Sandwiched around a pair of open days, Arkansas worked Tuesday in what coaches and players alike called a "very physical" full pads workout in Walker Pavilion.
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said the staff had every intention of working outside Tuesday and had made plans in that direction. Then, after a mid-day staff meeting, a heavy rain set in.
"We can't use the grass practice field right now," Petrino said. "It is soaked. We'd love to be outside because you get more done as far as the passing game with timing and in the wind. But we just had to come inside today."
Even with three of the practices held in Walker Pavilion, Petrino said those workouts have been "good, quality work."
The Hogs had practiced four straight days to open Petrino's first spring at Arkansas before taking Monday off. The head coach said Tuesday's workout proved the squad "has a lot to learn." He said they were coming off a good four days of practice, but didn't have the same tempo at the outset Tuesday.
"We wish we could come back with the same tempo, but we didn't," he said. "What I will say is our linebackers were much better today (than in the scrimmage Sunday). They were better against the lead play.
"We put more new things in and when you do that, you are going to have some assignment errors and we did.
"One of the things we emphasized was for our secondary to play the ball better. We did get a couple of picks today and we had a couple of more that we batted. We've got to get to those when they are batted."
Petrino said the offensive line has done some nice things through five workouts. He praised center Jonathan Luigs, noting "he's a real good player. Our backs got a lot of cutbacks behind him."
Quarterback play has improved through the four workouts, especially with the footwork.
"Our quarterbacks are better," Petrino said. "They are getting their back legs under their hips and they have stepped up in the pocket. That helps our offensive line in protection."
Petrino was asked about the dogged way Paul Petrino, the wideout coach and offensive coordinator, chases receiveres down the field after catches and if he's always done that. Bobby Petrino said, "Yes, he's crazy."
Petrino said wideout Crosby Tuck sustained a pulled quadricep early in Sunday's workout and wasn't able to make it past the stretching part of Tuesday's workout. He spent the day with the training and conditioning staff, along with cornerback Jerrell Norton, bothered by a hamstring injury. Petrino said it appears running back Chip Gregory will be slow to return from a "high ankle sprain" sustained in Saturday's workout.
"Gregory can get no push on that ankle," he said. "It's a wait and see thing. It may be awhile."
Petrino praised the work of strongside tackle Mike Aguirre. He's gotten a lot of first team snaps in the last three days.
"He's doing reall good," Petrino said. "He's improved. We were worried about his speed, but he's got really good technique. He's way ahead of some of the others with his pass blocking technique. We just need thim to improve his run blocking. He has to learn that."
Line coach Mike Summers said he will continue to rotate Jose Valdez and Ray Dominguez with Aguirre at the tackle spots in search of the best combinations in his weakside-strongside scheme. Luigs said it's been interesting to watch that system develop.
"I asked Coach Summers why we did it when I sat down with him," Luigs said. "I hadn't seen that in awhile. He told me that it really helps in scheme development as far as blitz blocking. He said a lot of teams run the same blitzes to the weakside and this way the same linemen see the same things when you keep them to the weak side.
"Hey, it's the same for me each time. I just run to the ball (for the snap) each time. The calls are a little different. That's about it."
Summers said all of the O-line had some good moments in the weekend scrimmage and did not want to single out any individuals.
"What we liked is the way they got down field and finished plays," he said. "But we still have a long way to go. Aguirre did some good things. So did Dominguez and Valdez."
As far as Tuesday's workout, Summers did admit to the physical nature of the start which included a team segment that featured mostly ones versus ones and almost 40 minutes of contact although backs were not tackled.
"We came out early and did the five-man sled in pre-practice," he said. "That is probably a little different. We'd had a day off and will get another day off tomorrow, so it was a good day for some hitting. It was a good time to get some good work.
"We are going to do a lot of ones against ones around here. We have a saying in our weight room, iron sharpens iron. So that's what we are talking about. As far as today, I thought the first defense took it to us. They brought the fight better than we did."
Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard wasn't so sure about that. He said it's an all-day war everytime the D-line faces this offensive front.
"I'm the three technique and I'm against their strong side, and I see a lot of Luigs," Sheppard said. "I'm up to maybe 284 now and I still have to fight hard to stay with those guys. They are very, very tough. Our defense is starting to grow together. It was a tough, hard practice and we tried to bring it. You see that we are going to have to bring everything we've got when we go against guys like Luigs, or Demarcus Love. Those guys are very good, all of them, all the way across our front. This is going to be one of the best offensive lines in the country, so it makes us better every day."
Aguirre said he knows he is a long way from being a starter at the strongside tackle. He said it's just tough competition at this point.
"You just go out there and fight, and compete," he said. "I want to work hard and do things to help this team win some games. You are competing literally left and right every day. I have a lot of incentive. I'm a long way from home (in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and I want to do something. There are a lot of factors to it. Right now, though, this is just competition."
Summers said the offensive line will continue to see a shuffle up front.
"We are mixing and matching it now, trying to see what we have," he said. "It is going to take time. We have guys learning a new language. And, we only have two or three seconds to communicate it to start a play. It's a slow progress.
"I am pleased with the development so far, but we have to continue to work on our pass protection. We want to keep our quarterback clean and we have to get better in protection to do that."
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