Rain showers subsided just ahead of the first major scrimmage of fall camp Sunday morning as the Arkansas football team hit for almost 150 plays in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Head coach Bobby Petrino was debating on whether to move to Walker Pavilion, but weather experts promised him there would be a break in the morning showers with just the right window for their practice of almost three hours. The team warmed up in the indoor workout area of the Broyles Center, then took the field around 9 a.m. The pads began to pop around 9:30 and continued to almost noon.
Asked if that was going to be one of the more physical workouts of the camp, Petrino said, "I hope we can hit a little bit better than that, be a little more physical'"."
It was a day of momentum switches with the offense holding the early edge, making more plays in the 82-play first half. The defense took advantage of more penetration by the defensive front and some timely linebacker blitzes to win a few more plays in the second half.
Quarterback Casey Dick took the bulk of the snaps under center. He completed 21 of 37 passes with three TDs with one interception. All six QBs took snaps. Alex Mortensen and Tyler Wilson were the other QBs with solid days. Mortensen hit 5 of 10 passes with two TDs and 68 yards. Wilson was 6 of 10 with 81 yards.
Tailback Michael Smith saw only brief action at the outset, but that was enough for him to make two long runs. He had five carries for 139 yards. He had a 48-yard TD run on the Hogs' first possession. His 69-yard burst to open the second possession set up a 5-yard TD pass from Dick to De'Anthony Curtis.
Running back Chip Gregory, converted from linebacker in the spring, had his best day as a Razorback. The 6-2, 218-pound sophomore had 11 carries for 62 yards and two receptions for 24 yards. He had a 12-yard TD reception and a 2-yard run. His best play was perhaps a catch coming across the middle that he reached for away from his body after making a nice cut.
"We got a lot of reps and this will be a good tool to evaluate where we are at," Petrino said. "The offense started fast, but I didn't like the way the defense was playing. Then after halftime it flipped. The offense didn't play with concentration and focus and the defense was playing much better. I'd like to see balance."
Asked about Gregory's performance, Petrino said, "I liked what I saw. He played with better toughness and his pad level was good. His ball security was better."
Petrino was also asked about the two freshmen quarterbacks, Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood.
"Wilson threw it well and Youngblood seems to make more plays when we have on the move, maybe with the read option," Petrino said. "But you have to know that they were going against mainly the threes and with no blitzes and the base. I do think they are learning things and getting better."
Smith received praise for his early dashes.
"He made a great read in the hole and he seemed to be playing at a faster speed," Petrino said.
As far as senior quarterback Casey Dick, Petrino said, "He lacked some concentration as we moved along. He needs to keep his focus and that goes whether it's a practice, a scrimmage or when we get into a game."
Elsewhere, the head coach liked what he saw of "the young safeties." The Hogs gave plenty of work in the back of the second and third defense to freshman Jerico Nelson, Matt Marshall and Elton Ford. Cornerback Ramon Broadway had an interception and several pass breakups. He received mention by the head coach, too.
"Broadway read a three-step drop and jumped the route," Petrino said. "He made a nice play on the sideline, too."
Petrino said the offensive line started well and "seems to be coming together." There was some pass rush at times, but that needs to improve, he said. Fatigue seemed to be a factor in the defensive line play at times.
The top receivers on the day were London Crawford and Ben Cleveland with five catches each, but Petrino handed out praise to true freshman wide receiver Jarius Wright.
"He's had a good first week," Petrino said. "He's tough and he practices. He gets as many reps as he can. He's fast, maybe one of our fastest players. He's improved his hands. I was worried about his hands when we recruited him. His hands aren't the biggest, but he catches it very well."
Wright, who had two catches, didn't think his scrimmage was up to his hopes.
"It was just OK," he said. "I've had better days. I just want to do as well as possible every single day. I want to be in position to make more plays. I've been working hard and what we are doing is a lot like what we prepared for this summer both in the weight room and in 7-on-7.
"I liked this practice. It was up tempo, fast moving. We were in and out of the huddle and it was a lot of fun to get up to the line and get a lot of plays in today.
"I'm just a little disappointed in my self. I didn't always run the right routes. I'm still learning. I've got to keep working and learning."
Quarterback Casey Dick said it wasn't his best day, either. But it's all about getting to see as many looks from the defense each day.
"We saw some different things today and we didn't always pick it up," he said. "We just have to keep working."
How did it compare to spring drills when he came on after the first week?
"I think when you go back, it was a lot the same, where you got better as you went along," he said. "I think in another week we'll be right where we were then. You just keep working, keep getting better."
Wilson said he knows he and the other younger freshmen didn't have to see the same tough looks from the defense. Wilson and Jim Youngblood saw vanilla schemes when they were on the field.
"I thought it went OK, and it's been good the last two days," Wilson said. "But what Jim and I saw wasn't the same as what Casey was getting, or the other older guys. They were seeing a defense that was changing, blitzing and coming after them a little more."
Wilson said he's still trying to become more comfortable with the changes from his high school system.
"I didn't take any snaps," he said. "We were all shotgun. I think the coaches have tried to help me come along by giving me some shotgun stuff. They understand where I'm coming from. They have tried to do some things to help me relax. I am doing more and more of the five-step stuff, things I never did before. I'm more used to a quick two-step and throwing. We did alright today. We hit some things after some things busted and guys broke off routes. That was good."
In the offensive line, sophomore Wade Grayson worked at weakside guard for the second straight day. Grayson is working with the ones, with senior Mitch Petrus stepping back to the twos.
"Grayson is a good, tough player," Petrino said. "The last two days we haven't been pleased with Petrus, so we moved Grayson over from the strongside. Grayson can do a lot of things, play either guard and center for us. We'll see how this goes."
On a side note, center Jonathan Luigs revealed that media have been saying his name wrong since the 11th grade. He said the pronunciation should have an emphasis on the first syllable instead of the last.
"I've known it was being said wrong all along, but I just didn't want to say anything about it," Luigs said.
The All-America center mentioned the right pronunciation to both sports information director Kevin Trainor and radio play-by-play announcer Chuck Barrett late this week. Apparently, he's mentioned it to teammates earlier.
"I say it right," quarterback Casey Dick said. "You guys have been wrong. I've known it for awhile."
Sunday Grid Update, 8/10
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