State Of The Hogs: Receivers

Spring drills aren't yet a week old, but I'm happy. There's something to get my mind off fly fishing. Basketball lasted a little longer this year, but not long enough to get us to spring drills without a lull.

Yes, I'm happy. Football practices are open (for now) and there is something to talk about, whether it be on SportsRap or on the message boards.

Already there is a quarterback controversy. It's not so much with who is taking the snaps with the first unit. No one has a problem with Casey Dick, the true freshman who came off the redshirt list to do some nice things last November.

No, most will be content to let Dick finish spring drills without many complaints, but it's about when Mitch Mustain will replace him next fall that is the talk in most coffee shops.

Myself, I don't worry about that. I bet both play plenty and can do what offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn wants in his no-huddle/spread attack.

My worries -- although that's probably too harsh of a description -- are more at wide receiver. I didn't see enough catches on Monday and Tuesday when Gus was sending the wideouts on all of those vertical routes. No, balls hit the ground far too often for me to think the transition is going to be quick.

Of course, that may be the reason the Hogs signed six (or seven) wideouts on Feb. 1. Those 6-4, 6-5 and 6-6 flyers will be just what the Hogs need in August.

Interestingly, Malzahn did not complain about his wideouts on Monday when he met the media. He said he saw enough talent on the field (at quarterback) and wideout to run his system. But we didn't talk to him after Tuesday's workout when several of his wideouts were limping or out with sore legs from all of the long routes on the first day.

"We are rusty and out of rhythm right now and that's what you'd expect to start spring drills," Malzahn said. "We'll get there. They'll get better."

No doubt, he's correct. He knows the drill a lot better than anyone. He acts like he's been down this road before and expected everything he saw on Monday and Tuesday.

Either way, help is on the way. The freshmen wideouts are a cut above what the Hogs have been signing. Everyone on the staff insists that's the case so I'll go along with that, too.

They sound like the type teams like Auburn and LSU have been splitting wide the last few years. I'm excited about their prospects.

I liked some of what I've seen at wideout. Marcus Monk is the same Marcus Monk, but he's more of a possession receiver than a deep threat. Cedric Washington is sorta what Malzahn needs, as is Cedric Logan. And, I like the idea of putting little tailback Michael Smith, redshirted last fall with a knee injury, in the slot. He's got the same kind of speed as his two classmates, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, displayed last fall. And, he made several spectacular catches (of the one-hand variety) in the first two days.

Yes, it's been fun to watch football practice again, after a year of closed practices. There have been plenty of spectators out there along with the media this week. There's plenty of red on the sidelines, but if you look closely a lot of it is kinda red and black -- the colors of the Springdale Bulldogs. You'll notice some SHS ball caps, some of them with a 14-0 stitched on the back.

Some of those have pointed out to me some of the nuances of a Malzahn-orchestrated practice, something that has obviously been happening this week with the Hogs. They pointed as Malzahn tried to speed up the tempo between when the ball was blown ready for play and when it was snapped.

I'll be interested if SEC referees let Gus get away with that. Perhaps they will. But, if I remember correctly, the SEC's supervisor of officials, Bobby Gaston, tells his men to stick to a rhythm of whistling the ball ready for play about 15 seconds after the previous play ends. Will that be soon enough to suit Gus?

Regardless, it's obvious that Gus is going to have the Hogs prepared to snap it quicker than that. It was his style at Springdale, as it was explained to me by four or five men sporting red and black hats on Tuesday.

Without going into any other details, let's say that there are plenty more Malzahn trademarks which jump out at you on the UA practice field. I still see some of the plays the Hogs ran under Houston Nutt, but I've seen enough in the first week to say that the Hogs have an Arkan-dale look right now.

It's clear that all of those wearing SHS hats at practice think the same thing and it's clear to everyone that the Hogs are on board. The Gus Bus is full these days at Razorback practices. Yes, count me as happy, too.


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