Arkansas opened spring practice and there was little doubt that the emphasis Sunday was to get the ball to the tight ends. Both Roy Wittke and Clifton Ealy, the newest offensive coaches on the UA staff, were all smiles afterwards.
"I think our tight ends got big eyed about halfway through," said Ealy, the Hogs' tight ends coach. "We told them we were going to throw it to them, and now they believe us."
Roy Wittke, the quarterback coach, said the intent was to throw more to the tight ends and not just on Sunday.
"That's a focus we've got this spring," Wittke said. "Why not? We've got two big targets who can run in Jason Peters and Jared Hicks. They both can catch it. I didn't see many balls on the ground today."
Told that tight ends might have caught as many as 15 passes in the combination of pass skeleton and the team portion of the 2-hour workout, Wittke said, "That's probably about right. We didn't come in with a number in mind, but we did want to get it to the tight ends.
"We figure that we can run those 6-yard stick patterns and that it's not a hard pass to throw. We should be able to get those in the games. We also wanted to look at the backs, too. The tight ends and the backs should be an integral part of the passing game."
Ealy said he thought Peters had a strong day.
"I think he dropped one, but he caught about 8-10 and he looks like he's got good hands to me," Ealy said. "He had a very nice day today."
Houston Nutt was pleased with the workout.
"It was good to see the guys back out here and bouncing around," Nutt said. "I was glad to see all the track guys out there on defense. We didn't make them come, but they wanted to be here."
Batman Carroll, Eddie Jackson, Cedric Cobbs and Thomas Crowder all are running track this spring, but participated in football practice Sunday. Triple jumper Richard Smith did not work with the football team Sunday.
"Our emphasis is to work hard and to cut out the talking," Nutt said. "I think we got it done today. I didn't hear any (trash) talking."
Matt Jones caught three passes during the workout, but spent most of his time at quarterback. He did move to wide receiver during the portion of the team drills that Ryan Sorahan worked at quarterback.
"Matt has nice hands and we can incorporate him into a package with Ryan at quarterback," Nutt said. "We are going to watch Matt where we don't over do it at quarterback with his arm."
Wittke said he thought all of the quarterbacks started slow, but picked up steam with their throwing as the day progressed.
"That's to be expected," Wittke said. "They are a step slow right now. And, when I say that, it's not footwork, it's more mental. They are thinking right now. We want them to play fast.
"We've given them a lot to think about right now. Ryan Sorahan has the stronger arm of the quarterbacks, and he's accurate. Matt Jones has ability, too. He is extremely athletic. All of them are receptive to what we are asking them to do. I'm pleased."
James Shibest, the wide receiver coach, said he liked what he saw of Jones at wideout. He kidded Jones as he left the field that "we need you (at wideout) some during individual drills." Jones, doing a TV interview at the time, just smiled. He spent about 75 percent of the workout Sunday at quarterback.
The Hogs wore no pads Sunday, only helmets and sweats. Offensive guard Gene Perry sustained a knee injury late in the workout. Trainers said they would have the injury checked again Monday, but it appeared to be a sprain.
The Hogs will practice in sweats and helmets again Monday, then take Tuesday off. They will also practice again Wednesday and Thursday before taking off for spring break.
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