State of the Hogs: Fast Tempo

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Forty-two plays in 20 minutes of practice time. That's what Bobby Petrino strives for in pass skeleton drills, perhaps the highlight of his practices if you are a guest these days at Arkansas football practice.

I counted in the spring and they made it most of the time, but there are times that Petrino blows the whistle short of the 42, perhaps when he's seen enough, either good or bad.

For those who haven't seen a football practice, that's a lot of pass plays in 20 minutes. The only way to do it would be to have multiple huddles on both sides of the ball, so one play can be ripped off as the players from the previous snap are trotting off the field.

I'd equate it to hitting golf balls on the range with your driver. If you got out 38-42 tees, and put a ball atop each one in a line down the range, you could hit them a lot faster than if you had to pause between shots to tee up another ball.

So what was it like Monday in the 99-degree heat? Did the Hogs get in their 42 plays despite the scorching temperatures?

"We could have gotten four more," Bobby Petrino said. "But I blew the whistle at 38, the scripted number. I thought it was enough in that heat. "Really, we script 38 plays in advance and we always get those in. A lot of times, I'll call four more after that to get us to 42, but sometimes I blow the whistle at 38 and we move on to something else."

It's an incredible thing to watch at a tempo few can imagine. There are three offensive huddles working, two defensive huddles with players sprinting off the field when their snap is done.

And, it was just as fast in the heat Monday as it was in the spring when temperatures were mostly cool and brisk. It's not just fast work, it's fast quality work with an emphasis on coaching each step, each decision, each throw and on both sides of the ball.

They call that sequence pass skeleton because the linemen are removed and it's just the backs and receivers on offense with the linebackers and secondary on defense. I think it's just one of the many strong points to a Bobby Petrino practice.

The key is perhaps the way Bobby and Paul Petrino work together. That's not to say the other coaches are not on the same page with the head coach, or top-notch at their craft. But it's clear that Paul Petrino's ability to multi-task and coach multiple positions is way off the charts.

For example, Paul Petrino is listed as the wide receiver coach, but he does a lot more than that. There were times in each of the first three workouts this week that Paul had the quarterbacks for specific drills. He wasn't satisfied with the way fakes were being handled in one play-action segment, so he demonstrated the entire play with an intensity and quickness that hinted of his background.

None of the current UA quarterbacks appeared to match his quickness in the drill. He was the Division II NAIA player of the year as his father's QB at Carroll College. He coached QBs both at Carroll and later at Southern Mississippi.

There are points in practice when QB coach Garrick McGee — emerging as a wonderful recruiter in the Tulsa area, his hometown, and beyond — is with the quarterbacks. There are also times that Bobby Petrino spends large chunks with them. There is little doubt that coaching QBs is one of the strengths of this staff.

Because of that, I don't see this staff ever having a shortage of QBs. There are half a dozen good ones here now, including Ryan Mallett. The redshirt transfer from Michigan is just as advertised — big, strong and fluid. The ball shoots out of his hand with velocity that hasn't been seen around here since Joe Ferguson in the ‘70s. Mallett is listed at 6-foot-6, but he appears to be taller. His hands are huge. He'll snag passes from his teammates with one big paw in some drills.

Practices are open for another week. If you can make it, count the plays in pass skeleton drill. See if they get to 42, or the head coach blows it to an end at the scripted 38. And, follow the QBs to see their regimen for the complete workout with all these superb coaches. It is a must see.

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