Arkansas moved fast on the first day of workouts under head football coach Bobby Petrino. To start the day, they moved quickly inside as thunderstorms rocked the Ozarks, including some that had lightning dancing around Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Petrino's first practice was at a lightning pace with coaches pushing players at a faster tempo at the outset and with little slack throughout the two-hour workout.
"Nobody got wet," Petrino said as he greeted the about two dozen members of the media after the Thursday workout in Walker Pavilion. "That was a good thing."
Petrino called it a "good" first practice, but he expected players to hit their assignments well after having a couple of weeks to study what was going to happen to start spring drills.
"I thought the coaches did a good job in the meetings and our players came to practice with enthusiasm," Petrino said. "But this is the easiest practice we'll have. We will keep installing, keep adding. It will get tougher. We will keep adding things. We'll go back and look at the video and see what they did and what we need to work on.
"I did like the tempo. It's not quite where we want to be, but it was good. We want to practice fast. If we do, then we want have to run any sprints after practice because we will already be in shape from practice.
"Again, I think this was the easiest practice we'll have. We should know what we were going to do today."
As far as individual assessments, Petrino pointed to tailback Michael Smith. Petrino said, "He is quick. He is one fast little guy." He also noted the play of sophomore wideout Marques Wade. He said, "We expected him to be a player. This is a day that should help his confidence. He did some good things."
As far as quarterbacks, Petrino noted the play of all four quarterbacks -- Casey Dick, Nathan Dick, Ryan Mallett and Alex Mortensen.
"At quarterback, the tempo and timing needs to be better," he said. "We worked hard on footwork today. We are trying to get our footwork established. Footwork sets up everything. They all need to work on footwork. They all need reps. Mallett did some good things, but he needs reps, too, and he is working on his footwork, too. It's obvious he has a strong arm -- too strong sometimes.
"We coach footwork first. You need balance so that your release point is consistent. The two things we focus on are, one, delivering it on time, and two, accuracy. We do everything we can to focus on those two things."
The Hogs continue with spring drills with another no-pads workout at 4 p.m. Friday. Petrino hopes good weather arrives so fans can attend. He wants all spring workouts to be open, but if weather forces the Hogs inside Walker Pavilion there is not enough space for fans.
"We really wanted to fans to be here and that would have been fun," he said. "We almost forced the issue. That was one thing we wanted, to have the fans here today. I want it to be fun for the team and that's why we want fans. We'll get some good weather hopefully and have them out here tomorrow."
Asked about the return of tight end Ben Cleveland after sitting out last season with neck and shoulder problems, Petrino said, "I didn't notice Ben as much today as maybe Andrew Davie and D. J. Williams. We recruited Ben (at Louisville) and I have respect for his ability to get down the field in routes. We need to get Ben healthy."
Quarterback will get a lot of scrutiny throughout spring from both Petrino and position coach Garrick McGee.
"We got a lot of reps today and that will be like every practice," McGee said. "This is the type of practice we want, fast and with a lot of plays. How many throws will we get in a practice? That depends on the calls in team period, but we are going to throw it a lot.
"Today was fun. As a staff, we've been in the meeting room a lot since early January. Now it's football. Now it's time to practice and everyone was excited.
"I thought our quarterbacks did a pretty good job of staying focused in today's practice. That's probably the most important aspect of quarterback play. The challenge in a game is stay focused from the start to the finish. If you lose that focus, things can get away from you very fast. We have a long way to go in that area, but today was a good start. I thought our players were intense and into it.
"We chart everything and we'll look at film and see what really happened and what we need to improve on after today."
Bobby Petrino shouts instruction in the first workout of spring.
London Crawford (2) prepares to charge off the line in Thursday's workout.
Michael Smith makes a cut in spring drills.
Ryan Mallett prepares for a throw.
Photos by Marc F. Henning
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