Physical Play Dominates Spring Practice

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas running back Broderick Green rounded the corner, lowered his shoulder and created a loud thud when he collided with two defensive players during the Razorbacks' scrimmage last Saturday.

It was nothing more than a five-yard run play, but it stirred several "oohs" and "ahhs" from spectators watching the workout. And it left Green, who left Southern Cal last October and transferred to Arkansas, satisfied for the first time in months.

"It felt good. I missed it," Green said. "It's been awhile since I've been in the pads and I wanted to make the most of every opportunity I had."

Those feelings are exactly what Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is trying to convey to the Razorbacks this spring. Arkansas, which returns to the practice field today after two days of rest, has embarked on a month in which Petrino expects physical football to be the norm and it hasn't disappointed after the first two days in full pads.

The practice field was full of pops, thuds, bangs and booms Friday and Saturday. There were big collisions and hard tackles. There was physical play in the trenches. There were even small skirmishes between offensive and defensive players, like linebacker Khiry Battle and fullback John Durmon, who were entangled in a brief melee before the scrimmage began Saturday.

It was much different from what Petrino witnessed last spring.

"Last year I kind of felt like it was like pulling teeth to get them to hit and concentrate on the physical part of the drills," Petrino said. "This year they're real eager, they're real excited about it and they see the success.

"Any time you see some success you can build off of it."

Petrino said he wants his players to remember that physical play can be fun, too. Arkansas tried to liven things up in its first day in full pads last Friday, when players were challenged in one-on-one tackling drills. An offensive and defensive player butted heads, while a running back tried to slip by without being tackled. The battles proved to be intense.

Arkansas' physicality — or lack thereof — was a problem last season and something the Razorbacks intend to address this spring. Especially on defense, where tackling was one of the team's biggest weaknesses.

Two days in full pads hasn't shown those problems are completely solved. For example, running back De'Anthony Curtis broke three tackles on the way to his 30-yard touchdown run in the scrimmage. But Petrino — along with defensive coordinator Willy Robinson — believes improvement is noticeable.

Especially when listening to the sounds coming from the field this spring.

"Coach always brings a great viewpoint to it because he sees both sides of it," Robinson said. "I'm looking at a smaller picture, but our ability to run to the ball and get more people to the ball was impressive (Saturday).

"It sounded like football, didn't it?"

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