"I was happy with the way we came out and took the field," Petrino said. "I think we had a tremendous amount of energy and excitement. We were well prepared. We did a nice job in the meeting rooms. We were really understanding. We were way ahead of where we were a year ago."
Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood all had solid workouts in the eyes of the head coach. All three made superb deep throws and drew applause from the crowd in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"Quarterback wise, they all took a lot of reps," Petrino said. "They got a lot of work. They didn't do everything right. They have to slow down a little bit. The first day you throw defense out there, they try to do everything so fast. We have to learn how to pace ourselves, take a deep breath and relax. There were a lot of good things I thought I saw.
"Defensively, when you are not in pads it is all about communication, aligning and playing fast. I thought we did a good job with the linebacker corps, getting lined up and getting the calls in right. We are way ahead of where we were last year, defensively. And, we should be because all of those guys are back and they have played a lot. Secondary wise we gave up some deep balls. I certainly don't like to see that, but they didn't have a pass rush. Sometimes it evens out if you have a pass rush."
One of the early questions was about former wideout Chris Gragg, a sophomore trying tight end for the first time in college.
"Chris Gragg has had a great winter," Petrino said. "He had a great winter. He's bigger and faster. We are kinda playing him at a different position, the H-back and the tight end. He gets a little better matchups and utilizes his speed. The telling point will be how he blocks and when he puts the pads on can he hold up run blocking and pass protection."
How did Ryan Mallett do as far as his touch passes?
"He worked on it," Petrino said. "There were a couple of times when we were in what we call half skeleton, when you have just the tight ends in there and the running backs against the linebackers. He threw a couple of full hummers when he needed to take something off it. Those balls, two things, one, they are hard to catch, and two, when they get tipped up, they are intercepted. So, it's a learning process.
"I did think the quarterbacks made good decisions. They had a good understanding of where they wanted to go with the ball. Tyler Wilson made some real good throws. I thought Jim Youngblood made some real good throws. I was happy with what he did."
Did the team periods catch his eyes?
"One of them was a blitz period," Petrino said. "Blitz wise the defense is a little ahead of the offense. They should be. You have to get the protections right and get the hots read. That always takes a little bit of time to teach. Defensively, I thought they did a good job of timing it up.
"We had the team period at the end where we were trying to get as much run work as you can without pads. We did get the ball down the field a little bit."
Was there more special teams work Tuesday than in all of last spring practice?
"Well, we have guys who are going to be on the team," he said. "Last spring we knew we would have a bunch of new guys. Today we worked hard on blocking punts and working the technique. We got a lot of bodies in there, and a lot of long bodies, which helps a lot. Then, we worked hard on our kickoff coverage drill. Really, that's an evaluation tool and we will go back and watch the video. We want to see how guys do avoiding blocks, how they do striking and form tackling. Then, you start putting them in spots for the kickoff coverage team.
"We are breaking it down it a little more. We are going to put a heavy concentration in the spring, more than I ever had. Basically, most of our guys who are going to be playing it are here right now.
"The running backs look pretty good. There are three guys there with a lot of experience. Dennis Johnson is way ahead of where he was early in the fall last year. He really understands what he's doing now. He's playing with a lot more confidence. Then, Knile Davis and Broderick Green are both big guys who can move. They have to learn a little quicker. They've got to get more reps. That's what will hurt them more than anything, just not getting enough reps because we do have so many backs.
"We still get to go back and re-teach everything, but what you really get to do is teach the details, instead of just where I line up, what I'm supposed to do. You want to know the details of every play you put in. What experience does for you. That's how you get better and take it to a different level. We'll do that. That's what this spring will be for."
Special teams coordinator John L. Smith is known to be high energy and he didn't disappoint Tuesday. He was pleased with the effort and attitude of the players. But, more than anything, he was grateful to be coaching again after two seasons out of the business.
"I thought our players practiced pretty darn good," Smith said. "I had a great time out there. The attitude of the guys was wonderful. I thought the kicking part was good. I hope Coach (Petrino) keeps me around for another day.
"I tell you, what I missed most the last couple of years was not being around the kids. And, that was great today.
"I've been around them enough to know they are great, too. There is not a bad one in the bunch. Every one of them I'd be honored to take into my home.
"I had to learn a few things today. There is a lot of new lingo. I haven't been on the assistant side in twenty something years, so some of it was new to me. I will talk to Coach Petrino about one thing -- I think assistants are underpaid.
"We put in a lot of things today. That is Coach Petrino's belief. You throw a lot on the wall and see what will stick.
"One thing we are going to do is kick a lot. We are going to concentrate on the two areas of kicking. We are going to see if we can protect the punter, and work on that. We hope we can leave spring with Alex Tejada's confidence way up. We will work on those two areas every day."
Smith said there is a place for Mallett to handle punting duties.
"I think there is," he said. "I don't know if you want him out there fulltime, but maybe if you have your offense at midfield, you can put a lot of pressure on the defense with him as a punter. You probably are not going to get much of a return with him out there with the offense."
The Hogs will conduct their second workout of the spring on Wednesday, also going in helmets and shorts. They will put on the pads for the first time Friday. There will be an off day on Thursday. Week day practices will start at 4 p.m.
Editor's Note: Hawgs Illustrated will also have an update on running backs and quarterbacks in separate stories.
The squad begins to stretch on opening day.
Bobby Petrino puts the Hogs through their paces.
Broderick Green takes a handoff.
John L. Smith liked the attitude of the Hogs.
Joe Adams catches a pass.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated