Arkansas worked in full pads Wednesday for the last time before Saturday's season opener with Western Illinois. It wasn't a surprise to the players.
"We know that Tuesday and Wednesday are work days with coach (Bobby) Petrino," said safety Matt Harris. "We knew what to expect today and we came ready to give good effort. It was a hard day, but that's the way it is around here. We know games will be easy after the way we work.
"We've worked our tail off and it's going to show up on game night."
Asked if he minded playing free or strong safety, Harris said, "I'm at strong right now and it doesn't matter. I don't care as long as we get the 'W' and that's the way it is for everyone. I don't care if I get four 'picks' or zero, as long as we get the 'W.' We just want to get better every week and get to 1-0. That's our goal."
Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson looks forward to the game and finding out what his unit can do despite a lot of inexperience. Freshmen dot the two-deep.
"We know we are young and inexperienced, but hopefully what we put them through the last month will serve them well when we get to the game," Robinson said. "We have had a good camp. We have gotten better. We have improved our tackling, especially with the first group.
"We know with the number of young players in our lineup, there will be some mistakes. Hopefully, we can correct some of the things as we go along. We'll get better. The one thing we hope is that we play fast and hard. That's something that even a freshman can do and even when you make mistakes. We just want them playing fast."
Western Illinois presents an interesting challenge because of the number of returning starters throughout the team, especially on offense where the entire backfield returns.
"That's what we know, they've played together and they are very good about giving you a traditional look with two backs and two tight ends, then break into an entirely different formation," Robinson said. "That makes it tough on young defensive players. You want to be sound on assignments and being in the right gaps. When they bring all of those exotic formations, it makes it more difficult. We know that because of their experience they are going to give us a lot of looks on the first night.
"The good part is that hopefully we've seen a lot of formations, a lot of variations, a lot of motions, a lot of changes in our own offense. I don't know if our offense does more or less than what they'll do, but we have seen a lot."
It's been a more complex defense for the Hogs, too. Defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell, who said he's battled a sinus infection of late, noted the playbook is quite extensive.
"I wasn't out here in the spring so I had a lot to learn," Mitchell said. "I think we have a lot more calls, a lot more to get down. I think we are getting there, though. It's been a long, difficult camp."
Special teams coach Kirk Botkin said it's been a thorough camp for his unit.
"I think we probably spend as much as some teams or more as far as time on special teams," Botkin said. "It's a good 25 minutes a day. Coach Petrino has given us a lot of time on special teams and he's been involved. What I'll say is that we have our best players on special teams. We are putting a lot of starters into the special teams lineup. Some teams don't do that, but Coach Petrino believes strongly in doing that. So we've got good players in our special teams.
"What we tell our players is that a special teams play is really the first play of an offensive series or the first play of a defensive series. It's not any different than that and just as important as the second play in that drive, or that defensive stand. Our players understand that and have worked hard in special teams."
De'Anthony Curtis continues to progress towards playing time Saturday night. He's battlling back from a knee injury in fall camp. However, there didn't appear to be any developments on the defensive injury front. Linebackers Elston Forte and Ryan Powers are still out for the opener.
Wednesday Grid Update, 8/27
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Arkansas-Grambling cancelledSevere weather has forced Arkansas to cancel one of its baseball games.
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2 Hogs no longer with programA pair of offensive players are no longer on the Arkansas football team.
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4 walk-ons added to rosterA few walk-ons have been added to Arkansas' football roster.
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Bielema, Hogs set to begin spring drillsArkansas Coach Bret Bielema talked about the status of Will Gragg, Jamario Bell and Daytrieon Dean as well as many other things heading into spring ball.
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