Quarterback Ryan Mallett wasn't quite as sharp as Tuesday and Wednesday, when he put on a passing show. Running backs Dennis Johnson, De'Anthony Curtis and Knile Davis all drew praise from the head coach, as did USC transfer Broderick Green.
However, head coach Bobby Petrino had one comment about Green, apparently in the plans now on some special teams. "I sure wish we'd find out something," Petrino said with an obvious reference to the NCAA appeal process. Green is seeking permission to play in the upcoming season rather than sit out a year.
Linebacker Wendell Davis, first team in the middle, made some impressive hits, including a shot that brought down Green in a middle drill. Later, Johnson ran over Davis, bouncing outside to daylight, in the team part of practice. Tramain Thomas and Chris Raggert made interceptions from the safety spot.
The shuffling continued in the offensive front where Grant Cook took some of the snaps with the first team at strongside guard after Seth Oxner took that work on Thursday. Oxner did take some snaps at center during the team periods late in the day.
Petrino said the Hogs "had fun out there today. I liked the practice. I thought we had a lot of enthusiasm the first day in pads. We flew around and were much more physical on both sides of the ball. That was good to see.
"Our execution is not where it needs to be, but the willingness to work hard, the willingness to take coaching and with the hard work in the classroom we'll continue to get better."
Petrino said the Hogs are scheduled for a half practice Saturday, then a live scrimmage afterward. The workout is set for 10 a.m., but the location is still up in the air. Petrino said the weather would determine whether the Hogs work outside or in Walker Pavilion, as they did Friday. He said, "I anticipate we will be indoors because I count on the weatherman [being accurate]. But I'm not sure exactly where we will be."
As far as an overall update, he said, "We are getting better and that's really what it's all about."
How did Petrino think the running backs have looked through three workouts?
"I like it," he said. "There are a lot of guys. The depth and the competition has made them all better. Dennis Johnson is a much better player than he was at any time last season. He's grown from the end part of last season.
"De'Anthony Curtis is competing extremely hard. He really wants it. He's trying hard to show that he's a good running back. It was good for him today to have the live tackling. He needs to really work hard on driving his legs on contact.
"Knile Davis did a nice job for someone who's only been here a short time. He's a quick learner. He's very physical. He's a good receiver. He's got great hips and that's why he can catch the ball because he can open his hips and adjust to the ball because he can see it and really make it look easy because he's so flexible."
"All that competition makes everyone else better."
Brandon Barnett missed his second straight workout to attend a family member's funeral.
After finishing the bulk of the practice, the team gathered for some blood alley work with a defensive player working against a blocker and a running back in a drill that drew whoops and hollers from the team.
"That was just about having fun," Petrino said. "The offense has a great advantage because the back has a blocker to help push it a little bit. It was about remembering what's fun about the game. Sometimes players think the game is so hard and so difficult. They forget that when they went to Pop Warner football if you didn't hit at practice it was a bad day. It was a bad day because the coach didn't let us tackle today.
"We did that for fun and competition and for them to understand how much fun it is to play this game."
Petrino thinks the Hogs have improved. He's anxious for the scrimmage.
"Really, we want to see how we execute and fly around," he said. "It's not going to be a deal where we scheme a bunch of stuff. It's really about how we are doing individually, playing our technique, playing our fundamentals, executing the passing game.
"I'd like to see us pass protect better. I think our defensive front, guys with a lot of experience, the first two days without pads, they definitely had the advantage in the pass rush. Today it evened out a little bit. I'd like to see us do a little four-man pass rush and see how we handle it on both sides of the ball."
Quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson entered the spring as co-No. 1s on the depth chart. Petrino was asked how Mallett has performed.
"First thing he's doing well, he's leading," Petrino said. "He's doing a great job from the huddle to the line of scrimmage to the snap. He understands what we are doing. He wasn't throwing the ball as well as he needs to. He threw it a little bit better the previous two days. It might have something to do with first day of shoulder pads, getting used to that. He still has a long ways to go, but I do like the way he's working at it."
Petrino praised Wilson, too.
"I like what I've seen from Tyler," Petrino said. "He's definitely learned how to calm down a little bit and relax. He's starting to be more confident. Again, he's a guy who can really pull the string and get it out of his hand quickly. It's just that he needs to understand that the game has to slow down a little bit. He tries to hurry and go as fast as he can sometimes and gets his feet in bad positions and then doesn't execute as well as he can.
"He's way, way ahead of where he was last year, simply executing under center and taking drops and making handoffs. Not doing that since the eighth grade until he got here took him a long time for him to adjust to."