Arkansas will take three days off from spring drills after Friday's scrimmage. Another way to put it, new head coach Bobby Petrino covered enough in the scrimmage that the Hogs might need a few days off to get over the bumps and bruises.
Not counting field goals and extra points, the Hogs went through a tough, physical scrimmage with around 150 plays on Friday afternoon -- that after about 45 minutes of preparation in individual work and seven-on-seven situations.
"Is that all?" tight end Andrew Davie said. "We heard it might be 180 and to be prepared to go 180. We are all tired. I heard 180 and be prepared for more.
"They will separate the men from the boys, this staff. You know you are going to have some injuries, some bumps and things. You know you have to be tough and just fight through them. There is no messing around and they are going to find out who is tough and hard-nosed."
Apparently, one of them is Davie, the 25-year-old tight end from Little Rock. Davie and D. J. Williams, another tight end/H-back, sparkled on the crisp, cool afternoon in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Both made big plays in the passing game and also were front-and-center on sweeps and off-tackle plays in the run game.
"The tight ends had a real good day," said Paul Petrino, offensive coordinator and wideout coach. "Those are two of our better football players. They did a good job in the passing game, made plays. They also did a good job of blocking on the edge. They both made plays after the catch."
Davie rambled 63 yards to the 7-yard line after hauling in a nice throw from quarterback Alex Mortensen on an out route. He finally went down when cornerback Ramon Broadway got him on the angle after a long chase. Davie pulled away from end Antwain Robinson on his dash down the sideline.
"I think I had a good day," Davie smiled. "I think I did good. But I still have a lot to learn in what we are doing. We all do."
Free safety Matt Harris was also tired. He was the man banging pads with Williams and Davie on their many catches.
"Yeah, we are all tired," he said. "That was a long day -- well needed on both sides of the ball. We have very good systems being installed and we need that kind of practice with them, like several games. They have great systems and we are learning them. But, we are all tired right now."
Paul Petrino smiled about the comments from the players about the length of the scrimmage. He said it isn't close to what he did as a player when he was in college. He said his father's scrimmages at Carroll College in Helena, Mont., were longer and the little NAIA team had no depth.
"Our scrimmages were longer, and we tackled quarterbacks," he said. "All we had was a first team offense and a first team defense, no depth. So our ones stayed out there and they tackled the quarterback. I was the quarterback, an option quarterback. So this wasn't nearly as tough as that."
As for the play of the quarterbacks, Paul Petrino thought Casey Dick performed well, much better as the scrimmage progressed. Petrino also praised Mortensen, noting his checks and solid throws.
Casey Dick completed 24 of 42 passes for 304 yards with one interception. Mortensen hit on 8 of 13 for 159 yards. Ryan Mallett completed 4 of 11 for 37 yards. Nathan Dick was 7 of 13 for 75 yards.
To highlight the receivers, Carlton Salters had eight catches for 101 yards, D. J. Williams had seven catches for 112 yards, Andrew Davie made five grabs for 117 yards, Lucas Miller had seven for 64 yards, Rod Coleman had two for 60 yards.
"Casey got better as he went along," Petrino said. "Mortensen made some nice plays and some real nice checks. Casey made good strides today, but there were a couple of times he made nice drives and we had to settle for field goals. We just need to get more repetitions.
"The biggest thing we did today was try to push our players to the very limited and see when they get tired who are the ones who are going to do what they are coached to do. I think for the most part we handled it well."
As far as the receivers, beyond the tight ends, Petrino said, "Carlton Salters had a good day. It was his best day. He's starting to see things better, knowing what is going on when the defense is stemming and moving and where we are going to get plays from the inside guy."
Casey Dick thought the team "got a lot accomplished."
The quarterbacks were not tackled Friday. Defenders only had to touch the quarterback to get a whistle for a sack, but that didn't keep all of them protected. Ryan Mallett had to leave midway throught he workout when it appeared his throwing hand struck the helmet of a defender on his follow through. He left for X-rays and later returned with his thumb/right hand wrapped tighly in a bandage.
"It's too bad he hurt his thumb," Paul Petrino said. "I don't know (how badly it was hurt). I couldn't see how he did it because I was watching the secondary down the field."
There were other injuries, although no report was given on any of them. Tailback Michael Smith sustained an injury during the early part of practice, then tried to participate in the scrimmage. He didn't return after making one carry. Offensive guard DeMarcus Love went down with an ankle injury, but returned after a couple of series and finished the day with the first unit. Receivers London Crawford and Crosby Tuck were dressed in pads, but did not participate in the scrimmage.
Offensive execution was not always sharp and there were plenty of turnovers. Tailback Brandon Barnett lost two fumbles on solid down-the-field hits and also dropped two pitches on toss sweeps, one of them going for a lost fumble when he tried to scoop the ball instead of pouncing on it. The defense also grabbed three pass interceptions. Antwain Robinson appeared to be the defender on most of the quick-whistle sacks. He also came up with a loose ball for a long return.
"I really need to see the film before making too many comments about individuals," said defensive coordinator Willy Robinson. "As far as Antwain, he must have been around the quarterback today. Whether or not he was doing well, or his opponent wasn't, it was good to see him do some things. He's been non-existent to this point.
"I thought Brett Harris made some plays. He made a hit that caused a fumble. That's a major play and led to a long run back. We had some other big hits. I thought Malcolm Sheppard is doing some good things, and (Adrian Davis) is making some plays."
Robinson said it was too early to tell on the overall progress of the defense. He noted that plays and schemes were handled by the head coach.
"We were asked to bring some pressure at certain times and when we did the protection seemed to handle it," Robinson said. "As far as how we played, I couldn't put a finger on any individuals until I see the film. Sometimes when you think you know, you don't. You can't tell until you study the film and then I can tell you more.
"I know our safeties were inconsistent in their tackling. I know that what we are stressing now is strong in the area of stance and alignment. We did OK at times, and not so well at other times in that area.
"I can tell you that our players have felt like they have worked hard and they think they are in good shape, but they are still not where we want them in that area. They are still not used to working as hard as they are going to have to work.
"We want them in great shape. They are not quite there. Our goal is to work harder and be stronger than our opponent. You want to play the last play as strong and as tough as the first play. We aren't there yet.
"We are taking steps, though. They are baby steps."
Asked about the missing players on the injured list, Robinson said, "Some guys we were counting on are not out there. That's unfortunate. They are losing reps. We'll see if they are into it mentally and learn what those that are getting the reps are learning. The good news is that we are creating depth.
"One of the things I know we can improve is the communication. I'm not hearing voices. I'm not hearing them talk."
As far as depth, Paul Petrino said the same thing.
"You are going to get beat up doing what we do," Petrino said. "We had players go down at Louisville. The good is that the young players get better and are ready to play."
Petrino said Barnett did some good things and fought through a long, hard day.
"We put a lot on him," he said. "He's got to do a better job (of not fumbling) and we'll work on that. But he had to take a lot, a big load."
Torian Wilkins and walk-on Taylor Huskisson also had heavy workloads at running back.
The scrimmage pitted ones versus ones for about half of the long day, but the twos also got plenty of work. There was no kickoff or punting work in the scrimmage, but placekicker Alex Tejada was used often and had a perfect day. He nailed all of his kicks and was also perfect on extra points.
Casey Dick calls the signals as offensive line coach works with blockers up front early in Friday's workout.
Malcolm Sheppard works on his technique in individual portions of the Friday workout.
Ryan Mallett receives instruction from head coach Bobby Petrino.
Photos by Marc F. Henning
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