Lee Reaches New Heights With Passing Game

FAYETTEVILLE -- Three metal ladders were lined up side by side on the practice field, with green jerseys covering the top steps.

The ladders were supposed to resemble the Southeastern Conference's tallest defensive linemen. With the jerseys, the ladders stood 7-feet tall -- six inches more than former Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson.

Arkansas starting quarterback Casey Dick and backup Nathan Emert took turns early Tuesday morning throwing passes over the ladders and into a net a few yards away.

And with that drill, it was evident on the first day of spring practice new Arkansas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach David Lee was taking a different approach when it comes to revamping the Razorbacks' struggling passing game.

"We've got 6-foot-1 quarterbacks, and we're trying to get the ball up over the rush and then pull it down," Lee said. "And you can see Casey's ball sailing a lot today. He needs a lot of that drill."

Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt hired Lee in January specifically to develop a group of unproven quarterbacks and add another dimension to the offense by jump-starting the passing game.

Lee didn't waste any time addressing the problem. Rather than easing their way into spring practice, Dick and Emert were forced to throw under pressure while facing a live blitz from Arkansas' defense -- all before the sun had risen.

The Razorbacks started the two-hour practice at 5:20 a.m. Tuesday in the Walker Pavilion.

"If we can handle the blitz, everything else will be gravy," said Lee, who has coached the quarterbacks in two previous stops at Arkansas (1984-88 and 2001-02).

Despite the early start, Dick and Emert impressed the coaches by completing passes to wide receivers Marcus Monk, London Crawford and Chris Baker during the pass-rushing drill.

When asked to grade the quarterbacks on how well they handled the 12 plays against the blitz, Lee said he'd give them a "B".

"That, to me, was the most exciting thing of the whole day, for the first day to be able to handle some blitzes and complete some balls," Nutt said.

"I expected maybe one ball to be caught out of 12 plays, and I'm anxious to watch this film (of practice) today. But I really think it was just outstanding."

Not everything with the passing game went so smoothly, though. As expected, the wide receivers dropped several passes and the quarterbacks had some trouble with their accuracy.

At one point, Dick and Emert threw interceptions on back-to-back pass attempts.

The Razorbacks will practice at 5 a.m. today before taking two weeks off for spring break.

Lee hopes to cram in as much of the new playbook before the break and then implement more of it when the players return March 26.

He also plans to break out the ladders more. It's a technique he admits he had no use for during his last coaching stint with the Razorbacks.

"I had a 6-foot-6 quarterback before, Matt Jones. He can see over everybody," Lee said. "That's probably why I didn't have it."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories