The good news Tuesday was the return of Brandon Barnett at a position that's been hurt by injuries. Barnett had missed all but one day of spring practice after his step father passed away in Texarkana.
The Hogs might also have some good news with another top running back. Dennis Johnson, out for a week with a boot on his foot, might return in time to play in the Red-White game April 18. Johnson might miss another few practices, but could return soon.
Nose tackle Zach Stadther returned to practice after a neck injury knocked him out of Saturday's scrimmage. Still out of practice were Chris Gragg and Greg Childs. Seth Oxner practiced in a limited role after sustaining a bruised shin. Paul Petrino said Gragg is day-to-day, missing Tuesday for icing to control swelling.
"We're hoping Dennis can get back later this week or early next week," Petrino said. "That would be good. It was good to get Brandon Barnett back out here today. He gave us some fresh legs running around. That's part of the spring, sometimes it's survival of the fittest. Who can hang in there and who can be the toughest? You find out a lot about guys. A lot of times that's who starts."
Paul Petrino was asked about the offensive success (11 passing TDs, four on the ground) from the Saturday scrimmage after Tuesday's workout.
"I thought it was good to come out and see guys make big plays," said Petrino. "We had a lot of yards after the catch. I thought both quarterbacks had times where they were really impressive. It was good to see Joe (Adams), Jarius (Wright), London (Crawford) and Reggie (Fish) catch the ball and run good after the catch. We had a part of the scrimmage where we didn't play good enough, but that's where we have to keep working and be consistent and become mentally tougher."
As for Tuesday's play, Petrino said, ""They had a long scrimmage and it was physical on Saturday. I thought we started out a little slow today, but as guys got loosened up we got a little better. We are still not where we need to be execution wise. We have to continue to work better and expect more out of ourselves day in and day out."
Offensive line coach Mike Summers had his centers working on center snaps before and after the workout after bad snaps caused some problems in the scrimmage. He said that is an area that will be cleaned up and won't be a problem in the fall.
Summers and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino both commented on what might be a successful move in the offensive line. Offensive guard Mitch Petrus switched from the weakside to the strongside in a flip flop on Friday and that paid dividends in the scrimmage.
"We'd been having trouble with (Malcolm) Sheppard at strong guard and we needed to make that move to shore up the pass pro(tection)," Petrino said. "He did a little better there."
Summers said it's part of the ongoing spring plan to shuffle personnel to find the best fit all the way across the front.
"I said earlier that we were going to try an mix and match and see what we can find," Summers said. "That's strong guard position requires some things and the weak guard requires some things. We hadn't had a chance to see Mitch over there. I really kinda liked what I saw from him over there so it looks like a good move right now."
How has Petrus developed in the spring?
"It's been good for him," Summers said. "He's worked really hard to get himself back into playing condition and back into the mental part, all the things that have to be done on the calls at the line of scrimmage. He's worked harder on his technique, which has come slowly. He's always been an effort guy. I really like his energy when he's in there.
"He's more vocal than anybody we had in there last year. His personality is more firey. When it's channeled in the right direction, it helps all of us.
"He's gotten a little more athletic in what he does. He's not as robotic. Certainly, he's always had great strength, but I think he's got more functional strength now. Mitch always works hard. He worked through the offseason and then in January through February and it's showing up a little bit now.
"I like his progress. He needs more consistent technical work. There are three good plays and one bad. That has to change a little bit. I am excited about his progress and the future."
How was the scrimmage for the offensive line?
"It was probably the same as everybody," Summers said. "They started really fast and did a really good job of preparing to come play and it showed in their execution. Then, when we had a few things that didn't work out and the defense got a few stops, we didn't provide enough energy and enough leadership to pull the offense out of it.
"That part of it still has to come. We have to have more consistent execution, more physical play and better pass protection."
How was Tuesday's practice?
"They did a good job," Summers said. "We put in some new defenses in and some new blitzes and we did a good job of understanding that, so I was pleased with how they came out today."
Barnett got a "little winded" during Tuesday's practice after missing the better part of the last two weeks. He said he ran several days during his time in Texarkana and also went to the gym with his brother to lift weights a couple of days. As far as catching up, he said a lot of what the Hogs are doing has carry over from the fall.
"I think I am picking it back up," Barnett said. "But I need to get my conditioning back. It'll come.
"My teammates and coaches have been good for me and they have tried to pick me back up. I just had to get back here and try to go forward and that's what I've done. It's good to be back. What happened is hard, but you have to push on and get back to working and practicing.
"My teammates tried to pump me up and let me know they were there for me. All I can do is keep on moving and try to get better."
Did he feel some rust Tuesday?
"Definitely, you have to get the kinks out and get back in the groove again," Barnett said. "All of it just review and just doing things over and over mentally. It's not a big factor. I just have to be ready to play."