Arkansas worked two hours on another cool day in the Ozarks Tuesday morning, but players and coaches were still dragging desite the mild temperatures. It is said to be the lat day of two-a-day workouts in Bobby Petrino's first fall camp for the Hogs, but players weren't counting on it.
"We'll see how it goes," said safety Matt Harris. "I hear this is the last day of it, but I am not counting on it and neither is anyone else. We know we better keep having good days or we'll be back out for (a second practice. This is the part it becomes a grind and we have to try to push this last week of fall camp and get to game week. We might be at the end of two-a-days, but we better not count on that. If they give us another day of two-a-days, we'll strap it up and go."
Another workout was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon with plans set for a lighter action, but heavy with special team play.
Backfield coach Tim Horton looked winded, too, after practice. He admitted the pace has been tough on everyone, not just players.
"Reminds me of my senior year here at Arkansas, the offensive camp that we had under Coach (Ken) Hatfield with Jack Crowe as our offensive coordinator," Horton said. "It was brutal. This has been difficult. What I've been telling our players is that the work we put on set us up for the Southwest Conference title. Hard work always pays off."
Harris said it's been difficult and extremely competitive. He said the competitive part has included a hard push at safety from freshman Elton Ford.
"He's a good football player," Harris said of Ford. "He's a football player first and foremost. That's what you want on your team, good football players who love to play the game.
"I know he's pushed me and made me better. That's been the fun part, coming out knowing it's going to be a competitive situation and that's going to help our football team. I'm helping to make him better, pushing him, and he's doing the same thing to me."
Coaches said Harris had a strong scrimmage Saturday, leading the Hogs in tackles. Part of that had to do with a switch in mentality for Harris. A switch in positions also put him closer to the line of scrimmage.
"It started out better for me and that was when I was at (free) safety," he said. "I'd talked with my father before the scrimmage. He told me to go back and play like I did in the spring, be more aggressive. He told me to get closer to the line of scrimmage and try to knock 'em out. It's defense. It's got to be that mentality. I just went in with a more aggressive attitude."
Harris said he started out with the second unit Saturday, but moved to the ones mid-way through the first half. He said at halftime defensive coordinator Willy Robinson complimented him and asked him to try (strong) safety, too.
"I worked with the ones at tight safety in the second half and I think I did make a lot of tackles," he said. "I've got a few packages with the ones. I'm pushing Dallas Washington at the tight safety. Really, there are schemes where three (safeties) are out there. It's a situation where we know we are all pushing each other. We've got to be ready and we know there are going to be times when someone goes down and you will have to switch safeties. We've got a bunch of guys playing three spots.
"Of course, you want to start, but it's not like we all aren't going to play. Everyone is going to be needed this year."
Ramon Broadway is battling for playing time with Jamar Love at one cornerback spot. Broadway impressed in Saturday's scrimmage, according to coaches.
"I don't know about that," Broadway said. "OK, would be how I'd put it. I did OK at times, but I also gave up some plays. I gave up a TD play at my position.
"I do think I'm doing better this fall than in the spring. I really struggled in the spring. Most of that was because I didn't understand the defense, the playbook. I slept with the playbook this summer and I was better prepared for what we are doing this fall.
"It's not so much knowing my spot, it's knowing the safety and linebacker spots. And, I'm better on my reads. So much of it is reading the quarterback and the blocking schemes in this system. You have to know which way to step. And, you have to know which way the guys beside you are stepping. If you don't know the safety and linebacker and the end positions, you are going to be in the wrong spot with the reads. It all works together. I didn't know it in the spring. I've gotten into the playbook this fall.
"It's just so much different than what we did here in the past. In the old defense, cornerback was easy. You jut followed your man. That's all you had to know, what your man was doing. There are so many more things to learn in this defense. It's taken time for me, but I'm better."
There isn't much doubt who will start at running back. Michael Smith has been the clear leader of that position, both on and off the field, according to Horton.
"He's been a great example for our young backs and he's been a true leader," Horton said. "He has encouraged our young guys and tried to help them. And, he's been out there for every practice. He's had a very good fall camp.
"We are pretty thin at running back right now. De'Anthony Curtis, Brandon Barnett and Chip Gregory are all out right now. Chip was out today. De'Anthony is working hard and is close to being back, but he's missed a lot of work. We've put in a lot of new stuff since he's been out. The good news is that he's probably not a high rep guy as far as what he needs to pick it up. But if he's going to play in the opener, we need him back out here. He's getting close and you can tell he's doing everything he can to get his rehab done."
Horton works with the punt returners. He said Jarius Wright is the clear front runner right now.
"We've got some more days to know who is going to do it for sure, but he's not dropping any punts and he's making good decisions," Horton said. "He's had about four very good days there in a row. If we played today, Jarius would be the one. He just needs to stay consistent.
"He's very tough and he continues to have good workouts. It's tough on the freshmen right now. They haven't been through a grind like this. I'd say Michael Smith has done a good job of leading those freshmen. It's tough on the older guys. They are worn out, too, and it's hard on them to know how to lead. They are just trying to fight through these last days of fall camp."
This is Robbie filling in for Clay this afternoon. Here are a couple notes from the afternoon practice:
• CB Jerell Norton was among the players working out with the injured guys in the corner of the practice field. It was the first time Norton has been out there this preseason. He underwent hernia surgery the first day of practice, but is working working his way back. Petrino said he's ahead of schedule. But it is too early to tell when he'll be ready to return to practice.
• Quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said there still hasn't been a decision on the No. 2 quarterback. He did reaffirm that Casey Dick gives them the best chance to win right now. But a decision still must be made between Tyler Wilson and Nathan Dick.
• A new player was on the field this afternoon. We were told his name is Matt Crowder, a walk-on fullback from Harrison. Crowder was wearing No. 22. It looks like he replaces signee Albert Gary, who hasn't been academically cleared by the NCAA.
• Most of the afternoon workout concentrated on special teams. Things like sky kicks, onside kicks, etc. The schedule says it was the last two-a-day workout of the preseason.
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