Petrino Unveils First Depth Chart

FAYETTEVILLE — Like many college football coaches, Bobby Petrino doesn't put too much stock into how his depth chart looks at the moment.

He has repeatedly said since arriving at Arkansas that a player could go from the starting lineup to the bottom of the depth chart simply by having a bad practice.

Changes could and will be made at any time.

Still, Petrino offered few surprises Wednesday afternoon when he released the depth chart following his first spring with the Razorbacks.

Senior Casey Dick remains the starting quarterback, junior Michael Smith is listed as the first-team running back as expected and the lack of quality depth at linebacker is evident.

"(The depth chart) is a good worksheet; it's a good starting point," Petrino said during a 30-minute news conference inside the team's meeting room. "Like I've always said, the players determine the depth (chart), not the coaches."

Much of Arkansas' depth chart remains the same from the end of last season, but there are some noticeable changes and a few players who got left off entirely.

Junior Jerell Norton, who led the Razorbacks with five interceptions in 2007, isn't among the six cornerbacks listed on the latest depth chart. He missed most of spring practice with a hamstring injury.

Senior Lance Thompson, who had been working at tight end, has taken over the starting fullback job vacated by former Arkansas star Peyton Hillis.

And redshirt freshman Jake Bequette has seemingly come out of nowhere to beat out sophomore Damario Ambrose as the first-team left defensive end.

"It wasn't a surprise because he earned it," Petrino said of Bequette's move up the depth chart. "He actually started at second and third position, and he just kept getting better as spring went on.

"He's a young man that plays with a great motor. He goes as hard as he can as long as he can."

Petrino acknowledged that the depth chart could be shaken up even before the start of preseason camp in early August. Players could get injured or in trouble off-the-field, forcing the first-year coach to make changes to his lineup.

Senior Ernest Mitchell is listed as the starting nose tackle despite missing all of spring practice because of offseason knee surgery.

Petrino said he expects Mitchell to be ready in time for the start of the season, giving the Razorbacks a much-needed push on the defensive line. The senior tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss to go along with 3 1/2 sacks.

"We've been anticipating that Ernest would be back. He's done a nice job in his rehab," Petrino said. "Everything that they (the athletic trainers) say, he's ahead of schedule. He just can't have any setbacks."

However, Arkansas' lack of depth at linebacker is reflected on the depth chart.

Senior Elston Forte is listed as the first-team strongside linebacker, as well as the second-team weakside linebacker behind unproven sophomore Ryan Powers.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Jerry Franklin has claimed the starting middle linebacker spot despite frustrating Petrino with his inconsistent performance during spring practice.

As Petrino put it, Franklin had "too many ups and downs" over the past few weeks, adding more uncertainty to the position.

"Linebacker wise, we're just really thin," Petrino said. "... We're going to need some help from the freshmen.

"That's probably our biggest concern defensively, the depth at linebacker — how we're going to be able to stay healthy and how we're going to get contributions from other guys."

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