New Surface Still In Works

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas opened spring practice on the grass in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Tuesday.

But if the Razorbacks get their wish, the 15 practices this spring will be the last time they work on the natural surface.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long reiterated Monday that the program is still trying to raise $1.2 million needed to replace the grass in the stadium with field turf in time for the 2009 season. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino supports the idea of putting turf in the stadium, and Long said he's "reasonably confident" money will be raised in time to get the artificial surface in place in Fayetteville by August.

"We're continuing to explore that. We're more than exploring. We're trying to raise funds for the project. We haven't secured all the funds," Long said. "I think we're close. We need to secure the funds here pretty soon because in order to have enough time to have (the turf) installed right prior to August football, that time's coming.

"I'm still reasonably confident that we'll secure the funds and then we'll go through the process of obtaining a general contractor and selecting the turf."

Long said the cost of installing turf in Reynolds Razorback Stadium could be less than $1.2 million, depending on how much site work must be done. The Razorbacks have consistently played at least two games a season on turf because War Memorial Stadium has an artificial surface.

Back in School

New assistant John L. Smith was thrilled to be back on the field Tuesday. It was the first time the former Michigan State and Louisville head coach, who was hired last winter to coach Arkansas' special teams, had been working with players in nearly two years.

"I had a little adrenaline going," Smith said. "It was a lot of fun. I was excited. I thought the kids had great enthusiasm. I thought the kids practiced pretty darn good. We've got a lot of things to work on without a doubt, but gosh, I had a great time and I think the kids' attitude is super."

With Smith's help Arkansas will emphasize special teams this spring. The Razorbacks used several periods during the two-hour practice to cover place kicking and punting Tuesday. Smith thought the early work went well.

"Coach (Petrino) is going to keep me around maybe for another day," he said with a laugh.

Horton Happy

Smith isn't the only happy assistant. Running backs coach Tim Horton smiled when asked about the big group he will work with after relying on Michael Smith last season.

Smith is sidelined after undergoing offseason hamstring surgery, but there's no shortage of ball carriers with Dennis Johnson, Brandon Barnett, De'Anthony Curtis, Broderick Green and Knile Davis getting work.

"The numbers are good, the attitudes are good and the best part about it is competition will make them all better," Horton said. "It's not going to be a one man show anymore.

Brace For It

Arkansas' offensive linemen were told to wear knee braces in practice last year. Arkansas' quarterbacks were wearing braces on their left knees for safety reasons Tuesday.

"We did a lot of studying in the offseason about how to keep the quarterbacks healthy," quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said. "That front leg is where you're closest to the defense. So we wanted to put something on all of them."

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