Summer Conditioning

Quarterback Casey Dick and linebacker Weston Dacus talk about the progress of Arkansas' summer workouts and their goals for the fall.

When it came interview time on Wednesday, both of the starting University of Arkansas' quarterbacks showed up to praise their teammates' on-going summer workouts.

That would be Casey Dick – the starting quarterback on offense – and middle linebacker Weston Dacus, who has been told by Razorback head coach Houston Nutt and defensive coordinator Reggie Herring that he should consider himself that on defense.

"Coach Herring and Coach Nutt have put a little pressure on me to let me know that I could be the leader of this defense," Dacus said. "I am doing that right now to get the players going. We are working hard. I am not a real vocal person. I try to lead by example."

Most of the returning players and almost all of the incoming freshmen are in Fayetteville for the second semester of summer school and going through conditioning work.

"The main thing that players worry about now is being in shape and Coach Decker will run them four days a week when last year we were just running two days a week," Dacus said. "We have been running stadiums and they are going to have us ready."

Dick, who has been the man at quarterback the last four games of both of the last two seasons, says that is the way it is working with the offensive guys as well.

"The workouts have gone really well," Dick said. "Right now we are basically into the conditioning phase where we work out three days a week and run four days a week. We are getting in shape and getting a lot faster and stronger."

Losing the final three games after being 10-1 and in the top five nationally has pushed them in the offseason according to Dick.

"We were a couple of plays away from being somewhere on a big stage," Dick said. "That is always in the back of everybody's minds. Obviously we want to be here this year and we have worked hard enough to get there. We just have to go one game at a time, even a play at a time, and it will turn out just fine for us."

Dacus echoed those sentiments.

"I don't think anybody expected us to have a winning season last year," Dacus said. "That was our main goal going into last season – to shock people. I think we did that and I think people are doubting us whether we can do it two years in a row.

"The coaches are stressing changing the tradition around here and that is what we are trying to do – win ballgames," Dacus added.

"The main goal for this year is to prove everybody wrong again," Dacus continued. "After that many (2) losing seasons they didn't expect us to do what we did last year, We did it and our main goal is to go out and do it again."

One thing that has Dacus and the defenders excited is how quickly defensive linemen Marcus Harrison has healed up after tearing his ACL.

"Marcus Harrison tore his ACL, but he is working with us and he has a little pep in his step right now," Dacus said. "He is excited to kind of overcome that injury a little bit and he is coming along quick."

Dacus talked about how much young talent there is at linebacker, including redshirt freshmen Ryan Powers, Chip Gregory and sophomore Wendel Davis to go along with holdovers Dacus, Fred Fairchild and Desmond Williams.

"We have got a lot of young guys that are really good at linebacker right now," Dacus said. "These younger guys have all the talent in the world and could be the best linebackers to come through here if they want to be."

Although the UA defense lost end Jamaal Anderson, cornerback Chris Houston and stud linebacker Sam Olajubutu to the NFL, Dacus believes in the 2007 unit.

"We have a bunch of guys that know how to work, maybe not as many big playmakers, but I think some people will really stand out this year," Dacus said. "I don't worry about the defense right now."

Dick is as confident in his offense, which you might expect with All-American running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, the versatile Peyton Hillis, wideout Marcus Monk and preseason All-American center Jonathon Luigs to head up the offensive line.

"That does take the pressure off of me with those guys back there, but we have to take the pressure off of them by being able to throw the ball more efficiently," Dick said. "Hopefully we will get some bigger plays out of it."

Dick believes he has become a better quarterback under Lee, who came back to Arkansas after being in the Dallas Cowboys system for a few years.

"I have grown up a lot with Coach Lee," Dick said. "I've got a new offense and new things going into the season. He has gotten me a lot more confidence and we will go out there and be more confident about what we are going to do."

"This offense is more versatile with a little bit more play action," Dick added. "He loves Peyton Hillis. He calls him the Jason Witten of this offense because Jason Witten does everything in the Dallas offense. He will be a versatile guy and we will move him around a lot and he'll do a lot of different things."

Dick doesn't try to hide the fact that he is much more comfortable in his quarterbacking role knowing that he is the clear starter now that Mitch Mustain transferred to USC.

"It's just a sense of confidence that you are going in there and you are going to be the guy," Dick said. "You have more confidence about what you are going to do and what is going on in the back of your mind."

Dick is aware that some writers are saying Arkansas will only be as successful as he is this season.

"It's fine if everybody wants to put the pressure on me," Dick said. "I know the pressure is on me. We are going to have to be able to throw the football this year more than we did last year. It can be on me. I'll get it taken care of.

"…Obviously we want to just be able to throw the ball more efficiently," Dick said. "The completion percentage needs to go up quite a bit, get some things done there and throw some more touchdowns. We aren't going to set any yardage goals – just be proficient at what we do and be successful."

Ironically Dick will be throwing the ball this season to former quarterback Robert Johnson, the first of three quarterbacks that started for Arkansas last season.

"I think he is a lot more comfortable now than he was toward the end of last season," Dick said. "He has certainly came a long way with his route running, his speed and he has probably dropped about 10 pounds since the spring," Dick said. "He'll be a little faster and he is a big, strong, physical guy that likes to shove people around."

He'll also have his younger, but taller brother Nathan Dick around this season as Nathan Emert and freshmen Joe Chiasson to help get ready for college football.

All are on campus right now and working out with the team.

"Obviously he is my brother so I am going to go to have to go in there and help him," Dick said. "He has learned a lot since he has been up here. He came out yesterday and threw the ball really well. He is a little taller. He needs to get some play-action stuff down and different drills that Coach Lee does with us, but he'll be fine."

Dacus said this year's version of the Razorbacks is brimming with confidence.

"The biggest thing to do is go out and execute," Dacus said. "Those games were all close. There were two, three or four plays that could have changed the result of the whole game and we know now that we can hang with anybody."


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