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March 27, 2012
Arkansas came back from a week off to hold the third day of spring practice on Tuesday, and by all accounts the workout was highly productive and sharp.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino was happy...
"It was pretty good, actually. We put in some new stuff. The guys did a good job of studying. We make insertion books, and we have tapes. They did a good job of studying and knowing what's going in today. I thought we executed well today. Did a good job."
Quarterback Tyler Wilson was happy...
"I thought today was a very crisp practice. In my mind, no way. I thought we made a step forward today. And that's what we've got to continue to do is continue taking those big strides and getting better and better each and every day in order to have a successful, winning team."
And tailback Knile Davis was happy...
"They looked real good. The offensive line looked good, the receivers were blocking real good on the perimeter. We looked like a football team today."
Contact or not for Davis?
Davis said after practice that he is good to go for contact, but he may end up being disappointed.
"As far as I know, I'm live-go. I'm ready, too. It's not a fear thing. I'm ready, I'm ready to get that lick," Davis said.
Davis may be putting the cart before the horse.
"That's something that we're still discussing as a coaching staff, and we'll decide that on Friday," Petrino said.
Regardless, athletically he has looked like the Knile Davis of old, the one who earned first team All-SEC in 2010 and looked like an animal in pre-fall of 2011 before breaking an ankle and being lost for the season. He has since dropped a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at 6-0, 226 and finished in the top 10 on the team in the bench and squat.
"Knile's great," Wilson said. "He's been a great leader, he's working hard. He's running the ball really well. He finishes runs, and that's what's impressive to me. Even in practice, he'll sprint down the field 30 or 40 yards and hit full speed, and I think that catches everybody's eye, including the coaches and everybody out there who watches practice, as well."
Petrino has also been pleased to see Davis running so well.
"Knile looks fast out there," Petrino said. "He's making good cuts. I think Dennis and Ronnie are doing a good job," Petrino said. "They need to go out there every day and compete against each other, push each other to be their very best in every single reps. You know, 'I'm going to do better than you in this rep and 'I'm going to do better than you in this rep,' and I think they did a good job of that today."
The first live tackle drill
There was some live tackling at the end of practice Tuesday, though more of it was "thud" than to the ground, according to Petrino. Senior backs Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr. did not participate as much as the drill was intended for younger players, which included running back Kody Walker. Walker received a medical hardship after suffering severe shin splint. The first three games, Walker rushed for five touchdowns.
"It was pretty good. My first contact in a while, so it felt pretty good to get back out there and finally hit," Walker said. "We have some good guys out there, but I was trying to run my hardest."
Walker has moved some weight around and appears to be in fantastic shape. He is currently bench pressing 335 and squatting 475 (was stopped) as a redshirt freshman.
"I don't feel 100 percent yet, but I'm getting there. I'm feeling good in practice and stuff, but I'm not back to 100 just yet," Walker said. "I did pretty good in the weight room. I got stopped on a lot of things because of my injury."
Dean draws praise
As stated, Wilson felt the passing game looked crisp on Tuesday. Several young players are battling for the opportunity to contribute, and that includes true freshman tight end Demetrius Dean. Dean was having an academic issue corrected last season and had to sit out the season. He enrolled for the 2012 class after sitting out a year. Dean was initially offered by Arkansas as a 10th grade wide receiver, but he got bigger and bigger as his career progressed. He is still working to move some weight around and said he dropped a lot by playing basketball while he sat out but is still 260.
"I think I was a little heavier my senior year, so I couldn't move as good this much," Dean said. "I'm liking it so far. I'm getting a little reps. I'm not complaining about it, I'm having fun out there.
"It was pretty tough. I missed playing for a year. I missed it."
Petrino can see the athletic ability, but said Dean still needs to improve his condition.
"His hands look like he picked it right back up. There's times as practice goes on he gets a little tired and worn down and he's not as used to taking as many reps because of the year off, but he doesn't look rusty getting in and out of his breaks and his hands. He maybe does just in all out top end speed."
Wilson named him as one player that has stood out to him this spring.
"Demetrius Dean is a guy that's standing in there at tight end that's really stepped in quite well and has made a great adjustment. I expect all of them to have a good impact on us," Wilson said.
Did Dean surprise him?
"He has to be honest. I didn't really know what to expect from him. I knew he was a great high school player. They first thing you notice when we're out there throwing routes is the guy is so smooth and has such soft hands and catches about anything that comes his way. And obviously he's a big target, and as a quarterback you like to have that."
More showing out
Wilson mentioned junior receiver Javontee Herndon and sophomore Marquel Wade as two who stood out on Tuesday. Petrino said Julian Horton also had a big day recently, and he liked what he saw out of Herndon and Wade Tuesday as well.
"The last practice we had before break, Julian Horton had an awesome practice. He made a lot of plays, flew around and made a lot of plays. And it looked out there today that Herndon and Wade made a lot of plays and did some good things," Petrino said.
Weir finding a role
Another youngster who has worked hard and drawn praise is redshirt freshman tight end Brett Weir. Weir signed with Arkansas as a safety, quickly added weight and moved to linebacker and asked if he could try tight end in the offseason. Tight ends and fullbacks are required to know both spots in Arkansas' system, though some players are more tight end and others are more fullback.
"Weir's probably a guy that can be a fullback in our future. He's a tough guy that can bang up in there, and I think he's got a good future for us," Petrino said.
Minor could be major
Prior to the break, Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino mentioned true sophomore Keante Minor as a player with a lot of ability.
"My route running and just coming out consistently every day," Minor said. "I can catch everything. I catch with my hands and with the deep ball."
The rundown on Minor is he's a 5-11, 6-0 wide receiver with very good speed and hands who was good enough to see the field as a true freshman (mostly as a return man). Reports are that he also had a big offseason, so there is reason to be anxious to see what he does.
"This year, I'm going to play more wide receiver, and I'm just going to have to step up for the team and work hard," Minor said.
Backup QBs competing
More often than not, one of the backup quarterbacks are throwing Minor the ball at this point, and that includes sophomore Brandon Allen and junior Brandon Mitchell. Those two have been getting a lot of snaps because the Razorbacks practice at such a fast tempo. They have done well competing against each other, and it should make each better in the end.
"I think it's great competition, and I think they've both improved a lot in these last three days of practice. Just something we evaluate every day. We chart every single period," Paul said. "We go fast and get a lot of reps. They probably get as many reps as a lot of places if they only had two guys rotating."
Ollison growing at tackle
Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Grady Ollison came to Arkansas as a defensive end, and at 6-5, 286 he is steadily working to add more weight. He has been there 7 months now, and he's playing the quick tackle and likes the responsibilities he has there. He likes the one-on-one and know how important his job is. Arkansas flips their tackles depending on the tight end's alignment.
"The defense is loaded right now, so playing offensive line is probably the best thing for me," Ollison said. "It's fun, it's fun. It's a challenge. It makes you not want to get beat because you're out on an island, you don't want to look back one-on-one.
"It's probably going backwards instead of forwards a lot of the time. When you're coming off the end, you're rushing 95 percent of the time.
"Moving to offense, you've got to quick-slide, and you've got to slide over as far as the run-block. That's probably the biggest adjustment."
For the coaches...
"We went back and watched every single thing that happened the first two practices, organized it by all the runs and all the passes and sat down and watched them all together as a whole offensive staff and just kind of evaluated what we'd done well, what we need to improve on and looked at what's going in today," Paul said.
For the players...
"I enjoyed myself. I got a chance to go back home. Then me and Wingo and a few other teammates went down to Panama [City] and had a good time. We enjoyed ourselves," Davis said.