Football season must be just around the corner.
That's the deal when the University of Arkansas football team reports for fall practice – something that happen on Thursday with 28 newcomers and 102 players overall checking in.
Those newcomers included 21 scholarship freshmen and seven invited walk-ons to go along with the returning Razorbacks and all met as a group for the first time at 4 p.m.
"I am very excited about this class and while it seems like there is a lot of talk already about the other class (the 2008 recruits), that's just how things are going," Nutt said. "But this is an exceptional class and I love their character, I love their attitudes and I know they are very anxious. Like all freshmen they are a little nervous, but I feel like we have a really good group."
Arkansas actually signed 27 players back in February and knew that three – running backs Juwan Franklin and Michael Harris and defensive end Adrian Campbell - will not qualify.
There were also three others that did not report on Thursday with safety Walner LeAndre, tailback Brandon Barnett and defensive back Greg Gatson unable to report.
LeAndre and Barnett were both junior college performers last season while Gatson played high school football in Memphis.
"Walner, we still have some paper work to do there, but we really feel like he is going to be here in two, three, four days tops," Nutt said. "It's paper work. That's the same thing with Brandon Barnett. We feel like the work is done and it is just paper work getting back from the junior college and getting them cleared. It takes a little time and we expect this.
"…Gatson is another one that we are waiting on some paper work and a class being cleared," Nutt added. "We will probably take it a little slower with him. It's going to take a little bit longer with him."
Nutt confirmed that redshirt freshmen wideout Andrew Norman has indeed decided to transfer.
"Andrew and his father called me last night and they had just decided that they wanted to make a move," Nutt said. "They were concerned a little bit about playing time.
"Andrew is a fine young man and I wish him nothing but the best," Nutt said. "We had a good conversation last night and he just felt like it was in his best interest to move to a different program right now."
After orientation on Friday, Arkansas will start practice Saturday at 3 p.m. with the freshmen going 30 minutes by themselves and then joined by the returnees.
The Razorbacks will also practice Sunday at 2:30 before moving to night practices until they are able to start two-a-days next Friday.
"We are still in (summer) school so we are trying to work our schedule around the school," Nutt said. "There will be some tests coming up so we have to do a good job of scheduling and organizing that."
Nutt noted he and his staff were pleasantly surprised the incoming freshmen center Seth Oxner (6-5, 290) was healthy enough to go through preseason practice.
"Seth Oxner is a guy who has worked so hard," Nutt said. "We didn't even have plans to put him in the two-a-day group, but he has worked so hard that we are going to go ahead and include him.
"He had knee surgery after hurting it on his last day of high school playing in a faculty basketball game," Nutt added. "But the surgery was very successful, the rehab has been great and he looks very good."
The Razorbacks also welcomed seven freshman walk-ons inside the 105 players the NCAA allows you to bring in for preseason practice.
That list includes Marion fullback Darcel Johnson, Pulaski Academy wideout Brian Langford, the Fayetteville duo of safety Kenny Stockalper and Ben Ball, North Little Rock deep snapper Derrell Hartwick and the Shiloh pair of quarterback Austin Tucker and wide receiver Bo Scott.
Nutt says he knows all of them are raring to go, but that the heat will slow them down after awhile.
"Every year they are so ready to go, but about two weeks from now they will be wanting to go to the swimming pool," Nutt said.
Arkansas will practice in shorts and helmets the first two days before being able to add pads on day 3.
He notes that while he won't break out the protective green jerseys for players right away, the first team offense is likely not to be tackled to the ground for awhile.
"These guys won't be tackled to the ground, but they will be hit around and banged on," Nutt said. "We will put a lot of emphasis on taking care of the ball. These guys are tough enough that they can be thudded up. We'll have some full live contact, they just won't be tackled to the ground. It will be a couple of weeks before we really put the ball down in a real live scrimmage."
The first two-a-day will be next Friday with the NCAA rules mandating no back-to-back two-a-day workouts.
"You get 29 opportunities (practices) and I kind of like the way it is set up now," Nutt said. "You never go two-a-days two times in a row, but you can have some great meeting time, great correction time and then when you do practice you can demand a lot. It's going to be full go for two hours and 10 minutes for as hard as you can go."
MARC F. HENNING • HAWGS ILLUSTRATED
Arkansas equipment manager Tim Cheney, left, fits
walk-on freshman receiver Brian Langford of Little
Rock for a helmet Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007, during
Arkansas football reporting day at the Broyles
Athletic Complex in Faytteville. Langford attended
ARC F. HENNING • HAWGS ILLUSTRATED
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt laughs with members of the media following a press conference Thursday, Aug. 2,2007, during football reporting day at the Broyles Athletic Complex in Fayetteville.
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