Monday Grid Report, 4/10

Dropped passes cause concern in Arkansas' 11th practice of spring drills.

A slow start had Houston Nutt disappointed Monday after Arkansas practiced for a little over two hours in full pads after a day off on Sunday. Nutt said he knows his team is bruised and sore on its llth day of spring drills, but he still expects better concentration than what he saw on Monday.

"I see over there," Nutt said, pointing to the defensive side of the field, "and they are doing up-downs. And, over here (where the offensive players were gathered with their position coaches), they are getting a tongue lashing. We have to concentrate better than we did today.

"We wanted to come out here and get better. A few are feeling sorry for themselves. Everyone is gearing up for Saturday, but we still have several practices before then and we have to use them to get better.

"We had way too many passes dropped. We had a lack of concentration today and we can't be feeling sorry for ourselves."

Asked about the up-downs and the tongue lashings, Nutt said, "Our coaches are pushing these guys the best they can."

Concerning the Red-White game on Saturday, Nutt announced that the game would be a true game with the first teams on both offense and defense playing for the Red team. The White team, which will be spotted 28 points on the scoreboard, would be the second and third teams.

However, the Red team will have a few other advantages like most of the best offensive weapons. Both Casey Dick and Robert Johnson, the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, will be on the Red team. And, the top two tailbacks, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, are both on the Red team.

"We have several formations where Darren and Felix are both on the first team and we want to keep them together," Nutt said. "We will not have live punt and kickoff returns, but everything else will be game-like and live. It should be a real good ball game."

Nutt said he's looking for more consistency from his wide receivers. He noted the team can count on Marcus Monk, but the others need to pick up the pace and catch the ball more consistently.

"We are getting some help catching the ball from our backs," Nutt said. "Peyton Hillis, McFadden, Felix and Michael Smith are catching it and making plays, but the quarterbacks need some help from the others.

"Our quarterbacks can play better than they did Saturday in our scrimmage. They can't take sacks like they did Saturday. If they are scrambling and out of the tackle box, they can throw it away."

Casey Dick, who took some hits Saturday, said it's a case of reading the blitzes late. He said he's got to do a better job of "getting the offense in the right plays to keep us out of trouble. I like this offense, but the quarterback has to make the right calls and get the ball off quicker. We've done that right some days, but we didn't on Saturday. We learned something watching that film. I like this offense. Yes, there is some pressure there on the quarterback, but this is the kind of offense you want to be running and we just have to improve and be quick in the reads. If it means changing a play, we have to be able to do that.

"Our timing isn't quite there right now, but it's going to get there. We just have to make sure as quarterbacks that we put our team in the right situation. We have to get out of some plays if there is something coming off the edge like there was Saturday. This offense is fun and what we want to be running. We will get there. It takes all 11 being on the same page. We are getting closer and closer to that."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the same things. He said the Hogs are making progress each day and will make plenty over the next four practices as they conclude spring drills.

"This is the point where we've made our evaluations and we will begin to work with the ones on the top groups a little more," Malzahn said. "We are now going to work more with our best 11 players and try to get our timing down."

McFadden, Jones and Hillis had solid days catching the ball out of the backfield, something Malzahn said is going to be perfect for some of the new plays he's added to the UA offense.

"We have exceptional backs, we do," he said. "We will find a way to get them the ball in our system. They all have the speed to get vertical down the field, too. That is a position we are good at. Felix can do plenty of things, and so can Darren. We've known from the start they are exceptional players. With those two and Hillis, we have a lot of possibilities. Those guys can do about anything."

McFadden caught two touchdown passes behind the secondary on Monday in team drills. He also broke off a long run to open the team segment of the practice.

Several wideouts that were not available on Saturday returned to practice, including first teamer Cedric Washington. Also back at practice after nursing injuries last week was Chris Baker.

"We had a few more out there today," Malzahn said

Asked about the wideout injuries, Malzahn seemed to think that would not be a problem in the fall.

"We are going to run and be in great shape by the fall," he said. "We are also going to be mentally tough. We'll get there.

"We did a lot of running these last two weeks. We wanted to see what we have. We wanted to see who we had and who we want to go to battle with. We are there now and we will get our timing and rhythm down now.

"We've had some very good practices and some that were not so good. But we are really not far away. We had a bad day Saturday, but I don't want to blame the quarterbacks. They weren't perfect, but the wideouts have to get open and the protection has to be better."

Asked about Monday's practice, Malzahn said, "It wasn't one of our better days and I don't think we approached it with the right frame of mind. That's my responsibility and I promise we will be ready on Tuesday."

Asked what he learned about Saturday's scrimmage, he said, "That we have tough quarterbacks who will take a hit. We have to help them out a little more than we did."

Malzahn said the offense is far from complete. He said that what has been covered so far in spring drills "is basic football 101. It's been the simple stuff. We'll get to the fun stuff later."

Special teams coordinator James Shibest said the placekicker has yet to be determined, although Fort Smith product Jeremy Davis still opens each session as the lead man.

"We've wanted to give Jeremy a real good look," he said. "He started out good this spring, but he tapered off Saturday. We actually kicked pretty good on Saturday. I think our kickers made 11 of 13 between the 40 and 45, but we did not have a live rush.

"I thought Stephen Arnold looked good, but the one who had the most live leg on Saturday was Joel Hall. He had a good day. He had looked very good at our summer camp, but he didn't do so well when we brought him in last fall. He's started to show some consistency now.

"This isn't something we are going to decide this week. We'll chart them again in the fall. It's going to be a long-range situation as far as charting them and making a decision. It's hard to know when you are kicking in practice. You want to see them in a game situation to know who is going to handle the pressure. That's what placekicker was all about. We liked Jeremy's background as a golfer. He was a very good golfer and handled pressure very well. We thought that might help him."

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