Quarterbacks Kick Off Important Summer

FAYETTEVILLE -- There's no doubt Arkansas' future at quarterback has become a hot topic this spring in a state begging for Springdale High's Mitch Mustain to make a verbal commitment to the Razorbacks.

The highly-touted senior has been the focus of local radio shows, newspaper articles, television broadcasts and Internet message boards.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who can't comment on high school players per NCAA rules, certainly has spent plenty of energy this spring courting the quarterback he'd like to have in 2006. But the program's attention hasn't strayed from its most pressing concern next year: Which one of the three quarterbacks already on campus is going to emerge as the successor to departed three-year starter Matt   Jones.

While "Mustain Mania" has reached monumental proportions, Robert Johnson, Alex Mortensen and Cole Barthel quietly continued the push for the starting job when summer workouts began last week.

Even though Arkansas coaches aren't allowed to work with players in the summer, quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke said there's plenty left to learn about all three.

"The summer will be another piece to the puzzle," Wittke said. "Now it's a little bit different because they're on their own from a football standpoint. There's a lot of things that can get done from a leadership standpoint, taking charge of the off-season throwing, doing a good job of being a role model, being an example and being a great leader in the weight room.

"A lot of times, a guy can establish himself (in the summer). That's something that's going to be important."

Arkansas didn't name a starter after the Red and White scrimmage and expects the battle to continue into the fall. Johnson was listed as the first-team quarterback at the end of spring drills, while Mortensen and Barthel shared the second-team nod.

The three will spend the summer lifting weights, breaking apart game tape, improving leadership abilities and throwing with receivers and running backs. They'll also work on gaining arm strength, technique and accuracy. Nutt said 11-on-11 drills, which are organized by players, will dominate the second half of summer.

The depth chart probably won't change when fall practices begin. But Nutt said that depends on whether all three are committed to improving.

"The thing that can change is if you're not committed and you don't work, you're going through the motions," Nutt said. "I think that's the only thing that changes things.

"If you get there in two-a-days and your arm is not ready, you can get passed in a hurry."

Nutt and Wittke don't believe they'll have that kind of problem with their three quarterbacks when preseason practices begin in August.

In fact, the Hogs expect a competitive race for the starting job to stretch into the early part of preseason camp.

"(The summer is) important for all of them," Wittke said. "They all need to continue to make progress. All three of them need improvement and have weaknesses in different areas. It's like a guy working on his golf swing. It's like a hitter working on his swing. It's like a shooter working on his jumpshot.

"There's a lot that can be done if a guy takes it seriously and puts in the time and makes a commitment to really focus in on some of those things. It's hard because (the coaches are) hands off and that's the way we've got to be. But I know that all three have the right approach.

"I don't have any doubts that all three will have a very good summer."

Votes Revealed

The 62 college football coaches that participate in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' have decided to reveal their votes at the end of the 2005 season.

The American Football Coaches Association announced Thursday that the poll, which has been kept secret, will be publicized in an effort to add credibility to their votes. The decision comes after California missed out on a Bowl Championship Series selection last season partially because it dropped below Texas in the coaches' poll despite winning its regular season finale against Southern Mississippi.

Some coaches supported last week's decision. Others have been against it.

"It doesn't really bother me that much," said Nutt, who has been a voter in the coaches poll the past few seasons. "Some people don't want to bother with it, but we take our time and take it seriously."

The AFCA discussed the possibility of revealing polls during its January meeting and coaches were asked to vote on the issue in February. The poll will be made public at the end of the regular season, but AFCA executive director Grant Teaff said the votes will not be revealed each week.

Stoerner Stars

Former Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner capped his first year with the Dallas Desperados in the Arena Football League by being named to its all-rookie team.

Stoerner set rookie records for attempts (506), completions (322), yards (3,918) and touchdowns (77) in the fast-paced league. He finished his Arkansas career ranked second in school history in completions (528) and attempts (1,023) and is third in yardage (7,422) and touchdowns (57).

Stoerner also is in consideration for the AFL's Rookie of the Year award, which will be announced Wednesday.


w SEC Media Days July 27-29

w Players Report Aug. 7

w First Day of Practice Aug. 8

w Season Opener Sept. 3 vs. Missouri State (Fayetteville)

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