"When we practiced before a scrimmage last week, it looked like we were saving things for the scrimmage," Petrino said. "I want to see them put as much into the pre-practice as the scrimmage."
The Hogs will take Thursday off to gear up for the scrimmage before taking scheduled days off Saturday through Monday sandwiched around Easter.
Petrino said the defensive ends have had a good spring and that is one of the squad's best positions with starters Adrian Davis, Jake Bequette and solid help in the second group with Damario Ambrose and Tenarius Wright.
Interestingly, Petrino began the media briefing after practice with encouragement for the crew to move down the road to Baum Stadium.
"How about those Diamond Hogs?" Petrino opened. "It's 6:30, the number one team in the country is playing baseball tonight. What are you guys doing here?"
Both Arkansas and Arizona State topped at least one national poll at the start of the week. So which team was Petrino referencing?
"Are you kidding?" he said. "I was talking about us. We are No. 1."
Petrino said the Hogs tried to "be physical and worked a lot on tackling, our run game and our perimeter drill where you take the defensive (interior) linemen out and try to get the ball out on the perimeter so you can see the safeties and linebackers tackle and see the guards and tackles trying to cut the linebackers and see the running backs run. We are getting better. We are not where we need to be. We are not physcial enough, we don't tackle well enough and we don't get all 11 guys to the football on every play.
There have been no changes to the defensive depth chart from the pre-spring look. So what has he thought about that group?
"I like what I see up front and with the linebackers," Petrino said. "We are improving on it. Offensively you have to run the ball so we can throw it down the field. I think we will be able to throw it down the field. I just think we need to get a lot better running the ball.
"Defensively, we have to get consistent with our run fits, consistent with our tackling from the secondary. We have to fill the gaps right with our linebackers. I have been happy with the front. We just have to do a better job of being consistent with our secondary."
What is he looking for in Friday's scrimmage?
"Just improvement and guys competing," he said. "We have put some new things in this week and that has slowed us down this week. We have seen some guys swimming a little so the concentration from today's practice is important.
"I really want to see us do a better job in the practice part Friday and concentrate better before the scrimmage."
How about the defensive ends?
"We are going to be pretty good at defensive end," Petrino said. "I think that should be a strength of ours. Obviously, Adrian Davis is doing a good job. He's bigger. He's 250 and he's rushing off the edge well. I think Jake Bequette can be as good as he can handle when he gets tired. He's 270 now, he's much stronger, he's got great ability to bend and come off the edge. He just has to play and concentrate when he gets tired. He knows that and can get better than that.
"I like what we have behind them. I like Ambrose and Tenarius Wright is going to be a player. It was a hard move, something I know in his mind he would rather stay at linebacker, but there is no doubt in my mind we've got him at the best position. He's going to be a real good player there sometime. He's just learning, but he shows the flashes and the ability to bend and come off the edge. He's starting to understand what he's supposed to do with his hands.
"That should be a strength, our defensive ends."
Petrino was asked how D. J. Williams has handled the blocking at tight end.
"He's getting better at it," Petrino said. "I don't know how much he likes it. I think he likes catching the ball more which is understandable because all tight ends do. But he's really concentrating on his technique. He's really worked hard at it and he's improved a lot.
"Ben Cleveland is going to help us. He's worked hard. He hasn't caught the ball as well as he should. He's got better hands than that. It's a concentration deal right now, but he has done a nice job with the blocking."
Special teams has been a focus of every practice. There were periods Wednesday for punt work, kickoffs and then field goals at the end of the practice. Petrino was asked about the spring work of kicker Alex Tejada.
"He's not consistent enough," Petrino said. "That's the biggest thing. I think what we are doing with him he's gotten confidence. We've tried to put pressure on him and see how he handles that. I think he's handled that fine. It's just the consistency of his swing so he doesn't hook the ball. When he doesn't hook the ball, it goes through. When he hooks it, it doesn't go through."
Petrino praised the play of Brandon Barnett at running back. The coach said it was obvious that he's got fresh legs after missing two weeks of practice because of the death of his step father.
"Our hearts and prayers were with him," he said. "He's come back and this has been a great stress relief for him to be be out here doing something he loves. He looks fast. he has fresh legs. He's excited about it and our players have really helped him out."
Ryan Mallett said the Hogs have had a good week of installation.
"We've got a few more weapons for the defense now," he said. "We put in some things for the nickel looks and the pressure, some things in the run game. I think that's going to give us some more things for them to worry about in the scrimmage.
"If they bring some blitzes, we have things for them. I think we picked them up good this week."
If it's a long practice Friday, Mallett said he's ready for it.
"A long day?" he said. "I like to scrimmage. I'm for just staying out here. I enjoy it. I love it. It's probably going to be long, but that's fine with us."
Davis has seen what pressure from the outside can do from the UA ends.
"Those guys have done well," he said. "They have some long arms and they've gotten some of our passes, that's for sure. I like our ends. I think they are all pretty good. They've made it interesting in practice every day. They haven't hit (the quarterbacks), but we feel them (when they touch them down) and we sure know they are getting back there to us."
Adrian Davis thinks the ends have gotten better. What has been the improvement from last spring?
"I think we had a real good year in the weight room and we are better able to handle the (grind and toughness aspects) of the spring," Davis said. "We are a little bigger, a little stronger."
What has he seen from Wright at end and does he recall making the same linebacker-to-end move?
"He's done well," Davis said. "You probably don't want to make that move. I didn't. But it's good for you. I've tried to talk to him about it. I've tried to help him out and I think he's going to be fine at end."