Tuesday Grid Update, 4/6

The tempo didn't meet the expectations of the head coach when the Hogs returned to football drills after two days off. John L. Smith said coaches will have to "prod" the team.

John L. Smith was the spokesman for the coaching staff after Tuesday's Arkansas football staff. He wasn't passing out any "sugar" on a day when nothing seemed to please the head coach, especially when an NFL-styled ball slipped into the kickoff return drills.

Bobby Petrino didn't address the media, but it was clear he was "hot" throughout the practice in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The head coach didn't like the attention to detail, the tempo of the practice and he was just plain miffed when Cobi Hamilton fumbled a kickoff near him. That's when he apparently noticed the ball was not a collegiate style.

Hamilton had scooped up the ball and was zooming down the field in the opposite direction when Petrino yelled, "Cobi, bring me that ball." When the kick returner delivered it, Petrino then chunked it about 30 yards into the first rows of the stadium where a young boy ended up with it.

"Tooday was a lackadaisical day," said Smith, who coaches special teams and outside linebackers. "We need to be on them more as coaches. They need to look inside and take a look at each other and start pulling each other along. That's what's leadership is all about and that's what Coach Petrino keeps harping on each other about. Take control. This is your football team. You can be something special IF you prod yourself.

"We need to be better. It wasn't nearly as good as we like it to be."

Was it lack of effort or a lack of mental focus?

"I think both," Smith said. "It was more here (pointing to his head) than in here (pointing to his chest). It's more upstairs. They just have to be able to focus and go out and play and get better. It's more focus than anything.

"I think you lighten up a little bit and you go into a shell. You don't put your full (padded) pants on and that clicks in the mind of the players. They think at least we aren't tackling today. That type of things.

"We have to keep prodding to do better and we have to they have to prod themselves."

Was it detected early?

"It was that way the entire practice, from the minute we came out," he said. "You know what, coach is a big believer in confront it, address it, and let's correct it.

"They have to come out tomorow and do a better job and get better."

How did he think the tape looked from Saturday's scrimmage?

"You are never satisfied," he said. "When you have ones, twos and threes out there, you are going to have mistakes. There were a lot of mistakes.

"But from my standpoint -- and I've only been here one year -- from my standpoint it was better as far as running to the ball and hustle than the first year. We ran to the ball better. We had sevearal defensive lineman making some plays down field. We still have to make improvement, but that part was pretty darn good and better than a year ago in a lot of aspects.

"But it's not where we want to be and not good enough."

It was a windy day with gusts hitting 25 to 35 mph in the stadium. That might have affected both kickers and return specialists. There were a lot of missed field goals and muffed punts. Smith was asked to discuss the punters and kickers.

As far as punters, Smith said, "Breeding has done a decent job, but I don't want to give any sugar to anyone right now. He's doing a better job. From a kicking standpoint, I was disappointed with what we did today. Hopefully, it will get better from here on out. I'm pleased with Breeding, but the rest of it was not good."

Smith said there will be much work on punt returns on Wednesday. He said they are just trying to get as many looks at different punt returners as possible. With the winds moving the ball around and punters not hitting the same depth, it was a difficult day fielding punts.

"We are going to work on the same guys we have back there tomorrow," he said. "Jarius Wright, Cobi Hamilton -- Lance Ray has tweaked a hammy -- but we are going to have to identify who can do it. I think Wright should be one of the guys.

"I will have to look at tape. I was busy up front today and not watching who did well. We'll take a look at them again. I know one guy who can get it done. We'll put Jerico Nelson back there and he'll go catch it."

Nelson is the starter at outside linebacker. He was free on a sack to open the team segment of practice Tuesday. So how did the linebackers grade from the scrimmage.

"Again, not where you'd like to be," Smith said. "We all had individual performances throughout the team, but I'm sure we had a couple of loafs. We can't have that. We have to go full speed. The execution and the little things weren't where you need to have them.

"The first time you put the pads on, you are a little off. You are teaching, teaching, teaching, then all of a sudden you have the pads on, they forget to take the step you are supposed to take. For example, you are supposed to take a 6-inch step with your left foot and that never happens. I'm just using that as an example. They forget about the technique because it's the first day of scrimmage and things don't look as good.

"From a coaching standpoint, you want to concentrate on those little things and get them corrected. It's the little things and make them focus on them."

Smith said it was a simple problem with the placekicking.

"It's not going through the up rights," he said.

Alex Tejada had some hit the up rights and some that just sailed wide in the gusty wind.

"It can be difficult, but you have wind all the time and you have to play in it," he said. "You just have to keep going out there. In the spring, it's about putting in the work. We have to keep working."

Asked if he felt pressure since the Hogs signed two kickers in the new class, Tejada said, "No, you should always have competition. You know it's going to be a competition thing at every position. You know they are going to continue to bring someone in. You know they have to have someone. You can't worry about that. You have to welcome the challenge and know that they are going to come in here and learn how we do it."

The wind might have been rough. So was the criticism from the coaches.

"Yeah, it was rough out there today with the wind," said Ronnie Wingo, sophomore running back. "I guess we struggled. You want to achieve your goals as a team, but when you have a practice like that you can't. We can't take days off.

"Coach Petrino wasn't happy with the tempo. It wasn't good enough. I don't think we were in and out of the huddle fast enough.

"I guess we took a couple of days off since the scrimmage and we were a little rusty. It was the fifth day of practice and we weren't into it today."

Running back Dennis Johnson said, "We probably came out slow. We have to pick things up. We'll be better. We have to be better."

Notes:

Nose tackle Zack Stadther missed practice, but it was not disclosed if he was injured. Linebacker Jerry Franklin attended the early part of practice, but missed the 11-on-11 segments to work in the weight room. There didn't appear to be any injuries. Joe Adams and Greg Childs, hobbled a little last week, appeared close to full speed on Tuesday.

The quarterbacks appeared to have an accurate day passing. Brandon Mitchell hit some long throws, including one to Cobi Hamilton who made a tough catch in traffic. Greg Childs made a one-hand snag midway through the practice. Tight ends D. J. Williams and Austin Tate both made nice grabs in the pass skeleton portion of the workout.

There were long periods of work on kickoffs and kickoff returns during the workout. More work on punt returns will be featured Wednesday.

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