Mitchell Expects to Play

Quarterback Brandon Mitchell thinks he'll have a small package in the offense this season. That's one of the tidbits that came out of Arkansas football media day Saturday morning. Included in this report is an update from practice Saturday afternoon. Alex Tejada had a nice day.

Mitchell's Package

Brandon Mitchell is getting a hard look in a battle with Tyler Wilson for the No. 2 quarterback slot, but the redshirt freshman from Amite, La., might get some snaps this season regardless.

"The coaches tell me there is going to be a package with six to eight plays a game for me in the Wildcat, Shot, Pistol, or whatever you want to call it," Mitchell said Saturday at the Arkansas football media day.

"That's exciting. I think it's something that I can do that will help the team."

Mitchell acknowledges that he still has a lot of learn as far as engineering the complete offense, but the specialty aspects of The Pistol formation might suit his skills far better than either of the other quarterbacks, clear No. 1 Ryan Mallett or Wilson.

"I think I can make some plays with my feet for this team," Mitchell said. "I've improved my accuracy, but I still have a lot to learn in some areas."

Big Tex Getting Little

Jatashun "Big Tex" Beachum is shedding pounds, but he may be so big that he has to redshirt this season. The true freshman from Dallas Maceo Smith High is listed at 6-1, 270 on the first roster handed out this fall. He admits that he hasn't been at that weight since high school.

"I gained a lot of weight during the recruiting process," he said. "Football season was over and I just didn't have anything to do and when I'd make those trips, we ate real good. I got in that habit of eating and it wasn't always the right stuff.

"I was 313 when I got here. I'm at 286 right now. I'm eating better. It's baked chicken and salads and I'm losing about four pounds a day. It's falling off of me real fast. Some days it's been 5 pounds. The coaches think 260 is right for me. I played at 290 in high school."

Beachum is not sure it's that big a deal.

"I think I still got it at 286," he said. "I can move and I can cut. I'm having fun out there right now. But if they want me down a little, I can do it."

Teammates have joked about his name. They sometimes call him Little Tex.

"Sometimes it's just Tex," he said. "Anyone who thinks that Tex part is going away is probably going to be disappointed. I think I'm going to be that forever. I can't change that I'm from Texas."

Weight Gains

While Big Tex is losing, Dede is gaining. DeQuinta "Dede" Jones, sophomore defensive tackle, is at 293 and still gaining.

"It's good weight, too," he said. "I've gained it this summer and still have got my speed. I don't want to ever to anything that takes speed. I think that's one of my assets, ability to move. I'm going to keep adding until I get to 300 and I think that won't be too far away. But if I feel it costs me a step, I'll go back the other way."

Offensive guard Wade Grayson is at 310, 15 pounds heavier than he was at this time last year.

"I think we are all bigger in the offensive line," he said. "I might have been at 292 at some point in the season. The good thing is that I'm still lean. I'm really eating a lot to keep at this weight. I've never ate so much."

Grayson isn't sure of his spot. He's rotating between guard and center.

"I worked with centers a lot this summer," he said. "I snapped with the quarterbacks in the pass skeleton drills all summer. The coaches thought it would be good. But I'm going to get some snaps at guard, too.

"We've got great competition. We've got five guys pushing for time at guard. It's highly competitive and that's what you want throughout your team."

Willy's Mustache

Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson has a thick mustache again this season. He shaved it during the start of his UA career. He joked that someone above him thought it a good idea, but admitted Saturday morning that it was his own idea.

"My wife really wanted it back and I do feel more comfortable with it," he said. "But no one ever talked to me about it.

"What happened, I came down the hallway that first few weeks on the job and I just saw all of these young coaches. they looked so young and I thought the mustache made me look really old. And I was the only one with facial hair and thought maybe it was wrong. So I decided I might look younger without it. I knew it wasn't right as soon as I did it.

"And yeah my wife likes me with it better. There are a lot of things in my life that she has charge of, but that's not one of them. But if she likes it ... I'm not saying her thoughts are not a factor. It's not just THE factor in the decision to grow it back."

Players like Robinson with facial hair.

"I think it's definitely him," Jake Bequette said. "I grew a beard this summer and had to shave it this morning for pictures. I understand that. But it would just be wrong for Coach Robinson to shave."

Team Captains

In a break from his past tradition, Bobby Petrino asked his players to vote captains after spring practice. He wanted those players to be the leaders in the offseason program. There were six on each side of the ball elected.

Offensive captains: Ryan Mallett, DeMarcus Love and D. J. Williams. Defensive captains: Jake Bequette, Jerry Franklin and Ramon Broadway.

"They've done a great job," Petrino said. "It's up to them to lead the team. I've been impressed with the leadership in our first two practices."

Cornerback Depth

Rudell Crim's from cornerback to safety late in spring practice has been the big talk of the offseason. He gives the back end of the defense speed and athletic ability. He's also got experience there since it was his spot in junior college.

Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said that speaks for the team's depth at cornerback. There are more faces there than in the spring, too. True freshman Eric Bennett is starting out at cornerback. Jerry Mitchell, redshirt freshman, has been at cornerback the last two days after spending spring ball at safety.

Isaac Madison and Darius Winston are dueling at field corner. The boundary corner is manned by Ramon Broadway, Andru Stewart and Mitchell. Greg Gatson is also in the mix at cornerback.

"That's a deeper and more talented area," Robinson said. "We would have never moved Crim if we didn't have a lot of confidence in the players left at that position. We feel much better about corner.

"Broadway has improved. He doesn't guess nearly as much as he did. He plays his technique and fundamentals and that has helped our defense."

Playing Faster

Bobby Petrino thinks his team is faster, especially on defense. That speaks to the gains the players have made under Jason Veltkamp in the strength and conditioning program -- and their knowledge of the scheme.

"When you say we play faster, it's not just about being stronger and faster," he said. "What I saw last year, they react faster and play faster because they know the scheme. In football talk, playing faster isn't always related to just being faster. I think we are playing much faster now."

Sore QB

The soreness has gone away for quarterback Ryan Mallett. Quarterback coach Garrick McGee said Mallett had a lot of aching muscles Friday morning after August camp's first workout Thursday.

"Better," Mallett said Saturday morning at media day. "Much better. It was mainly my hammy muscles. Just haven't done enough running this summer and I felt it after the first practice. But those ice baths do wonders.

"I think everyone was sore Friday, not just me. But I might have got it a little more than the rest of the guys. But I feel much better today. It will all get better as we go. I just had to get a lot of ice baths yesterday. I don't think I'll need as many the rest of the way."

The Shoes

Nike questions popped up everywhere on media day. The new shoes get a thumbs up from everyone.

"The ones we've had I didn't like too much," linebacker Jerry Franklin said. "They hurt my toes. I don't know if it was the way the cleats were lined up, or what. But the Nike shoes feel better. My toes don't hurt after two practices. They did after the old ones."

Ryan Mallett said, "Well, I like them. We all like Nike. I think we can say that everyone feels better that we are with Nike. They look good. But cleats are still cleats to me."

As far as the uniforms, Bobby Petrino said he likes them and said to be patient. Not all versions have been seen. He said there are several different styles of pants, aside from the ones with "Razorbacks" on the side of the leg.

"We considered three things as far as the uniforms," he said. "We want them to feel good and these are lighter and don't hold water. They weight less. So they feel good. We consider recruiting, and we've already seen that it helps recruiting. And we consider tradition. We always keep traditions in mind."

Veteran Practice Update, 8/7

Arkansas put on shoulder pads for the first time Saturday afternoon when the veterans took the field first, but still won't get full pads on its legs until Monday. The newcomers are scheduled to practice Saturday night.

The early practice was capped by a field goal session between Alex Tejada and freshman Eddie Camara. Both had strong days with Tejada nailing all five. Camara was four of five. The duel has been outstanding through three days. Neither kicker has missed more than one in any day. Tejada might hold a slight edge.

There were a few drops in the Saturday practice among the veteran wide receivers. The only pass interception in the practice came when a Tyler Wilson throw was tipped and grabbed by Andru Stewart. Both quarterbacks were on target in all phases of the Saturday practice.

There were no interviews after the practice since players and coaches were available for several hours earlier in the day for media day.

Newcomers Practice Update, 8/7


The evening practice with the newcomers -- and a few veterans sprinkled in to balance the lines -- went off without any major problems or major injuries. Byran Jones appeared to tweak a shoulder. He missed a few plays, but returned without problems. It may have been a slight problem with his shoulder pads.

The highlight of the evening practice was the punt catching of Eric Bennett. He handled those duties without a drop. He looked quick and sure with the ball.

The quarterbacks and wide receivers had a good night. Julian Horton made a one-hand grab of a high and wide throw that drew comments from the head coach. Maudrecus Humphrey, Javontee Herndon and Marquell Wade joined Horton with solid practices. All showed ability to catch the ball away from their body and execute nice turns and cuts. There were few drops during the practice.

Wearing shoulder pads for the first time, it was clear that defensive end Chris Smith enjoyed the action. The protection from the offensive front was solid and did well in the blitz protection period.

Jatashun "Big Tex" Beachum drew some nice comments from a small crowd in the stadium when he took handoffs in the run portion of the evening in 11-on-11 work. There was no tackling, just thuds. He kept churning through the defenders as they would turn him loose on contact -- or as he bounced through them.

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