For Hogs, Spring Is For Learning New Offense

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs joked that he's still trying to learn the names of all of his new coaches.

"I'm just worried about the names right now and we'll get to football later," Luigs said, cracking a smile Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, quarterback Casey Dick admitted that he's trying to get a grasp on a playbook that's filled with new formations and new terminology.

"The whole system is nothing like what we had last year. It's totally different," Dick said. "None of the formations are called the same. None of the runs are called the same. It's all different and all brand-new."

With all the change that has taken place with Arkansas' football program over the past few months, it should make for an interesting spring. There are plenty of new faces, and for some, the chance at a clean slate.

When the Razorbacks open spring practice at 4 p.m. today, the players will finally get an opportunity to see how first-year coach Bobby Petrino works. And after months of studying his much talked-about offense, they'll get their first chance to run it on the practice field.

"I think the challenge is just implementing a new system. We've got to make sure we concentrate hard on our technique and fundamentals, don't get caught up in just the X's and O's part of it," Petrino said. "(We) also (need to) make sure that we're patient and don't go too fast."

Arkansas has 15 practices spread out over the next 24 days, and during that time, Petrino will try to get his new players acclimated to his offensive system. But that will be a challenge.

For upperclassmen like Dick and Luigs, they'll be working with their fourth offensive coordinator in as many years. They've had to adjust to Houston Nutt, Gus Malzahn, David Lee and now Paul Petrino, Bobby's younger brother.

To make matters more difficult, the players grew accustomed during Nutt's tenure as Arkansas' coach to an offense that was based around running the football. Petrino's style, however, is dramatically different.

It's more of a pass-first offense that resembles a Spread offense at times. Dick will be asked to do more than just manage the game, and the wide receivers can expect to be more involved.

"We've been in meetings it seems like forever this spring just trying to grasp the first phase of the offense," Arkansas running back Michael Smith said. "We're going to get that down. The receivers are going to come along.

"I feel like everybody is a little bit more excited about what's going on now because they see the ball can go anywhere."

Over the past few months, players have studied their playbooks, watched film and gone to individual position meetings, all in the hopes of getting a better understanding of Petrino's offense.

But it will take time, and Dick is already preparing for the fact that mistakes will be made by everyone during spring practice — including himself.

"We'll throw a lot at them and then we'll come back and repeat that and then we'll come back and repeat it again and then they should have it," Petrino said. "Once we've done it three times, they need to have it or we'll have an understanding that they might need to be sitting on the bench for awhile."

Luigs said the biggest adjustment so far has simply been learning the terminology that goes with Petrino's offense. He estimated that the vocabulary is at least 90-95 percent different than what it was during Nutt's tenure.

At least when Nutt changed offensive coordinators, the terminology remained mostly the same.

"It's different from before because before the offensive coordinator would come in and try to change their calls to what we're used to," Luigs said. "But since it's a whole new staff, we have to change our calls because they're not familiar with what we used to call it."

Dick said there have already been times over the past few weeks when he has been in a position meeting and something from Nutt's old offense will come to mind. But he believes that will change the more familiar he gets with Petrino's offensive scheme.

"You kind of put all of the old stuff that you've gone through in the back of your head and not really think of it at all," Dick said. "You've got to worry about this system that these coaches are bringing in, then you've got to learn it inside and out and be able to use it when you need it."

That's what the new few weeks will be for.

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