Rains led a cool front into Northwest Arkansas on Thursday and seemed to pick up the tempo for the Arkansas football team for the fourth practice of fall camp, second in shoulder pads. The rains stopped about two hours ahead of the 3 p.m. practice, just in time to assure the Hogs would get another day outside. Temperatures were in the high 70s for much of the workout.
Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson liked what he saw of the defensive front, especially from tackle Ernest Mitchell. The burly defender had missed spring workouts after knee surgery, but he caught Robinson's eyes as soon as the shoulder pads were added Wednesday.
"Really, that's the first time I've seen him practice in pads," Robinson said. "I'd liked what I saw of him on film (before knee surgery), but when I saw him yesterday it was like 'wow!' The first time we had contact with pads and again today, you could see that he wins the line of scrimmage and then some. He's a stout young man."
There have been others that have improved their stock with defensive coordinator since pads were added.
"I thought Brandon Lampkin was much better in pads the last two days," Robinson said. "The first couple of days without pads, my thoughts were maybe he had regressed since spring over the summer. But once we had pads, he appeared more confident. He looked good.
"I thought Adrian Davis showed up more once we put on pads. He had a good day. I like Jake Bequette, too. With Jake, he just needs to keep letting us feed him, feed him and do what we tell him and not try to do anything on his own. He's doing that, taking what we give him, really well right now. That's what we want out of him. He's doing well and we are happy with him. If he keeps this same attitude, he's going to keep growing as a player."
Middle linebacker Jerry Franklin, banged up yesterday, was back in contact Wednesday with good results. Safety Dallas Washington limped off the field for a tape job to his ankle, but was fine the rest of the way.
The varsity cleared the field for the last 20 minutes for stretching and light running as the newcomers got some extra work afterwards. There didn't appear to be the cramping and dehydration that plagued the Hogs a bit over the first three days.
Robinson handled the post-game media duties for the head coach Thursday. He continued to lament the way the offense has hit some deep passes, noting he's checking video to make sure it's not technique and alignment. One of the deep passes was a perfectly delivered completion from Alex Mortensen to freshman Jarius Wright. Many of the media's questions to him Thursday dealt with the new "jack" position with the Hogs a bit short of outside linebackers.
"We did it because our hand was forced a little bit because of our numbers (at outside linebacker)," he said. "But enough of that. It's not so much different. We are still in our base, our 4-3 -- no more, no less. We are just trying a few guys at the sam linebacker, some safeties. We've looked at quite a few and it's going good. We are just trying to find some depth there and get guys trained at different spots."
Robinson said among those getting time at the jack spot are Bret Harris, Walner Leandre, Dallas Washington, Jerico Nelson and Khiry Battle.
"We are looking at a bunch of guys and we gave Jerico a chance today," Robinson said. "He looks sneaky up there, has some shake to him and is smart. Each day we'll look at more to see what depth we have.
"This is still our base. It's a (scheme) I've done before at Fresno State. (Corners coach) Lorenzo Ward has worked with this same type stuff at Virginia Tech. (End coach) Kirk Botkin has done some similar things at Louisiana-Monroe. (Tackles coach) Bobby Allen has done it here. So we all have some things we could bring to it.
"Again, this isn't something we are going to do to match personnel. It will be our base when we are in it. We'll have this personnel on the field and stay with it."
Running backs coach Tim Horton praised De'Anthony Curtis for another good day. Curtis had a fumble, but he also made numerous fine catches out of the backfield.
"He's a good player and he's going to play," Horton said. "He's got the work ethic you really love. He might be a little ahead of the other young ones because he's learning it pretty good. He reminds you of guys like Darren McFadden, Felix Jones in that he works hard and wants to be a good player. He is asking questions and finding out why we do things a certain way. He absorbs it well. I think we are going pretty fast and it isn't easy. But he's holding up so far.
"Michael Smith is the same way in that he is working hard and wants to be good. He's also been a great leader for the young ones. He's helping them and making sure they learn it."
The Hogs have one more day with just one practice on Friday before two-a-days begin Saturday. The first major scrimmage is set for 9 a.m. Sunday. Practices continue to be open to the public.
Thursday Grid Update, 8/7
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