Bobby Petrino has had several media opportunities of late, but didn't back away from several long sessions with the collected state news outlets Tuesday. Petrino covered all of the topics and questions with thorough responses at media day in the Broyles Center.
Among the tidbits, Petrino emphasized that freshmen are going to play and that the summer workouts now clear the way for newcomers to have an immediate impact.
"We still have to see which ones maintain their focus and continue to improve," Petrino said Tuesday. "But we've got some talent in this class and they showed up well in our first practice."
Petrino liked many of the newcomers and emphasized that didn't stop with the playmakers that got a lot of post-practice attention after Monday's opening workout. Along with running backs De'Anthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson, wide receivers Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, Petrino also said he liked what he saw from the likes of linebacker Tenarius Wright and several others in the secondary.
Petrino said he was a little disappointed in his initial reactions at practice, but felt much better after watching video.
"The video showed a lot of things we did well," he said. "You have to consider that the freshmen were out there an hour ahead of the veterans and (the freshmen) ended up being out there a long time. That wore on them. Some of them fought through it and they will figure out how to do better in a long practice. But we wanted to give them extra preparation for all of the drills so they would know what they were doing. We just have to do that for a few days."
Among the things Petrino really liked was the improvement made over the summer by redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Dick.
"He's improved and knows the offense," Petrino said. "He's improved his movement (in the pocket) and the feel in the pocket. We may not know how good he is until we get in situations where he's tackled live, but he has a real good sense of where the pass rush is coming from.
"I think Alex Mortensen has a good feel, too. He made some good checks yesterday."
As far as freshmen QBs Jim Youngblood and Tyler Wilson, Petrino said, "They were at an all-time high as far as anxiety. We've got to get them slowed down. That's typical of freshmen quarterbacks. We've got to get them relaxed a little bit with their footwork. Both of them are competitors and they really tried hard yesterday, but they need to relax."
Senior quarterback Casey Dick was a bit fast early in the workout, but settled down as things progressed.
"He has some confidence and he knows the offense," Petrino said. "He's very coachable and he listens. His footwork has improved and he sits on the third step like we've coached him and his accuracy is going to improve. I look for him to have a good year."
Petrino hopes Ryan Mallett has a good year, too, but the sophomore transfer is going to have to be patient. He has to sit out per the redshirt rules on transfers.
"It's going to be hard on him," Petrino said. "He's such a natural leader, for him to sit out this year is tough. He's going to have to make suree he has a great redshirt year. You can have a good or a bad year.
"His personality is that he wants to help, though. He'll do anything we ask. We asked him to go over to help the defense the last 15 minutes yesterday and he ran over there."
Petrino said Mallett would spend time with both the varsity offense and the scout team this year.
"Right now, we are looking at a lot of quarterbacks," he said. "I haven't been involved with this many. For the next 10 days we are going to give a lot of them work, then we are going to have to get most of the work."
New Look DC
Bobby Petrino thought he looked great, much younger. Players did not want to say much on the record about the new look. About the closest thing to a for-the-notebook comment came from safety Matt Harris.
"I declined his offer for a free haircut after I saw his," Harris said. "I think he did his at home with his own clippers and he said mine would be like his, free."
That was in reference to defensive coordinator Willy Robinson's decision to both shave the grey hair off his head and as well as a thick moustache.
Petrino grinned from ear to ear when Robinson's sleek new haircut was mentioned as Arkansas coaches and players greeted the in-state media on Tuesday, one day after the Hogs' first fall practice under the new head coach.
"Yeah, it's great and he looks much younger," Petrino said. "Didn't you think he looked good? I think it's just a matter of taking the California out of him and getting him more like he's from Arkansas."
Robinson followed Petrino and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino in the interview room before the media met with players and the rest of the staff. Robinson's first question dealt with his new look and his shave.
"I thought that might come up," he said. "I had a lot of different answers ready, but the truth is that with me going back to the college game I thought I'd really try to fit."
Robinson said he didn't think he fit when he looked around the coaching room. There were no other moustaches. And, he said he thought long and hard about some advice from new chancellor Dave Gearhart earlier this summer.
"The chancellor talked about the way you projected, the perception you put out there," Robinson said. "That made sense. But the real answer is that I want to stay one step ahead of the posse."
Jack of All Trades
With a shortage of depth at linebacker, the Arkansas brain trust may have been prodded to retool the alignment. A new hybrid position in one scheme will allow for a linebacker/safety spot now being called "the jack." That may be akin to deeming that player be a jack of all trades.
"He's part outside linebacker, nickel and strong safety," head coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's a combo of all three."
Some are calling the new alignment a 4-2-5, but defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said he isn't going that far. He said it's still a "4-3 scheme. We just have a strongside linebacker slot that we are getting some safeties ready to play. We can play quite a few guys at that spot."
Robinson said he's been a part of such personnel shuffles for a long time.
"You may have some body types, some bigger safeties like Walner Leandre, that just fit better at that strongside linebacker position," Robinson said. "Really, we were doing some of that in the spring in our nickel. We are going to have some defenses where we have a lot of safeties out there. We were asking Matt Harris and Rashaad Johnson, our free safeties, to learn strong safety in the spring, and we also wanted Dallas Washington to learn sam linebacker.
"We want Dallas Washington, Brett Harris and Walner Leandre to know all of those positions. You get in a game and lose some guys to injury, you better be able to move some guys around."
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