State of the Hogs: Summer

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By the time you read this, the media will have gotten a taste of Bobby Petrino's voluntary offseason conditioning program. We are to be at Walker Pavilion at 7:20 a.m. Friday for our one and only glimpse this summer.

I will be there, but don't have to see it to know what's going on there. No doubt, it's tough and difficult. Players are challenged on a daily basis to get better. It would be safe to assume that if the winter program was brutal, the summer workouts can't be easy.

Petrino told us during his tour of Razorback Clubs that his philosophy is to find out "who can win when you are tired." That was the purpose of opening spring ball with grinding workouts on four straight days.

"Attitude under pressure determines if you are special or not special," Petrino said. "Attitude determines if you are going to have a good day, a bad day or a real bad day."

Toughness -- both mental and physical -- are being stressed. Again, I know that even before I head to Walker Pavilion.

Still, I can't tell you if the lifting and running program at Arkansas is better than others in the SEC. Perhaps they are just staying even with the likes of LSU, Auburn, Alabama and the rest. I can't imagine that any of those others are taking it easy this summer.

However, it's what we aren't going to see that may give this Arkansas team an edge in some areas this fall, especially early. We aren't likely to see the 7-on-7 workouts that involve the same kind of passing game situations the Hogs practiced in the spring.

I'm told that spring was to learn how to practice. Petrino taught them his system and the tempo. The perfection should come from doing it over and over this summer at the same pace with the same keys and reads for the quarterbacks and receivers.

I heard all spring that these Arkansas players think they will be better prepared, more ready than the teams they play this fall.

Before the first spring workout, Petrino said, "We will practice harder, faster and smarter than anyone else." He emphasized that the Hogs will understand their own scheme and also have "great knowledge of the other team."

The harder and smarter part was taught in the spring. The faster part is being developed now. Wideout Carlton Salters wasn't surprised by any of this. He had studied Louisville when he was a high school prospect in Florida recruited by Petrino.

He said it wasn't a surprise when the Cardinals jumped on opponents with a 14-0 burst in the first quarter, or a 28-7 blitz by the middle part of the second period.

"They were so sharp early in the season because of the way they practiced in the summer," Salters said. "We learned it this spring, but we will learn to play fast this summer. The timing and the perfection will come in the summer."

And, that's what is going on right now, the bulk of the timing work is still to come through July. The hope of the coaches is that the players who went through spring drills are now coaching the newcomers in these workouts. They are going to need these freshmen wideouts and perhaps the quarterbacks sometime this fall.

Those who assume it will be this freshman or that prep phenom may be surprised. They don't always jump to the front of the lines as freshman like Marcus Monk did four years ago. The physical nature of the SEC and college football in general isn't easy for most freshman. Salters remembers how difficult it was for him.

"I thought I was ready," he said. "I came from Florida and I thought I'd be able to play right away. I just wasn't nearly strong enough. I remember looking out on the field during my first game -- it was against Southern Cal. I thought to myself, ‘If I go out there, they might break me in two.' I knew right then I needed to redshirt and I still felt that way when I was watching the LSU game in Little Rock."

Most freshmen will be in the same boat. And, some will not be strong enough to fight through the nagging injuries that come with college football.

They will be after another year in the weight program. They are learning how to work now. Some of them came to school better prepared than others. Some took to heart the program sent to them after they signed. Some have a chance to help in the fall.

Right now, they are learning what it means to fight through fatigue. They are learning what it means to play fast. They are learning about the tempo of a Petrino practice. Some are learning that they aren't nearly strong enough, like Salters did a few years back.

Where they will be in another month is anyone's guess. Some will be able to play. Some will fall back for another season. It may take a little time, but they will get it. It may be that some who are not as fast as some of the newcomers carry the torch for a bit.

That won't be the end of the world. Petrino told us that much in the winter at Razorback Clubs when he said "you don't always have to be as fast as the next guy. He can be a better player by doing things better. You don't have to be fast. You just have to play fast."

That's why those 7-on-7 practices are so important. I'm guessing these Hogs will play fast.


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