first-teamers in hopes that the Hogs will be inspired to work harder this summer.

"I think they were surprised," Nutt said after meeting with players this week. "They asked, 'They're ahead of me? Well, it's temporary. It's today. That's the greatest thing. It doesn't mean it's going to be like that. It's up to you to change it."

Nutt and defensive coordinator Reggie Herring extended that challenge to defensive ends Jamaal Anderson, Zach Snider and Michael Tate when Brown was inserted in the first-team spot after spending a week on defense. Brown, who split time between receiver and defensive end the final week of practice, estimated that he amassed two hours of practice time at his new position.

But Brown was productive during his limited stint for Herring to declare him the starting defensive end for the first day of fall practice.

"We justify (Brown's first-team status) because, we just feel like he's the best athlete that fits the description at that position," Nutt said. "We know what those other guys can do. They've been there in the spring. Now, it's your job, Zach Snider or Jamaal Anderson, take it, go, win the position.

"We're just going to give him a very, very hard look. Then the other thing is, if you're going to make a trade, the bottom line is, you can't be second or third team. You better be first team. If you're going to make a trade on the board like Anthony Brown, who's an excellent receiver, he better be first-team defensive end.

"So he's going to get every opportunity to be that end."

Brown is one of nine Hogs that entered the spring as a backup on the depth chart, but will enter preseason drills as a starter.

Running back De'Arrius Howard and right tackle Zac Tubbs weren't listed as first-teamers before the spring began because of off-season injuries, but regained those roles Wednesday. New first-teamers included tight end Mason Templeton, cornerback Matterral Richardson and middle linebacker Weston Dacus.

Some other depth chart notables include:

• New positions for Weston Dacus (outside to middle linebacker), Sam Olajubutu (middle to weakside linebacker), Lerinezo Robinson (safety to cornerback), Shedrick Johnson (cornerback to flanker) and Desmond Williams (linebacker to strong safety). All four shifted during Herring's ongoing evaluation of the defense.

• Four incoming freshmen -- defensive tackle Marcus Shavers and linebackers Freddie Fairchild, Tyrell Graham and Michael Bibbs -- listed as second-teamers on defense. None of them have stepped on campus, but Nutt wants to give the youngsters a chance and promised they'd be listed on the depth chart during the recruiting process.

• Sophomore Robert Johnson ahead of redshirt freshman Alex Mortensen and true freshman Cole Barthel in the quarterback race. Nutt said Johnson has an edge because of his experience, but expects an interesting battle next fall. Mortensen and Barthel both share the second-team spot.

• Defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell, who started nine games in 2004, listed at third-team left defensive tackle behind Ernest Mitchell and Shavers. Harrell was held out of contact drills after off-season shoulder surgery and won't be handed his starting spot when practice resumes next fall.

"It's basically to give a true freshman a true look early and then, I think it creates that competition, that drive," Nutt said. "If you have anything inside you, 'This freshman isn't going to beat me out.' You have that attitude going to practice.

"I have every belief that Jeremy Harrell is going to play a lot of football for us. I believe that. I know what he's about."

Nutt never has included true freshmen in the depth chart during his eight seasons at Arkansas, but wanted to give the youngsters a chance to get in the mix and prove how mature they are. In addition to the four defensive players listed with the second-team defense, there are 15 more true freshman on the depth chart.

Running backs Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Michael Smith weren't listed along with tailbacks Howard, Peyton Hillis, Kyle Dickerson, Dedrick Poole, Zach Butler and Korey Sutton. But Nutt said all three will get early chances to prove themselves.

He said most of the freshmen will be on campus during the summer to join a returning group that turned in a productive spring.

Scrimmage time was limited because of injuries to the offensive line, but each quarterback earned valuable practice time and the defense began adjusting to Herring's demanding style. Nutt said it was a solid step for a program hoping to return to a bowl game in 2005.

But, judging by the post-spring depth chart, there's still plenty of work to do.

"We feel OK, but we're not overly excited," safety Vickiel Vaughn said. "We've got a long ways to go. We're looking toward the summer now. We're looking toward the workouts that we've still got ahead of us.

"By the end of the summer, we'll be able to tell."

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