On a day when freshman wideout London Crawford went for a MRI instead of out for passes, the University of Arkansas' Tuesday afternoon football practice was more physical than usual and the wide receiver rotation appears to be coming into focus.
Crawford, a highly coveted wideout, switched from LSU to Arkansas late in the signing period and was a hit early on in preseason camp and looked like a guy who would be an impact player this season.
But his inability to stay on the field due to nagging pain in his knee - just going through 1 1/2 practices in the past 10 days - has him falling way behind as the rest of the team continues to prepare for the season opener with visiting USC on Sept. 2.
"Anytime you have a nagging injury like that, you want to be safe," UA offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Gus Malzahn said. "That's what we are doing and hopefully everything will be positive and then we will know how far and how far and how hard to push a guy."
The injury has been frustrating to both Crawford, who came in as heralded or more than Springdale alum and current Razorback Damian Williams, and the UA coaches.
"Anytime you you're young and you have missed two weeks of practice, it hurts," Malzahn said. "He has kind of been sprinkled in and he is a good listener, but we'll fine out more tomorrow (Wednesday) and we will make the decision on what we want to do.
"His physical tools are really high and so we really wish we had a guy like that healthy to get some timing with him and get him to understand everything," Malzahn added. "We are throwing a lot, we are going quick and it is really hard to be real patient at this point."
UA head coach Houston Nutt echoed those sentiments.
"We are really going to try and find out exactly what is wrong," Nutt said, "and then just go from there."
Malzahn said that he wanted to have an eight-player rotation at the wideouts and would name a starter to go along with Monk in the near future.
"We are getting closer to that," Malzahn said. "I'd say five to six right now and the verdict is still out on a couple. We are getting closer. The receivers had a good day and in team pass we made a couple catches and you can tell they are getting better."
Malzahn, said the veterans have responded to the challenge of the new offense and their younger competitors.
"You look at Cedric Washington, who was banged up in the spring, but he is looking really good right now," Malzahn said. "Of course, (Marcus) Monk has been very consistent, (Reggie) Fish is doing some good stuff and Chris Baker is coming on and doing some good stuff also. The older guys have improved vastly since the spring."
Asked specially about who was in the rotation, Malzahn trotted out a few names.
"The older guys that I mentioned earlier, Damian Williams, Ben Cleveland and John Aaron Rees is with that group, too," Malzahn said. "Really it is too early to tell on the others, but I would say the rest of them all have a chance."
Cleveland (6-4, 248) has been moved from tight end to wideout - a move made much easier by the fact that redshirt freshman Andrew Davie (6-6, 273) has played so well at tight end and joins senior Wes Murphy(6-3, 250), junior Mason Templeton (6-7, 274) and sophomore Lance Thompson (6-4, 235) to give the Razorbacks a solid contingent at that spot.
"That (wideout) is where he (Cleveland) feels comfortable and he hasn't played with his hand on the ground since the ninth grade," Malzahn said. "We worked on it for about a week-and-a-half and he tried extremely hard. But with our defense and the stuff they can do it can be very challenging.
"With the timetable that we have, he is just a big body, understands coverages and so we are putting him at some wide receiver and he has responded very well.
"...We are pretty urgent and we need to do everything we can to help us win immediately and this year," Malzahn added. "You will see him a lot at wide receiver now and very little with his hand down."
Another wideout who is still being looked at is redshirt freshman Rod Coleman.
"Coleman is in the mix, but it hurt him not going through spring," Malzahn said. "He has a lot of talent and a lot of ability. This summer he had some things where he wasn't able to be on campus a whole lot so he is a little bit behind."
Malzahn said that Arkansas' offensive gameplan for USC - the whole package - is in.
"The things we want to hang our hats on we are definitely going to run those over and over again," Malzahn said. "But at the same time you have got to have wrinkles off of what you do and you got to be ready for whatever they give you so we are trying to be in that mode."
It was a physical Tuesday practice.
"It was a little more physical practice definitely," Malzahn said. "We ran the ball a lot today and I know our line appreciated that - get use to getting off the football up front."
Malzahn said that his offense has responded to the challenge that the coaches gave them over the weekend after a bad couple of workouts.
"They have have responded very well," Malzahn said. "We had a great mental practice yesterday. We came out here (Tuesday) and had 20 periods and we put it on them. We expected that they would come out ready and that is a sign of a team that is eager to get better and win and that's what happen."
o o o
The head coach was also pleased with how Tuesday's workout went on the UA's two practice fields.
"I think our players realize that it is coming very, very fast and this was after a full day of school," Nutt said. "It was a very, very long practice and guys had very, very good focus. We have just got to keep getting better and we are really stressing hard the things they (USC) do good.
"We tried to finish up good against good - that is one (offense) vs. one (defense) - and that really showed the speed of it," Nutt added. "Overall it was a very good day today."
The emphasis on more hitting on Tuesday is another exdample of walking a fine line without getting too many hurt.
"We had a little bit more hitting, especially the defense who had a USC middle drill and did a good job recognizing their schemes and tackling," Nutt said. "When you don't have as many tackle plays, the only thing that makes you nervous is that live tackle play.
"So you try to do just a little bit, keep them going and keep them fresh and the fundamentals very, very sharp especially when you are tackling very good backs.," Nutt continued. "We have been doing everything but tackling to the ground, but today we did tackle to the ground. It was good and we are doing the right thing."
Nutt said that a depth chart will be finalized by the end of the week and the kicking spot will then be solidified between Stephen Arnold or true freshman Dan Bailey.
"Probably toward the end of the week when we get the depth chart all lined out," Nutt said. "We'll get that out then."
Tuesday Grid Update, 8/22
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Scout On the Road: SeptemberScout takes a look at some of the top prospects we saw in person during the month of September...
Scout FootballWednesday at 2:00 PM
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016