Thursday Grid Update, 4/10

Arkansas moved outside as the sun popped out for a warm, windy Thursday. The Hogs will conduct a major scrimmage on Friday afternoon.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino didn't like the execution of Thursday's practice as the Hogs went outside when afternoon sun dried up the remains from overnight rains. Petrino said the team prepared for what will be a "good, long, tough scrimmage" on Friday.

Some asked if it would be similar to the scrimmage of around 80 plays on the weekend. That drew a chuckle from Petrino. "That was pretty easy day," he said.

Petrino said the coaching staff wanted to see how the quarterbacks react to pressure. In that respect, he said the defense will be free "to make some calls," noting that means bring a little more heat or pressure on the quaterbacks.

The quarterbacks didn't get a lot of help Thursday. The head coach said the receivers dropped "too many" passes. He predicted the receivers will "do better than that" as the practices continue. He added that the offense "had not been outside enough."

Part of the offensive problems were because of a heavy day of installation, according to the head coach. Conversely, he said the defensive staff cut back on installations and that made for a better day on that side of the ball.

"We had a good first week and we've continued to add on offense," he said. "Our execution wasn't as good because of it. We didn't execute as much of it today.

"Defensively, they held back a little today in installations. Because of that, we had a good day. We had been making too many assignment errors on defense and we had to slow down. We'll catch up on the installs later."

Missing practice because of injuries were Crosby Tuck, Jerell Norton and Elston Forte. Asked about Forte's absence afterwards, Petrino said, "No more questions about injured players. Ask me about players who were out here."

Freddy Burton slid into Forte's spot with the first unit at outside linebacker, joining Jerry Franklin and Ryan Powers with the top linebacker group.

The Hogs worked a little longer than previous days, beginning early in front of a large contingent of high school coaches, at the UA for the two-day coaching convention. Early in the workout, Petrino conducted an alley drill that featured one-on-one running with the ball with running backs against linebackers and defensive backs. That drill happened on the sideline closest to the crowd of high school coaches. Matt Harris, working as the first team free safety, had a strong series of hits in that drill. Tight end Andrew Davie was the most impressive ball carrier, overpowering several lighter defenders.

"We tackled well today," Petrino said after the workout. "We've been pretty good in that area and we hope to continue."

Bobby Allen, who handles the defensive tackles, said that is an area he'll be watching hard in Friday's scrimmage, the last workout before three off days.

"We'll be looking for several things," he said. "First, we will be grading effort. Second, we will want to see how they run to the football. We will want to see how they play their technique and read their keys as far as run and pass. We'll check to see how they get in their stance and their recognition."

The top two tackles so far in drills has been Cord Gray and Malcolm Sheppard. Both Ernest Mitchell and Marcus Shavers are on the injured list for the entire spring after winter surgeries. Patrick Jones and Brandon Lampkin are working on the second team.

"Cord has been a nice surprise," Allen said. "He's stepped up as a senior. P.J. Jones is coming, too. We are working with Malcolm on his technique. He's always going to give great effort. We love his effort. We just need to get him to work on that technique. We need to get his foundation sound and get him to play more under control. Brandon is a young guy who is working hard."

Jones started spring ahead of Gray, but they flipped after the first scrimmage.

"What we saw on film in that scrimmage is that Cord was fundamentally better," Allen said. "He was more in position to make plays. One thing we were pleased with him was that he was reading blocks and was at the point of attack. He was holding his gap. He was an anchor in the run game."

However, all of the defensive tackles need improvement, he said.

"We are looking to see for how much we get better from the first to the second scrimmage," Allen said. "The last two days, we've tried to review our calls and get ready. In the first scrimmage, we didn't always recognize the calls. We'd have one half of the line get it, the other half didn't get the call right. We weren't sharp or ready.

"We are taking baby steps every day. We are trying to get to the point where our players undersgtand the tempo. One of the biggest things tomorrow is for all of them to recognize the calls and get them right. Everyone has to be on the same page as far as communication."

Allen said he's had fun with a new staff. He's one of the oldest tenured coaches in the SEC as far as assistants. He was with Houston Nutt's staff for 10 years, and this is his 11th in the SEC.

"I'm really excited to be with this staff," he said. "What you see is a different management style from Coach Petrino and I've learned a lot. He has communicated to our staff as to what he wants at practice and it's been a very fast tempo. What you know is that you are going to work hard, work smart and be smart in how you play. It's been very good for me.

"I've learned a different way and it's re-energized me. It's made me a better coach."

Allen emphasized that Petrino's style isn't just as an offensive coach.

"What you see is that he's worked hard to learn every area of the game -- offense, defense and the kicking game," Allen said. "He knows as much about the back end of the defense or the line, as he does about the offense. He knows the game of football."

Asked about his decision to retain Allen as an assistant, Petrino said he recalled the time he was matched against him as assistants.

"Bobby is a very good coach," Petrino said. "I remember going against the defense he coordinated when I was offensive coordinator at Utah State and he was at Boise State. His defense was very sound."

Allen recalls the game, and the deciding factor.

"They beat us in the two-minute drill," Allen said. "I think it was like 28-24 and we brought zone pressure and they executed a play on the outside.

"What I remember about playing his offense was that they were fundamentally sound. They had some variety in their offense. They had the inside zone plays and the screens and a good passing game. It was very multiple. But, obviously, he has kept expanding on it."

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