Wednesday Grid Update, 8/6

Bobby Petrino covets a big back in his offense. Chip Gregory, converted from defense in the spring, got plenty of snaps in the backfield trying to fill that spot on Wednesday.

After two days in shorts and helmets, Arkansas put on shoulder pads for the first time Wednesday and the addition gave the coaching staff a better video for evaluation.

"You could hear the popping today," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "This really helps get a look at our inside running game and get a good video to look at tonight. This will be good for evaluation."

The inside running game -- with goal line work front and center -- gave the Hogs a chance to evaluate running back Chip Gregory really for the first time. Gregory moved to running back from linebacker before spring training. However, he was slowed with a high ankle sprain from almost the start in the spring.

"Chip got a lot of work today and it was good to see him, knock on wood," Petrino said. "He just needs to stay healthy. He started out behind all three freshman and he's working his way up. He is a big, good-looking back. He put the ball on the ground once and we can't have that."

Gregory got a little more work than perhaps anticipated with Brandon Barnett, Dennis Johnson and De'Anthony Curtis all missing snaps. Barnett is still bothered by a sore knee. Johnson has had some hamstring soreness. Curtis made it through most of Wednesday's workout before sitting out a few plays at the end because of feet blisters.

"The frustration for the freshmen will start a little now," Petrino said. "We keep adding new stuff. We've got some new stuff we'll put in tonight (at a walk through). It can get overwhelming. They just have to keep studying, learning."

Gregory knew it was his best day as a running back. He said he heard rumors and read newspaper accounts in the summer that put him back on defense.

"I never heard any of that from the coaches, though," he said. "I never talked to Coach Petrino about that.

"I talked to Coach (Tim) Horton (backfield coach) after spring. He told me to just hang in there, get well and we'd start over in the fall. I never had a chance to get any rhythm at running back in the spring. But I'm feeling it now. I feel the rhythm like I did in high school.

"The coaches today told me to just keep doing what I'm doing. We put the pads on today and there was that feeling that I wanted to hit someone, run over someone. I know the other backs are smaller and faster. They are the 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4 guys. I'm the big back Coach Petrino wants. I want to be the pounder he wants in this offense. The other guys are going to get the defense tired by running around them, then I can come in and run over them. I love it. I like being at running back. I was back in rhythm today. I know I have to keep it up."

Another position change, perhaps more subtle, appears to be taking hold on offense. Wade Grayson, true sophomore from Harrison, has taken most of the backup snaps at center. He is listed as the backup to DeMarcus Love at strongside guard, but it's obvious he's been groomed as a reserve to All-America center Jonathan Luigs, too.

"He looks to be our center of the future," Petrino said. "We are giving him a lot of reps there now."

Grayson said the plan, as outlined to him, is for him to work all of two-a-days at center and then move back to strongside guard for the last few days of fall camp.

"I think if it goes well, I'd be ready if we need someone at center behind Luigs, but I'll mainly be a guard after two-a-days," Grayson said. "It's obviously a little different at guard because you can put your weight on your hand and push off of it. At center, you can't do that because the snap has to be executed first.

"I'm getting it down, but it's not easy. I think the first two days were better than today. I had some problems at the end of today's workout in the two-minute drill and I had to change to different gloves. That seemed to help and I'll make sure to do that tomorrow."

Grayson said he hadn't played any center before jumping in for "about 15 plays" in relief of Luigs with the red team in the spring game.

"It went pretty well then, so the coaches wanted to try it again this fall," Grayson said. "Maybe that's going to be my position after this year when Luigs graduates. That's fine with me."

There has been extensive work each day on extra points and field goals. After missing a couple of tries Monday, placement specialist Alex Tejada, recovering from a summer leg injury to his plant leg, has had two strong days in a row.

"I don't see any way he wouldn't be our kicker," said Petrino, who also noted Tejada is likely to handle kickoffs, too. "He is healthy and he's kicking well. We are keeping him under 40 yards for another week to help get the timing and execution down. But we feel good about him up to 50 yards."

Safety Matt Harris continues to work as the holder with Rhett Richardson as the deep snapper. Petrino said that trio got a lot of work this summer and the results are showing up in the "whole operation" in the placement area.

"We did work a lot this summer, every day," Harris said. "We got it a lot smoother and I think that makes Alex feel a lot more comfortable. We've got it pretty quick, about a full second faster. We've worked on a little bit different techniques and we've gotten more velocity on the snap and the coaches have showed me a little different way to get the snap down. It's gotten us a lot faster and all that does is give Alex more time and confidence.

"I think what I've seen is that it's almost like a golf swing, the entire process, the snap, the hold and the kick. The rhythm is really there and I think that's the goal."

Harris said the defense had a better day against the deep pass after giving up way too many bombs over the first two days.

"That was the emphasis today and we got to more of the deep ones today," said Harris, who knocked down several on sideline plays. "You just can't give up anything deep and that was the focus today by the safeties. We did a lot better in that area today. You've got to watch for other things, too. I don't want to say that's your only focus because you can't give up other things, too. But we went out there today with a big effort to stop the deep balls and I thought we did better."

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