Arkansas put on full pads on Wednesday in a long workout inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium, but the Razorbacks will wait until Friday for its first major scrimmage of the spring. It was the sixth workout of the spring and finished the first phase of offensive installations, according to coordinator Garrick McGee.
Coaches were not pleased with Tuesday's workout. Things seemed to settle out on Wednesday when the only full contact was in a perimeter drill that removed the two interior defensive lineman in place of offensive guards with a shield pad.
That's when Franklin showed up for the first time in live work and made two nice plays to start his portion of that drill. The junior linebacker has been leaving practice early in each of the first five practices to get work in the weight room. The coaches might have a point to make about more work after the way Dennis Johnson treated him a little later. Johnson met him on the outside chest to chest, bounced off of him, then went the distance. Johnson won another battle with Franklin a little later.
Harris made the two best plays for the defense in an 11-on-11 segment a little later. He intercepted Brandon Mitchell on a pass thrown in the flat that he first deflected, then hauled in. A few plays later Harris took the ball away from running back Broderick Green when he met him in the hole on an off-tackle play. Harris was headed the other direction in a hurry.
There appeared to be a depth chart change at free or open safety where Ross Rasner moved ahead of Anthony Leon. Elton Ford, who made some impressive hits at the line in the perimeter full contact drill, worked with Leon on the second team at safety. Tramain Thomas was the other first team safety, but there were times when Ford and Rasner worked together with the first team.
McGee, quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, was the staff representative in the media room after practice. He was asked about Tuesday's practice that didn't seem to meet the expectations of the head coach and if there was improvement Wednesday.
"It was a little bit (better)," he said. "It's kinda the dog days of spring drills right now. I think the last couple of days maybe they felt a little sorry for themselves. That's part of the deal, fighting through it. They have to push themselves beyond what they think the mind can go.
"I think we'll have a good meeting day Thursday, then a good, long, tough practice Friday."
McGee praised the spring work of Dennis Johnson. He entered the spring as the No. 2 running back, but has been a bright spot in every practice. He's practiced with intensity, quickness and his usual strength.
"Dennis continues to make plays," McGee said. "He's powerful and quick. What I see though is that he seems to have grown up. He's a leader in the huddle. I like what Dennis has been doing with our team.
"Leadership with the team needs to come from within. That's what he's done. He's developed into a good leader. We need some guys to take charge. Ryan (Mallett) is out and he's the definite leader of the team. He's doing things to lead us. He's taking charge in the huddle."
How have the quarterbacks conducted themselves?
"They've been OK," McGee said. "They have done some good things. In the scrimmage on Saturday, we were a little disappointed in some aspects. They didn't anticipate the pressures like we'd want. We didn't get the checks in when the blitzes came.
"We did real well when we were going against base, but when (defensive coordinator) Willy (Robinson) brought the pressures as the practice went on, we didn't get things right. We've done a nice job of studying the pressures the last couple of days. I expect our quarterbacks to show up a little better in the scrimmage on Saturday."
Quarterback Tyler Wilson said it's just a matter of continuing to develop all aspects in an 11-on-11 situation.
"We did fine against base and moved the ball pretty well," he said. "They were probably bringing pressure one of three times, 33 percent. That's when we struggled a little bit. We just have to get everyone on the same page and handle it a little better. We'll do that."
McGee said the first part of the offensive installation is now complete and it's time to see what it can do in a big scrimmage.
"We spend the first five or six days of spring putting it all in, a lot of offense," he said. "We didn't have a lot of install today, but we did look at different ways to do some of the same things. By that, I mean run the same plays from different formations. It's just a different way of doing it.
"We do take pride in running a lot of offense. We take pride as a staff that we can carry a lot of offense."
There's one Razorback not carrying so much this spring. Sophomore defensive tackle Dede Jones said he played at 295 last fall as a true freshman. He lost to 270 late in winter conditioning, but has worked to get back to 279 as of practice Wednesday.
"It's no big deal," he said. "I've probably gotten a little quicker, but I'm going to get that weight back and it is not going to take me long. They are having me eat everything there is to eat. It's actually pretty fun. I'm eating a lot of my favorite stuff, some fried chicken, gravy, everything."
Some of the other linemen are a little jealous.
"It's eat, eat, eat," he said. "They are putting extra of everything on me right now, everything I like. Some of the other guys would like some of this."
Jones said it might not take him long to be back in the 290s at this pace. He said he's going to enjoy the extra food while it lasts.
"Again, this is really no big deal," he said. "I can gain the weight back. I'd just worked it off this winter. They do want me bigger."
More importantly, he said he's enjoying spring drills. He said what he learned last fall is starting to pay off.
"I am seeing that the things that were taught in the fall are coming together for me now," he said. "Techniques and schemes are getting easier for me. I'm just listening and learning and trying to be real coachable. I'm just so glad I got the experience in the fall.
"I think I've done pretty well so far this spring. I think it's gone good."
The times that the offense hasn't gotten things right might be the result of improved defense.
"I think what you see when you study (tape) is that our defense is getting better," Wilson said. "The chemistry on the defensive side is better. I see that. They are getting better."
Wilson was shivering after practice Wednesday as a cold wind blew in from the north for the final half hour. It wasn't from nerves.
"Really, I think I'm getting really comfortable out there," he said, noting the only time he was nervous or had "butterfles" was the first day of spring drills.
"I think each day has gotten better," he said. "I'm trying to lead the team and do some things to talk to the players even in the locker room."
Apparently, Wilson talked to the players in the locker room after the first day in pads when things got out of hand in a couple of scuffles.
"There were some other guys who did that, too," he noted. "I just think there were some things that happened that didn't need to happen. That's all. No big deal."
He was thrown to the ground in one situation in a tug of war with Jake Bequette.
"Well, Jake and I are best friends, so it was just me probably being in the wrong spot," he laughed. "Stuff happens sometimes. I probably need to stay out of the way on some of that. I think sometimes things happen as a result of guys banging on each other for a full day. But it doesn't have to happen. That was my point. I wanted to make sure that it was minimized."
Wilson said Tuesday's lackluster practice was a situation of not having the right motivation.
"I don't think it was so much of a rough practice as it was not having the right tempo and that is motivation," he said. "I thought we rebounded and had a better day today."