Despite not having injured freshman tailback De'Anthony Curtis available for practice, University of Arkansas head football practice Bobby Petrino came away from Wednesday with a smile on his face.
That's because he learned via an MRI that Curtis just had a knee sprain instead of something serious and he liked the way his team looked in both its 107-play scrimmage in the morning and a 90-minute workout in the afternoon.
"There is no question in my mind that we got better," Petrino said. "We executed better on offense, defense learned how to run to the ball with some good tackling and we also learned we have to do things right when we get tired. We will learn a lot from that video."
It's clear Petrino is happy to put his guys through as many scrimmage situations as he can.
"You get to do certain situations that come up and you try to do those in a package, but once you get to a scrimmage they just appear," Petrino said. "That's when the players take over and have to call out the down and distance and understand what we are looking for. Then we come back in there at night and watch the video and learn from it."
While there were a number of completed bombs in the morning workout, Petrino saw things on both sides of the ball he liked.
"There was some good play and good execution and that gets contagious and that's what you like to see," Petrino said. "The catches the young guys made –(freshman wideout Greg) Childs came up with two, jumped in the air and made catches. Sometimes there is good coverage and you still make the play. You try to build on that.
"What we tried to build on with the defense was stopping the run," Petrino added. "We went ones versus twos a lot so the twos could run at the ball at them and get them in different short yardage situations and learn how to convert defensively."
Curtis was unable to participate in the scrimmage because of his knee injury, but good news came from the MRI.
"He has got a knee sprain," Petrino said. "The MRI results came back and are good. It is not a serious injury, just a matter of time before he'll be back. Joe Sheehan, our trainer, says he is already ahead of schedule and eager to get back on the field. We just have to be smart enough to make sure it is completely healed before we put him back out on the field."
Timetable for his return?
"It is anywhere from up to two weeks," Petrino said. "But he says he will definitely beat that. It is just a matter of letting it settle down – it's a stretch – for two or three days without doing any running. The thing they are so encouraged about with him is that is where all his strength is – in his legs and lower body – so I am sure he will be well ahead of schedule."
That gave more reps to junior Brandon Barnett, who just got back to practice this week.
"He got more today because of that," Petrino said. "There is no question that you had to get another guy in there. Dennis Johnson and Brandon Barnett both got more reps."
Petrino was also pleased with what starting quarterback Casey Dick got accomplished.
Unofficially, he was 13-of-16 for nearly 250 yards with a pair of touchdown tosses and one pick – that bounced off his receiver's hands.
"I thought he threw the ball well," Petrino said. "He is starting to distribute it. I think he is getting back and being more comfortable with the timing. He was a little rusty when we got going right off the bat, but we have almost had a full spring practice in already so we will see a lot of improvement in this next week."
Dick was pleased to see the offense flourish with several deep passes.
"I told everybody last week it would probably take a little bit of time for everybody to get back into the groove," Dick said. "I just felt like it got a little quicker and we were able to get to our checks a little faster today."
Another positive injury note for Arkansas was the return of defensive tackle Brandon Lampkin, who was hauled off the field last Friday in an ambulance due to a cervical spinal sprain.
He was able to participate in some work in both practice sessions for the first time since the injury.
"It's good to get a fresh guy in there just from a mental standpoint," Arkansas defensive line coach Bobby Allen said. "We're just bringing him along slowly so he was able to take some contact so that was good. I think he is going to be fine. Joe has told us, let him come out and practice, but limit his reps and see how he feels. Hopefully tomorrow he is going to be fine and it might be, come this weekend, we are not talking about it anymore."
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