Hogs Open Grid Workouts

Football practice began for the Arkansas football team Saturdary afternoon with temperatures soaring to 115 on the artificial workout surface south of Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Hogs made it throught the day in fine fashion with head coach Houston Nutt pleased with the results.

Around 1,000 fans were on on hand for the first day of Arkansas football practice, most of them cheering as quarterback Mitch Mustain and the rest of his freshmen teammates dazzled in passing drills to open the shorts and helmets workout on a hat Saturday in the Ozarks.

"We had a good first day," said Houston Nutt, the Hogs' head coach. "It was good to be out here. We had a full day. We had a walk through this morning, then a good film study before the workout.

"It was hot on the turf, but we expected it to be hot. For the most part, our guys made it through it fine. It was a good first day."

The emphasis was on the passing attack throughout the day, even when the team session hit at the end of the workout. Casey Dick took the snaps with the first team in team and Robert Johnson was with the second unit. True freshman Mitch Mustain was thrown in with the first unit when it returned for a second rotation in the team drills.

"It was a fun day, especially when you looked at wide receiver and so not only long lines, but some real talent out there," Nutt said. "We have helped ourselves at wide receiver. That's why we threw the ball a little more for a first day. We are trying to evaluate those guys (at wide receiver)."

True freshmen wide receivers London Crawford, Damien Williams, Marques Wade, Andrew Norman and Carlton Salters all got a lot of chances in one-on-one drills. Crawford stood out throughout the day, making some nice catches.

Crawford turned heads when he used a swim move -- and a slap to the helmet against starting cornerback Matterral Richardson -- to get open in one session in the one-on-one drills. He later apologized, noting that move would have draw a penalty, but noted, "I wouldn't have done that if we had been in pads. His helmet was the only protection he had and that was where I hit him. I'd hit him in the shoulder pads or the chest if he had on full pads."

Nutt shook his head on that move, then said, "He does play the wideout position like he's playing linebacker. He could play linebacker. He's very, very physical."

Dick had no problem with a back injury that sidelined him earlier this summer, an injury that apparently plagued him during spring drills.

"I didn't really feel any pain," he said. "It got sore at the end of the day. It was about like it's been the last half of the summer, very good. I'm not going to have any problems with it."

Nutt didn't see any problems from the injury. He said all of the quarterbacks had some good throws on the afternoon.

"Like I said, we had a good day," he said.

Concerning Mustain, Nutt said, "He did today just like he's done things in every interview, everything you've seen him do, very well. He was really excellent. I'm really proud of him."

The true test has yet to be undertaken, Mustain said.

"I haven't taken a hit yet," he said. "I felt fine today. It was good to get out there and play. We had a good crowd, but that seemed normal to me. I haven't put on pads yet and that will be different than what it was today.

"I did think it was moving very fast around me when we got into the team session. Some little things went wrong. We'll make some adjustments. But I thought it was fun and a good day."

Nutt said the day started with a team meeting in which sophomore tailback Darren McFadden, out with a toe injury, apologized to the squad for taking himself out of the fray with a late-night incident in Little Rock last week. McFadden had to have a broken toe repaired with surgery. He was at the workout with his injured foot in a protective walking boot.

"He told us he was sorry," said Peyton Hillis. "He apologized and said he should not have been out that late. We forgave him. We know he is sorry about it. There are no hard feelings. Everyone is fine with him. It means we will have to play two times as hard -- no, three times as hard. He's a great player and a player we know can put points on the board. But we are not one player. We'll get it done."

Hillis is one of the Hogs who will have to step up at tailback, a position he thought was pretty much in his past.

"I guess my role has changed, but no one really has said anything," Hillis said. "We've still got Felix Jones and Michael Smith. I'm ready to do whatever the team needs me, but I think it will be fine with Felix. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry last year just like Darren. He just didn't get the chances. Now he will. I'm ready if they need me there, but I think it will be a lot of H-back, tight end and fullback for me and maybe a little tailback."

Hillis thought it was a good day for the Hogs.

"It's just the first day and we have not put on pads," he said. "But for a first day, I don't think I've ever seen a freshman quarterback look like (Mitch Mustain) did today. He needs to put on pads and do the same thing, but he stepped up like I've never seen a freshman quarterback before."

Mustain called it a "pretty normal day" even though there were several hundred fans on the hot afternoon for the Hogs' first workout.

"We still have to get all of our timing down," Mustain said. "It was a lot faster when we got into the team session. There are some little things we need to get fixed, but we will get it down.

"It was just nice to be out there at practice finally. It's a good feeling to be out there. I thought the individual drills seemed a lot like what we had done in seven-on-seven all summer. When we got into team and had a live rush was when it changed. It got a lot faster. It was just nice to be out there, though."

Dick, who took most of the snaps with the first team, said he liked what he saw from the newcomers at wideout.

"It's fun to see those guys compete, and they do compete," Dick said. "We've got a good group with some nice talent in it. The freshmen have ability and they'll get after the defensive backs. They will jaw a little. It's been like that all summer. The DBs like to get in their face and show they can jam them at the line, but these guys are physical and they like to give it right back to them. You saw what London did. He's like that. He has that about him and if you are the quarterback, you like to see that from your wide receiver.

"What you see from this bunch of wideouts is that when you make a bad throw, they go get it and make you look good. That's what you look for and I like it."

Interestingly, Nutt said he thought some of the older wide recievers had good days, too. He liked the way Marcus Monk, Chris Baker, Cedric Washington, Rod Coleman and Cedric Logan battled through the hot conditions.

"When your coach can say, "NEXT!" then it makes a difference in the way you come to practice," Nutt said. "I think some of those other guys know there is some real competition out there. It helps you."

That may have been the same thing at quarterback.

"I thought the quarterbacks were excellent today," Nutt said. "There is a battle there ... there is going to be a battle. Our quarterbacks had a good day. They didn't drop any snaps. They got the snap count right. They called the plays right. All of that was good."

Nutt said there were a few players dragging because of the extreme heat. He noted that juco transfer Chris Wade, a star defensive end, didn't handle the heat.

"But that was to be expected," Nutt said. "He just got his paperwork cleared. He hasn't been with us this summer in our offseason program. He wasn't used to this. He'll get it. He had a tough day, but we are glad to have him out here with us and ready to go."

The Hogs will return to the field Sunday afternoon with a workout that will mainly feature kicking game and specialty work. The practice begins at 3:15 p.m., but almost all of the one-hour workout will deal with special teams. The Hogs have three more days of workouts in shorts and helmet. They cannot put on full pads until late next week.

There were a couple of new features to the indoor workout area in the Broyles Center. There was a huge, six-bladed fan that closely resembled a giant helicopter blad that stirred the air in the workout area. There was also a big clock with both the Arkansas and Southern Cal helmet that was counting down the days before the Sept. 2 season opener.

"I asked for the clock on Friday and Tim Cheyney got it fixed for us," Nutt said. "Those big fan blades? Those are great. They definitely get the air going in here. I'm asking for four or five, or six of those to be hung in Walker Pavilion. Those would be great down there."

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