Thursday Grid Update, 9/4

Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino liked what he saw in practice as the Hogs prepared for Louisiana-Monroe with a physical work week. Petrino thinks the Hogs will improve over their first game.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino knows his team can do better than its performance from its first week -- especially after watching them practice Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for Saturday's game against Louisiana-Monroe.

"I like the way we've practiced the last two days," Petrino said Thursday afternoon. "We should show improvement. There is usually carry over from practice to the game. We were more physical this week. We were better in meetings, too. We've had a good week."

In response to questions, Petrino said the film of last week's 28-24 victory over Western Illinois showed both good things and bad things. He thinks both helped his team improve.

"No doubt, we saw the mistakes," he said. "We saw what we did wrong in technique and fundamentals. We also some good and we emphasized those things, too.

"One of the things you want to do is define your strengths and go to them. It will be real important to work to those strengths. We went back to our run game, some things we thought would be strengths and worked on those. Hopefully, we'll be better."

Petrino said an emphasis this week was on stopping the run. He said his defensive front got better and improved in their technique and fundamentals after a not-so-good first game in that area.

"As you know, that was one of the things we had to work on this week," he said. "We need to use our hands more in the defensive front, keep our pads square to the line of scrimmage. We've worked all week on that. One concern is that we are facing a running quarterback. We've worked pass rush, pass rush. But we have to rush the passer and also stay in our lanes."

Petrino mentioned on Sunday and Monday that the Hogs needed to improve the kicking game. He was so serious on that area that he took the kickers out of Walker Pavilion each day despite rainy conditions. Rain held off on Thursday afternoon for that portion of the workout, after the team spent most of the practice inside.

"We have changed our depth a little on special teams, but not anything drastic," he said. "We were limited in the early part of the week on some of our kicking situations as far as being able to time up the punting game. But we went outside on Tuesday in the rain to make sure we got some work outside on kickoffs. We did all the special teams outside today."

Michael Smith will start at running back after sitting out for a suspension against WIU.

"Michael is excited," Petrino said. "He's practiced hard. He looks quicker and faster than he's looked. His legs are fresh. He looks better than he looked in the spring. He will help us. He just has to remember his tracks (lanes and cuts) in our running game. He'll help us there, I think."

He'll get some help from true freshmen De'Anthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson. Those two handled all of the snaps in the opener with Smith out.

"You can see their confidence grow, along with the other freshmen," Petrino said. "Our freshmen were more confident and understood things better this week. For what Curtis and Johnson had to do in that first game ... handle all of it ... that will help them down the line as we move through the season. They will get better because of that."

The Hogs have a few of their injured back and don't appear to have lost anyone. Split end London Crawford practiced the last two days after taking it easy on Tuesday because of a slight concussion.

"He went today pretty good," Petrino said. "There were no headaches, no problems. He should be good to play. The day after you exercise and practice for the first time (after a head bump) is the critical day. They want to see if you have any headaches that next day. He didn't today. He's fine. He had a good day."

Wendell Davis and Elston Forte both tried to practice this week, but Petrino said it's still not clear if either one is able to play.

"We aren't sure on those two," Petrino said. "Davis is a maybe. We are still trying to figure that out."

Petrino wants a fast start.

"I think that will be important," he said. "We got better as the game went along last week. We were better in the third quarter and better in the fourth. But it's important to start fast and get the lead. I think that will help our runnning game."

Petrino said quarterback Casey Dick has had a good week of practice after a less than perfect start Tuesday.

"He's gotten better and had a very good week," Petrino said. "He understands the game plan. He's practiced very well."

The Hogs have a few more players available this week and that should help depth.

"We need to rotate our defensive line more, rotate safeties and tight ends," he said. "We've got to do a better job as coaches of getting more players on the field. We have trust in these players and we've got to play them.

"It will help to get off to a good start, get rolling and play with more confidence. It's important not to get behind and then start playing tight. We are going to be very aggressive. Like I said, Casey had a good week. He's been very accurate."

Petrino said the Hogs would leave around 10:25 a.m. Friday for Little Rock. They plan a walk through at the stadium for everyone to familiarize themselves with the new surroundings.

"It's new for the freshmen and the coaches, at least most of them," Petrino said. "I want to get down there a little earlier. Usually, we do our walk through here and then leave, but we are going a little earlier for this trip. We want to get in the locker room, get on the field and get used to it.

"We are looking forward to playing there. We know it's been a good place for us. There have been a lot of games won there for us."

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