Football Practice Report, 8/6

The Razorbacks finished their second day of fall football camp inside Walker Pavilion. Houston Nutt announced afterwards a slight change in plans in starting times for Monday's workout.

Arkansas hoped to spend a good deal of Sunday's workout on the kicking game, but a lightning storm hit just as the pre-practice individual workouts were beginning to send the team inside Walker Pavilion for the day.

That changed some of the punting drills since normal punts bang off the roof inside the building. The Hogs still got in the rest of their work and coaches were thankful for cooler temperatures after several players were suffering from heat-related problems from Saturday's intense temperatures.

Head coach Houston Nutt announced afterwards that the hot weather predicted for the rest of the first week of drills has forced a change in practice times. Monday's workout will begin at 6:30 p.m.

"We've got a lot to do Monday and part of the later time is because of that, and partly to get some cooler temperatures," Nutt said. "We've got media day in the morning and we've also still got some players in summer school. We are going to lift weights in the morning, meet with the media, finish our academics, have a walk through in the afternoon and then get to a workout a little later."

The Hogs had five players take IVs after Saturday's workout. All of them were back at practice with no problems Sunday. Safety Michael Grant practiced after needing six stitches to close a finger wound after he deflected a pass.

The highlight of Sunday's indoor workout was a pass interception by backup free safety Desmond Williams. That play launched a major celebration on the sideline of the defensive team led by coordinator Reggie Herring.

"I wanted to make sure everyone knows that it was a big play," Herring said. "So many times, if you don't make big plays in practice, you never see them in games, too. I think you have to practice making big plays. It was a big deal. I think you celebrate a play like that. It was a big-time play."

Nutt said film of the first day of workouts revealed solid play from his top three quarterbacks.

"They had an excellent first day, all three," Nutt said. "They got the signals down. They didn't miss a call. They were making the proper reads. We didn't have any snaps on the ground. It was a good first day for them after we looked at the film.

"It was a long day. We had a full practice in the morning before our real practice. We didn't have the ball and it was a walk through, but it was a lot for the first day. The heat got to some of our guys."

Nutt said it was clear that the freshmen struggled because of the heat and the fast pace of the workout, perhaps a faster pace than they'd seen in high school.

"That's what we emphasized to them today, that we practiced very fast," Nutt said. "You'd like to take those freshmen and put all of those 18-year-olds in the freezer (to redshirt them). We can't do that. Those guys don't realize what's going on right now and they are in the mix.

"They think they are going full speed, but they are not. We emphasized full speed today, getting in and out of the huddle. They are talented, but we are asking more from them as far as effort.

"They don't know how to practice with great effort right now. I'm talking about all of them, the wide receivers, the linebackers, just all of them right now."

Nutt said he likes what he sees from his freshman wide receivers, but he noted that most are still not used to the physical nature of the game. He said some of them struggled to get off the line of scrimmage when they faced press coverage against strong, physical cornerbacks like Red Richardson and Chris Houston.

"I think the young receivers saw what competition they are going to face this year," he said. "London Crawford, Carlton Salters, Damian Williams, Andrew Norman, Marcus Wade and all of them are talented. But we still need to see if they can get off the line of scrimmage. We'll see where they are in the next three days in that aspect."

Nutt said the older wideouts have responded to the pressure of the new talent of the freshmen.

"Rod Coleman had a good day yesterday," Nutt said. "It was a shame that he missed the spring. He is one of our top four or five fastest players on the team, but he missed a lot."

At tailback, Nutt said Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis are both doing well. He added that redshirt freshman Michael Smith has had two good days, too.

"So far, so good with Micahel Smith," Nutt said. "He has to stay on the field. That's what we are watching for with him. That's been his problem. But he squirts through the line and he has the quickness to get into the secondary from there."

As far as punt returners, Nutt said Hillis is still the leader.

"It's going to be the one who has the best hands," Nutt said. "We are looking at quite a few there -- Carlton Salters, Damian Williams, Darius Vinnett and Reggie Fish. We are also experimenting with Felix Jones there."

However, the Jones experiment at punt returner may be just that, an experiement. Nutt said it was likely that Jones would handle kickoff returns. He thought it was unlikely he'd be the top tailback and also handle punt returns and kickoff returns.

"I don't think he can do all three," Nutt said. "He's on the kickoff return team for sure. But it doesn't hurt anything for him to go catch punts in practice. That's a free period in pre-practice."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn liked what he saw in their no-huddle period in each of the first two days of practice.

"We went eight plays both of those days," he said. "The quarterbacks knew it and responded extremely well."

As far as the overall offense, Malzahn seemed pleased after what he termed Sunday as a disappointing spring.

"We are light years ahead of where we were in the spring," Malzahn said. "First, we've had an influx of youth. That helps your competition. The older players have responded.

"There really wasn't anything about the spring that was good, but I like where we are right now.

"I like where we are at wide receiver right now. I like the attitude. We have some very confident young wide receivers. It's raising the level with everyone."

Pass protection wasn't great Sunday, but Malzahn said he diden't expect it to be solid without full pads.

"You can't do things without pads as far as protection," he said. "That helps the defense. You put the pads on and we can slow them down and I think you'll see that.

"We are ahead of where I thought we'd be and we haven't even gotten to go full throttle yet. What I see mostly is that our guys are hungry and the intensity has been raised by our youth."

As far as wideout, Malzahn said, "We are a whole lot better. We ended spring on a down note at that spot, but our older guys have come back ready. And, as I said, the young guys are so confident."

Coleman, out with a hamstring injury in the spring, has been a solid performer for two workouts.

"Rod wants to be good and he has ability, but he's still behind right now," Malzahn said. "He missed so much in the spring. He needed the spring, but he's done well so far."

At quarterback, Malzahn said it's been tough to split the snaps three ways between Casey Dick, Robert Johnson and Mitch Mustain.

"I'm not a patient man, but I'm having to be patient for a few more days," Malzahn said. "I think when we finish our evaluation and start to polish, you'll see that we are going to be fine there. But it's tough on everyone right now. It's tough for the players to listen for three styles of calling the cadence. I feel good about what we have. Like I said, we just have to be patient. I don't know how long we are going to wait (on decisions about personnel), but we are going to wait until we know."

Herring said he likes the athletic ability and attitude of his freshmen linebackers.

"They aren't ready yet," he said. "They are typical freshmen, learning. But they can run and they have athletic ability. They seemed smart and alert.

"They just don't know how to practice yet. They can watch those first teamers and see how they do it. They are a great example. They will get it, you just don't know when.

"Those first teamers take pride in how they play with intensity and effort. There's a big difference between them and the freshmen right now."

Herring said he went over effort and loafs with the defense after practice Sunday, but said he hasn't required any up-downs just yet.

"Yes, we are already grading loafs," he said. "We do that daily. But yesterday was a tough day because of the heat. We are not going to do the up-downs for a few more days. Rest assured, we will, though. That's a constant. I want to wait until I see a scrimmage, then we'll do it."

Grant's finger cut was disappointing because it may curtail some of his tackling ability for a few days while the injury heals.

"I just don't think this will be a major factor in him being ready to play," Herring said. "It is going to come down to alignment and stance, mainly, and that injury won't keep him from progressing in that area."

Herring likes the way juco transfer Matt Hewitt, backup strong safety, has looked in two workouts.

"He's been a pleasant surprise," Herring said about Hewitt. "He is very athletic. And, I loved the play Desmond Williams made today. That was a special play, his interception. That's a big deal and we have to emphasize that. If you don't make those kinds of plays in practice, it's unlikely you'll make them in game."

Herring likes the spirited competition he's seen in one-on-one drills between the cornerbacks and the wide receivers, especially with the freshmen wideouts.

"You compete, that's what this game is all about," Herring said. "We've got healthy competition now. You grade on every play. You have a winner and a loser. This isn't like kid leagues where you don't keep score. We keep score on every snap in practice and these young guys we are seeing want to challenge you on every play. It's good and it is spirited."

There were no major injuries through the first two days of workouts. The Hogs will not put on full pads until late in the week.

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