State of the Hogs: Battle of the Bands?

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Eleven days, 14 practices. That's where we are in fall camp for the 2008 football season.

Apparently, there is just one more day for public consumption. Then, the viewing will be restricted to game day.

No problem. I've seen enough to know the band is going to play a lot for this Arkansas offense, even if the only time it plays is after touchdowns.

Casey Dick is going to have a big season. So is Michael Smith. D. J. Williams will catch a lot of passes. London Crawford might not catch as many, but he may pile up more yards. Jonathan Luigs and this offensive line will mash some folks.

Don't know if the defense can keep the other team's band from playing just as much. I can't remember the old coach who said this years ago, but both bands may get to play their fight song a whole bunch.

The defense hasn't stopped the offense much in these first 14 workouts. What we don't know is how much the practices have been scripted for offensive success. Probably a whole bunch.

It's not a bad way to go when you are trying to build confidence in a quarterback. Coaches have been doing that for over a century of football. You lock a defense down in a certain look each snap, not always the same, as you teach a quarterback what to do in every situation.

At some point in fall camp, scout teams will be picked and there will be two separate practices, one geared for offense, another for the defense. At that point, the defense gets to turn it all loose and they will be seeing the other team's scheme. That is going to happen soon.

But right now, the defense is practicing against a wonderful playbook, the Bobby Petrino playbook and scheme. He can cut up a lot of secondaries with a marvelous pass-run balance. He can flat-out coach offense and so can line boss Mike Summers and coordinator Paul Petrino. They've been together a long time and they know how to get an offense greased. What this defense is going to see on game day from an opponent should be considerably less and easier to handle.

No doubt, that's not a sure thing. The Hogs may not be able to stop anyone. I just think when they are able to hit the quarterback, things will look a little different.

This defense is predicated on its ends and linebackers knocking the QB silly. These ends are good. That's the position on the defense that has perhaps the most talent and best depth. That's my hope right now.

It's got to be pure frustration for Adrian Davis, Antwain Robinson, Jake Bequette and Damario Ambrose in 11-on-11 situations the past two weeks. The best they can do to rattle the QB is put two light hands on their backs as they fly past.

And, they have been in the neighborhood enough to provide some thoughts that there is going to be a pass rush without relying on blitzes. And, hopefully, what they are seeing is improved protections and passing game concepts, better than they'll see on game day.

There are some others on defense who have made some progress in learning the new zone schemes ordered by Petrino and installed by coordinator Willy Robinson.

Tackle Ernest Mitchell's return from offseason surgery has galvanized the interior of the defensive line. Jerry Franklin, more confident and reliable than in the spring, appears to be a playmaker at middle linebacker. Walner Leandre, also out in the spring, is making plays at the Jack hybrid spot, the outside linebacker. Dallas Washington looks improved at strong safety.

Just as there is talent in the freshman class on the offensive side perhaps led by Jarius Wright, there are some young playmakers on defense. Watch for Khiry Battle, now at weakside linebacker. Elton Ford, Jerico Nelson and Matt Marshall may give some help at safety.

I'm reminded of what Petrino said the night of his hire. The goal is to put an offense on the field which expects to score every possession. It's still up in the air whether that is just the plan or will be required.



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