University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino touched on the subject as his post-practice press conference on Wednesday while noting that tailback Broderick Green was sick, but negative for H1N1.
"We have a couple of guys that have been sick," Petrino said. "I am scared to death about this H1N1 so we have been doing a real nice job of working hard to make sure we are understanding everyone's health, what their temperatures are, getting a number of guys tested. All of them have been negative."
At that point, Petrino literally knocked on the wood podium that he was standing behind.
"Knock on wood," Petrino said. "Our training staff has been doing a nice job of keeping their eye on that. I saw that Duke had 15 players with their guys quarantined. It is a big concern of mine and I think will continue to be, especially when school gets started (next Monday)."
He wants everybody out there at practice to keep what he feels is a much better team at this point in preseason practice than it was a year ago when the Razorbacks finished 5-7.
"I try not to think back a lot about last year," Petrino said. "But we're better. We're a lot better. Our guys understand what we are doing. They understand how to practice. I think we do a much better job in units.
"They understand that we are going to get up at 7 (a.m.) and we are going to work until 10 (p.m.)," Petrino added. "Their attitude is good, our work effort is good and we are a much better football team on the field. We are bigger, stronger, more physical. We just don't know if we are there yet where we need to be. I like the way we work hard, I think our leadership within the team is a lot better than it was a year ago and guys aren't afraid to tell other guys that ‘you need to step up, jump on board and get going.'".
Speaking of jumping up, that was certainly what wideout Greg Childs (6-3, 217) did during the only Wednesday practice.
Childs caught several passes, including a pair of spectacular catches in the end zone when he just simply out-positioned defensive backs and caught perfectly thrown football by Ryan Mallett.
"I am very happy with Greg," Petrino said. "He has become a better student of the game. He is studying hard and really trying to learn the offense.
"Last year as a true freshman, he came out here and he looked forward to somebody showing him what to do on every play," Petrino continued. "Now he is really studying on every play, being strong and being physical and his attitude has been great. He is in better condition. He doesn't get as tired. I couldn't be more happy with him."
While London Crawford returned to practice on a limited basis, other wideouts like Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Lucas Miller all had some big receptions.
"I think Joe is still up and down," Petrino said. "He is showing great flashes of what he can do when he catches the ball. He is running his routes real well and is real confident in his man-to-man that he can win. His increased strength has really helped him in that aspect because he doesn't get knocked around and bumped around.
"J-Wright can make a lot of plays for us, but he is still a guy that has to work on his conditioning," Petrino said. "He gets tired. He gets fatigued. He has got to learn how to get in better condition so that doesn't happen. I have been around some great wide receivers that can run all day and never get tired and can take every rep. J-Wright is not there yet."
Miller hauled in a bullet pass from freshman quarterback Brandon Mitchell with the fingers of one hand.
"Mitchell has got a great arm," Miller said. "Our quarterbacks can really sling that ball. It was one of those things where he led me and told me basically to go get it. Thank goodness I have got long arms. I just threw them out there and it was one of those catches where you are just like, ‘well, look what I found.'"
Petrino likes what he sees from Miller, who had a career-high 10 catches for 201 yards at Mississippi State last season before suffering torn knee ligaments.
"Lucas is doing well," Petrino said. "I think mentally he is really doing a nice job and that is a lot of coming back from that type of injury, dealing with how I know I can make the cuts, I know I can go full speed. We had tried to rest him a little bit. In some of the early practices… but now he is doing everything. He is a lot further ahead than I thought it would be after his injury.
Most of those passes were from Mallett and back-up Tyler Wilson.
Mallett has taken a step ahead of Wilson due to his accuracy and presence at the line of scrimmage per Petrino.
"He is getting better," Petrino said. "Coach McGee is doing a real nice job of taking the drill work and having it show up in the group sessions and in the team sessions. (He is) staying in line, staying with his follow through. He has improved I think a lot in a week."
"…I think he has learned how to stay composed, doesn't get mad on himself, hasn't been beating himself up," Petrino said later in the press conference. " I am happy with the improvement. We just have to wait and see when we get to a game, see how he handles it, see how much composure he has. The entire team has been working on that, understanding that you play one play at a time."
That is something that Wilson is still battling per his head coach.
"He (Wilson) is a guy that can throw the heck out of the football," Petrino said. "It is still frustrating sometimes on his ability to call plays, operate at the line of scrimmage. But he has improved in that area. It is just a process. Tyler works hard at it, studies hard, verbalizes things and looks at it, but it just doesn't click all the time.
"And then he has to handle the frustration when he doesn't do it right," Petrino said. "Sometimes he gets frustrated and then that hurts the next play."
That's something that just can't happen as a quarterback according to Petrino.
"Both quarterbacks – we're working hard at that because the most important play is the next play," Petrino said. "Whether I did a good job or bad job, I have to put it behind me and move on to the next play. They both have got to start doing that all the time and if they do, I think our consistency will go way up."
The head coach credits quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee with bringing his signal callers along.
"I think Coach McGee has done a nice job of really working on their fundamentals, their techniques and their follow throughs," Petrino said, "getting their feet where the belong, keeping everything in line.
"Tyler is always be a little bit different than that because he can release the ball from different spots," Petrino continued. "But Ryan has to have everything aligned. If he is stepping offline too much or stepping inside, then his accuracy goes down. But he is really concentrating and really focused. I have been impressed with how coachable Ryan is and how he has really paid attention to detail."
Mallett knows his accuracy is indeed all about the details.
"At the beginning of the beginning of fall (preseason practice), my feet weren't very good," Mallett said. "But now I have turned it up a little bit and now my feet are where they are supposed to be so I am hitting my targets and making those throws where they need to be instead of missing like I was earlier in camp."
Petrino was not so happy with the defense on Wednesday, especially in a drill that he brought back from last week.
"I wasn't real happy with the defense as far as flying around," Petrino said. "It's a tough drill on the defense because we take the tackles out and let the guards and centers get to the linebackers. It's all about how well they want to tackle. We did do well as a defense in that today.
"The first time we did the drill last week, the defense did a real nice job of it," Petrino added. "But I was highly disappointed in the effort and intensity today."
Arkansas will actually have its final two-a-day practice on Thursday before practicing Friday morning and then resting up for a closed scrimmage on Saturday morning.
That is something that Petrino clearly is not looking at as he stays in the moment.
"We haven't even talked about Saturday yet," Petrino said. "We really are approaching it one practice at a time, one meeting at a time and really worrying about getting better at practice. I think that is how we operate and I think that is how you do. When we get to Saturday, it will be just another scrimmage day – no more and no less.
"What I am concerned about is how we do this afternoon in our meetings, how we do this afternoon in the weight room," Petrino added. "I think we have improved a lot…in the weight room. Guys go in there now and approach it the right way and understand it is going to help them ready for the next practice instead of it being punishment. We just have to work hard every drill and every meeting because Saturday is a long time from here."
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Missing the entire practice on Wednesday were safety Anthony Leon and wideout Marques Wade while defensive tackles Alfred Davis, Zac Stadther and cornerback Rudell Crim were all dinged up during it.