Thunderstorms kept Arkansas from its planned outside work, but the rains didn't keep the Hogs from putting on full pads for the first time in spring football drills. The work in Walker Pavilion produced the spring's first injuries, perhaps one of them could be serious.
Offensive guard Wade Grayson, senior with three letters, went down with a knee injury early in the team session. Grayson, Harrison product, was working with the first team at strong side guard. He was helped to the sideline and eventually taken from Walker Pavilion in a motorized cart. Coaches weren't sure of the nature of the injury immediately after practice.
Redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey moved to first team guard in Grayson's absence, apparently with solid results. Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said Bailey "is a good player and was competing there anyway. I don't know how long Wade is going to be out, but Alvin will do well there. We know what kind of football player Alvin is and what his dad raised him to be."
McGee said the Hogs had a good day as far as attitude and effort. He liked the intensity, too. However, he said the execution of the offense was mixed. He praised quarterback Tyler Wilson's effort, but said the weight of carrying the team in Ryan Mallett's absence might be causing some stress.
"I think the weight of leading the team with Ryan out is causing some pressure on Tyler," McGee said. "He's never really been in that position. I think he's doing some great things out there, but he's also feeling it a little bit. He can make some great throws, really some that even Ryan can't make."
McGee is pleased with the other two scholarship quarterbacks, too. He praised the way both Brandon Mitchell and Jacoby Walker have learned the offense, but said it's been a fast pace.
"You know us, we like to carry a lot of offense," he said, noting the first three days have been heavy with installations.
"It's been a fast pace. There has been a lot of installation on offense, a lot on defense. Then you add in the first day of pads today and it's been a lot on them and a lot on our coaches. We've put in some things our new coaches have brought. Again, we like to carry a lot (of offense.)"
One of the standouts in Friday's first day of full contact was sophomore defensive tackle Dede Jones. Moved to the second team after dropping 20 pounds to 270 in the offseason, Jones spent the day wreaking havoc in the offensive backfield. He split blocks at least three times, once in an early goal half team line session and later a couple of times when there was 11-on-11 action in the middle of the field. Jones was busting through against the second offensive line in apparent assignment busts.
Lance Ray appeared to sustain a minor leg injury. The redshirt freshman wide receiver started the day full speed, but came up limping midway through the day. Linebacker Jerry Franklin, moved to second team behind Freddy Burton, left the practice early, apparently to concentrate in the weight room. Joe Adams, apparently bothered with some kind of leg pull over the first two days, seemed to run better on Friday.
"I think Lance is fine," McGee said. "You know wide receivers, they get a little nick and they go off. I think he'll be OK."
DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez have switched sides at tackle, at least for the start of spring drills. Love played strongside tackle the last two seasons, with Dominguez taking the weakside. Love has been at strongside the last three workouts, something he said head coach Bobby Petrino asked him to do after the bowl.
"The head coach talked to me about that when the season was over and it was something he wanted me to try," Love said. "It's not a lot different."
The main difference, the weakside tackle has more one-on-one blocking assignments in pass protection.
"What I can tell you is that it means I go a lot against Jake Bequette in practice," Love said. "Man, is he quick and fast. He gives you a great look. It's great practice for me because he is really fast. I don't know many 6-4, 270-pounders who can run like a 4.5. He may be that fast."
Offensive line coach Chris Klenakis said it's too early to know if Love will stay on the weak side.
"We are going to look at a lot of different combinations this spring," Klenakis said. "That's one of them. We are going to slide people around and get a lot of looks on tape. We'll see how that goes, but I'm not going to say just yet that's how we'll line up in the fall. I want to see how it works."
Love said Klenakis has brought both new plays and new techniques to the offensive line.
"There are quite a few new plays in The Pistol," Love said. "You don't block them a whole lot different. But we do have some new blocking schemes for the run game. I'd say the pass protections are the same."
How would he compare Klenakis to his line coaches the previous seasons at Arkansas, both Mike Markuson and Mike Summers.
"Coach Markuson was a running game coach," Love said. "I learned a lot from him. Then Coach Markuson taught us pass protection. He was probably more of a laid back coach. Now Coach Klenakis, he's more hands on. He is going to be more aggressive. I can see that already. All of them are different and I've got things I've learned from all of them."
McGee sees a lot of helpful additions in the offense as added from both Klenakis and new wide receiver coach Kris Cinkovich.
"I was able to visit with both of them before they were hired," McGee said. "I knew they would bring some things and we are glad to get new things to add, but what I wanted to know more than anything was how they would be with our players off the field. I wanted to see that they cared for our players. That's how you get so much from players when they know their coaches care for them. I'm a coaches' son and that's what I've learned, you get the most when they feel like you care for them as people. I'm pleased about that with these (new coaches)."
The Hogs will continue with full pads in a 10 a.m. Saturday workout. Billed by some as the spring's first scrimmage, McGee said it's about half practice, half scrimmage.
"We will practice half the time, then scrimmage," he said. "What do I want out of it? I want to see toughness, mental and physical. When we reviewed last season, we thought toughness was one aspect that we needed to improve. That's what we are looking at more than anything tomorrow."
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