Arkansas's newcomers worked for about 90 minutes in their first practice as Razorbacks on the new Astro Play surface in Walker Pavilion. Both the surface and the players drew rave reviews from Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.
"I love this surface," Nutt said. "It's going to be even better once the material settles. Gone are the skinned knees and elbows. It's great for your joints. We will practice more often in here now. It's an awesome deal."
There were a few slips as some of the rubber material continues to come loose as players cut, but there were no complaints. Most everyone agrees that this surface is the way to go for indoor facilities.
Nutt said he was excited Sunday night when he greeted his newcomers, but that the level of the excitement went up several notches after seeing them on the field.
"I'm more excited now," he said. "They can really move around. They are just as athletic as we thought we were when we recruited them in January. They are very athletic.
"I love our linemen. Zac Tubbs is bigger than I remembered him and he has great feet. The other linemen ... all of them ... Tony Ugoh, Gene Perry, Jason Grimes ... all of our newcomers are good looking as far as the linemen. They are big and they can move.
"Our skilled athletes have great speed. You see Michael Coe, David Thompson, John Jackson, John Johnson, Dedrick Poole, Cedric Washington, Sam Olajubutu ... all of these guys can really move. There is great speed there.
"I loved the receivers. We are in good shape and don't have to count on any of them to help us this year, but I bet one of them does. I do look for one to get in the rotation.
"Cedric Washington is a phenomenal athelte. It will be hard to redshirt him. He's got a great arm, with real zip. I don't know if we can afford to keep him on the sideline. He can really run."
Asked if this was his best freshman class, Nutt hedged a bit.
"I don't know ... you need to wait two or three years to see what happens ... but, it might be," he said. "This is the best I've ever felt after the first morning ... so in that respect I might say yes."
Washington, a 6-0, 180-pound quarterback from Bryan, Texas, said he is not going to resist moving this year to help the team.
"There's part of me that wants to stay at quarterback and redshirt," he said. "But, by the same token, I wouldn't object if I can help the team win by moving somewhere to play this year. That's up to the coaches. I do want to be a quarterback. Staying at quarterback and taking a redshirt might help me play quicker at quarterback. But, personally, I don't think I'd like to redshirt. I think I would rather play. So, in the long run, it doesn't matter. The coaches will know what is best.
"Overall, this has been great. My teammates are awesome. There is no tension. Everyone is so excited to be here, and we all are getting along so well. It's a happy group."
Tony Ugoh, 6-5, 283-pound freshman offensive tackle, said his goal is to win a starting spot by season's end.
"Today it was interesting," he said. "We went just over one hour, but we did more than in a 3-hour high school practice. The pace is so quick. You stand around in high school and don't get as much done in three hours as we did in one hour today.
"My goal is to have a lot of fun this year, and try to get a starting spot before the season ends. I know that's tough because I will have plenty of good teammates, but that's my goal."
Ugoh is one of the few freshmen in a room by himself to start the week, but will welcome Shawn Andrews to his room on Tuesday.
"Shawn and I have talked this summer and decided we would be roommates," Ugoh said. "He'll be here on Tuesday. I know we are going to fit well together."
Wes Murphy runs the shuttle run in Monday's first practice.
The newcomers stretch on the new Astro Play surface at Walker Pavilion on Monday morning to start their first workout.
Players are instructed in the rules of the shuttle run before the start of their workout. These are the line candidates from the newcomers.
Photos by Clay Henry