There was once a time when August camp was used to get a football team in shape. These days, that happens in June and July.
Two-a-days are an unusual event now with the way the NCAA has regulated August practices. If you practice twice in one day, the next can only contain one workout. And, there must be a handful of practices without pads to start camp.
That's why it makes sense to open the first couple of weeks of fall camp to fans — unless bad weather forces a move inside Walker Pavilion where there isn't room.
What you are going to see this afternoon in practice number two — and we are still in the NCAA mandated one-a-day mode — will be a lot of passing and individual work. It's really two practices rolled into one.
First, the freshmen and newcomers will roll out around 2:45 p.m. The actual start is advertised as 3 p.m., but I like to be early to take in the moment the young ones come out for their first few minutes. I like to watch their helmets swing from side to side, taking it all in. It's got to be an incredible experience, topped only by the first time they run through the "A" for their first game.
The varsity will come out later. They'll hit the field for their first practice around 4 p.m. By then, the newcomers will be tired and their heads will probably be swimming a little. Maybe they've already figured out this is a little different pace than high school or junior college. If not, that will happen around 4:30 when the returnees have added some intensity.
What should you watch for in these early workouts? What is meaningful? What gives you a clue that someone might play against Missouri State in the opener Sept. 5?
There might not be enough data to pass judgment on a lineman before pads, but there's one I want to see when he comes onto the field. Find juco transfer Zhamal Thomas, a candidate to help on the offensive line this year. He's a big, big man and has enough athletic ability to do a standing back flip. Maybe he'll do one as he enters the stadium for his first workout.
There should be more clues as to potential help in some other areas. You might can tell something in the passing drills when you see wideouts Lance Ray, Cobi Hamilton and Neal Barlow. Same goes for defensive backs Darius Winston, Rudell Crim, David Gordon, Anthony Leon and Ross Rasner. How do they run and cut?
That early part of practice is also a good chance to evaluate Brandon Mitchell. There is some "wow" to what he can do, both with his feet and with the football. Is his arm for real? Everyone has to decide that for themselves.
Practice number two is also a great time to watch for how the medical work held up. What does Knile Davis look like? Is he sore after day one? He got a new plate in his ankle after a break early in spring drills. He's got medical clearance and the conditioning staff likes the way he cuts and changes direction. If that ankle holds up, he could be a special player, even this season.
Do all of these newcomers pass the eye test? Are they really as tall as what it says in the press guide? Sixteen are listed as 6-foot-3 or taller.
Find the punters and ID Briton Forester, No. 49. Look for No. 14, new walk-on Dillon Breeding. They punter will come from that battle. Does they loft the football as high as the upper deck? I love hang time.
What about Ronnie Wingo? Is he the next big thing on the Razorback football team? Can a 218-pounder really move that fast?
Questions, questions, questions. Most can't be answered with just two days of practice. It sure is fun to give it a try.
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