Hogs Return To Spring Practice With Questions

FAYETTEVILLE -- Before they left for spring break earlier this month, Arkansas' football players were given a crash course on what the next three weeks of spring practice should look like.

Quarterback Casey Dick worked on his accuracy. New offensive coordinator David Lee got started on revamping the passing game. And defensive coordinator Reggie Herring began looking for at least seven starters.

But there is only so much that can be taught in two practices, especially when they're held indoors and no one is wearing shoulder pads.

That will change Monday afternoon, though.

Now that spring break is over, the Razorbacks will return for the remaining 13 practices in the spring. And as usual, there is plenty to get done in a short period of time.

"It seems like each year, each spring, there is always a bunch of questions," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said this week. "It's no different this year."

The Razorbacks officially opened spring practice with a pair of early morning workouts on March 13 and 14 inside the Walker Pavilion. But the two practices were rather basic.

Players were dressed in shorts, and Lee only had enough time to implement a small portion of what he hopes will be a more effective passing scheme.

But between now and the Red-White spring game on April 14, Nutt hopes to find answers to several questions that could determine Arkansas' success in the fall:

* Now that there's no doubt that he's the starter, can junior Casey Dick learn to become a better decision-maker and a more accurate passer?

* Can Arkansas' offensive line be as dominant as it was last season despite losing starting offensive guard Stephen Parker and starting offensive tackles Tony Ugoh and Zac Tubbs?

* And how long will it take Herring to find a handful of new starters and get the defense close to where the offense appears to be at the moment?

"The thing about it, Reggie does such a good job of closing that gap," Nutt said. "There are going to be some days where, I know, (the defense is) going to win some (in practice) and that's OK. I feel good when the defense wins some.

"But I do expect us to be a little bit more veteran, a little bit older, a little bit better than this time last spring."

Senior Nate Garner and junior Mitch Petrus, who moved over from tight end, are expected to fill some of the holes on the offensive line.

And when Arkansas' players report back tonight, Nutt hopes to find out whether tight end Ben Cleveland will be cleared to practice after missing the first two days of the spring with a nagging foot injury.

"That's the first question I will ask (athletic trainer) Dean (Weber): Will Ben Cleveland be able to go tomorrow?" Nutt said.

But perhaps the biggest question mark that must be addressed over the next few weeks is Dick.

Because of Mitch Mustain's decision to transfer, there is no longer a controversy over who is Arkansas' starting quarterback. It's Dick. And it's no secret what area Nutt wants the junior to improve on during the spring.

"Decision-making, decision-making, decision-making," Nutt said. "I don't mind slow feet as long as you've got to have a quick mind with accuracy. And that's what he's got to have, and I feel like he's going to get it."

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