Curtains Close on Arkansas Practices

FAYETTEVILLE — For two weeks, Arkansas football has been readily available for public consumption.

Every play run to perfection — or imperfection — was closely watched. Every injury that sent someone to the sideline was scribbled down. And every tongue-lashing delivered by an angry coach was remembered.

But with the season opener against Western Illinois just two weeks away, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has officially closed the doors to his practice field

The Razorbacks will conduct a scrimmage that is off limits to the media and public this morning, ending their stretch of open practices. Petrino said rolling up the welcome mat isn't ideal, but believes it's necessary in an age where information is readily available on the Internet.

"That's the problem," Petrino said. "You hate to see like the other day we had a young man that was running down the field and tweaked his hamstring a little bit. That shows up in the press.

"Things like that, you feel like, hey, our opponents and anybody else, they don't need to know this information.

The decision may frustrate fans and media wanting to keep close tabs on the Razorbacks, but it's not unusual.

Most Southeastern Conference schools close practices throughout the season. Others like Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi State have already conducted closed scrimmages this summer.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said the Razorbacks are looking forward to their first chance to practice behind closed doors. It will give them an opportunity to test certain plays and personnel groupings they may not want anyone to see before the opener.

"There's definitely some plays that you don't show when it's open," Paul Petrino said. "There's definitely some things you don't do. You can open up a little bit and do all the things that, maybe a few little wrinkles here and there, that you might not show to everybody."

Arkansas coaches have said today's scrimmage is another indicator of who will play key roles this season.

Several freshmen have been part of the two-deep depth chart since camp opened and a handful — like receiver Jarius Wright, safety Elton Ford and linebacker Khiry Battle — will continue to make a case for starting spots.

The same can be said on the offensive line, where sophomore guard Wade Grayson continues to hold a first-team spot over returning starter Mitch Petrus. And on the defensive line, where nagging injuries have kept a handful of players sidelined at different times this preseason.

How those position battles turn out may not be known now with the curtains closed on practices. Neither will Arkansas' performance on offense or defense.

But Petrino believes the measure is a necessity with the season opener rapidly approaching.

"If it wasn't for the Internet, I would keep them open," Petrino said. "I like having people at practice. I think our players like having people at practice. I think it helps that people see how hard our guys work. ...

"It's just the way the world works now with all the reporting and negative things said. You've got to close them."

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