SEC Preview: New Regime In Fayetteville

Clay Henry of Hawgs Illustrated previews the 2008 Arkansas Razorbacks.

Casey Dick must have known he was going to throw a bunch of passes in the Red-White scrimmage. He completed 25-of-33 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the first half when his Red team kept the ball for an incredible 52 snaps. The Allen, Texas product finished the night completing 33-of-49 passes for 404 yards.

Had he ever thrown that much in a half?

"Never," he said. "But I feel fine. We threw a lot this spring. I was ready to start out this spring and my shoulder feels fine. We learned to ice it. No problems with any of the quarterbacks."

Dick must improve as a passer for Petrino to have a successful debut season.

The performance left new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino with plenty to smile about afterwards. Petrino wasn't pleased with failures in the red zone in several instances by the first team and said the team had a long way to go. But he liked a lot of what he saw, including the atmosphere at Razorfest (an estimated 52,000 attended the all-day event) before the game and the reception fans gave the team at the outset and throughout.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "There was excitement all day. It was a great day for Arkansas. The atmosphere was great. I want to thank the fans. I know the players were excited and I appreciate the reception."

Petrino was pleased with the way his team took to a new staff, which not only put in new offensive and defensive schemes, but emphasized more hitting and a tough-minded approach.

"Our players have character," he said. "They showed they will play hard and play fast."

Obviously, the offensive system will rely more heavily on the pass than in recent years when first-round draft choices Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were handed the ball on most plays. But the defense will be dramatically different, too. Gone is the man-to-man coverage and press-style play at cornerback. Petrino and Willy Robinson, his new defensive coordinator, emphasize zone coverage.

The Hogs return the fewest regulars in the SEC. Counting kickers Alex Tejada and Jeremy Davis, the Hogs return just 12 starters. And, the schedule is ambitious. Along with the SEC West, they play Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky from the East. There is also a non-conference trip to Texas.

The strengths of the team will be in the offensive and defensive front. Rimington Award winner Jonathan Luigs anchors the offensive line and will start for the fourth year. Petrino loves a four-man defensive end rotation led by Antwain Robinson and Adrian Davis. The Hogs are four deep at tight end led by D. J. Williams and Andrew Davie, who will be featured in the passing game.

As for weaknesses, the wide receivers made improvement in the spring in Petrino's system but will need help from a freshman class that is heavy with speed and top pass catchers. Joseph Adams, Jarius Wright and Cruz Williams will get a quick look in August and may figure in the plans already.

"It was a good spring," Petrino said. "We've come a long way. I feel good about both fronts. We need some help at the skill positions, but our players worked hard this spring. It's been a very positive spring. Again, we have a long way to go, but I'm impressed with the players. They have good character and they understand how to work. They've learned how to work and about tempo. They've played physical and they have learned how to hit every day."

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