The intensity and higher repetitions in the passing game were both obvious as Gus Malzahn took the reins as offensive coordinator on the first day of spring grid drills at Arkansas.
"We threw it more today," said head coach Houston Nutt. "The repetitions were higher. We spent a lot more time throwing and catching today."
It wasn't all catching, though. Both the head coach and the new OC said there were far too many passes that hit the ground.
"We didn't catch enough," Malzahn said. "We were rusty in that regard. And, we got tired. Our guys had been off a week for spring break and they got tired as the day went along. We are running more routes. They'll get used to it and what we want from them."
Nutt singled out wideouts Marcus Monk and Cedric Washington and H-back Peyton Hillis for nice work catching the ball, but said more wideouts need to step up.
"We need more," Nutt said. "We need to improve our routes, but more than anything we need to improve our pass protection. That's the key. It starts with the offensive line. We sent some speed at them today."
Malzahn said he wasn't concerned because he said more emphasis in the throwing game will improve protection just because of the emphasis on that area in practice.
"I'm not worried yet," Malzahn said. "We haven't even put pads on yet. When we put pads on and there is full contact, then maybe then I'll worry a little more. We are going to be fine in that area. I think others are worried, but I'm not. It's what we will emphasize and what we will do. What you do most is what you get good at."
Asked about the Hogs' ability level to run his system, Malzahn seemed satisfied with what he saw on day one.
"We've got the players to run what we want to run," he said. "I saw enough today to feel comfortable saying that. Are we able to run it now? No. We don't have any timing just yet. We are using too many quarterbacks and too many wide receivers right now because we are trying to evaluate our talent. But when we work our numbers down, we'll get that rhythm and the timing we are looking for. I am comfortable that we can run it with what we have right now."
Quarterback coach Alex Woods was pleased with the first day, too.
"We are a long way from where we need to be, but we are going to be fine," he said. "I see some ability. We were rusty, but you expect that. We made some good throws and we tried to put some pressure on them. We wanted to see how each quarterback reacted under pressure. We'll keep doing that. We are going to put some heat on all of them."
Monk, junior wideout, was all smiles afterwards.
"Coach Malzahn is a perfectionist," he said. "If he says run the route 6 yards, he knows if you don't run it 6. It has to be 6. That's why his offense works. Once we get everyone on the same page, we'll be an exciting offense. We are going to do good things.
"We are throwing it down the field and it's fun. It's a chance for us (wide receivers) to make some plays. How can that not be exciting for us. People are going to like it."
Asked about Malzahn's style, Monk said, "He's not a guy who gets in your face, but you definitely know when he is mad at you. He pulls you aside to explain what he wanted. You better do it just right, use his certain steps. He makes the routes seem easy when you do it right."
Malzahn smiled about the description of his coaching style from his new star wideout.
"They haven't seen everything from me just yet," Malzahn said. "I can get excited. I give them the benefit of the doubt because they are still learning. When we get another week into it and they've had enough time they should understand, I'll get after them good if they don't do it right. Just wait."
Monk admitted to having tired legs as the workout progressed.
"Mine were (tired)," he said. "I'll need to relax them and get some ice on them and that will help me bounce back for tomorrow."
Another star Razorback had some tired legs, too. Tailback Darren McFadden said he felt a "step slow" on the first day of workouts. McFadden, an All-SEC selection as a true freshman, had surgery for a torn knee cartilage in January.
"It didn't hurt and it didn't really bother me, but I was a step slow today," McFadden said. "I felt some rust and I was a bit off today, but it didn't hurt and it's going to be fine. I can tell that. I did okay, though."
The Hogs had some other tailbacks impress.
"Who looked good?" Nutt said. "Felix Jones. He was quicker today than I remembered him, and he was very quick last fall. He is stronger. He had an offseason weight program and conditioning program this year. He's had basketball in the winter in the past. I think he's a little stronger and a lot quicker. He was very, very, very quick today, very impressive."
Nutt also liked redshirt freshman Michael Smith. The Tallahassee, Fla., product missed last fall with a knee sprain.
"You can tell he is very fast," Nutt said. "We have a role for him in this offense. He's a tailback, but we can use him in a lot of ways. He has great, great hands. He made a one-hand grab today on a deep one."
The Hogs had no injuries Monday. They resume spring drills with another padless workout Tuesday. They'll be off Wednesday and don full pads for Thursday's drill. Tuesday's practice, as was Monday's, will be open to the media and the public. The rules for the rest of the week have not been announced. Around 100 spectators were at practice Monday.
Monday Grid Report, 3/27
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